For Sale: Onetime Dream with Lots of Space Harvard Faces Tough Challenge of Finding Buyer to Occupy Motorola Plant

Article excerpt

Byline: Amy Williams Daily Herald Staff Writer

If he had it to do over again, Harvard Mayor Ralph Henning just couldn't say whether he would invite corporate giant Motorola into his rural McHenry County community.

Sure, there have been benefits, such as the $250,000 in taxes the city gets each year from the company.

But the losses have been equally great, Henning said Wednesday.

Over the past year and half, Motorola has laid off thousands of workers at its Harvard plant, devastating a community that believed the hype of new jobs, new businesses and future economic vitality.

The final blow came Tuesday when Motorola announced it would be closing its Harvard operations after only eight years in the community, taking with it each of the 5,000 jobs it had created.

"Obviously the last 14 months have been extremely disappointing," was all Henning could say.

Jackie Eichholz, a beautician in downtown Harvard, was more blunt.

"They've been pretty much a joke the whole time," Eichholz said. "I say good riddance. They promised us everything and all we got was traffic," she said. "Those people that were patting themselves on the back for bringing Motorola here should be kicking themselves now."

State Rep. Jack Franks, a Woodstock Democrat, agreed, saying he can't think of anything the corporation brought to the people of Harvard.

Instead, he said, the company took more than $60 million in incentives from the state, tax breaks from McHenry County and $600,000 in sewer and water improvements from the city of Harvard.

"They come, and they leave nothing behind but problems," Franks said.

The biggest problem, everyone agrees, is what to do with the 1.5 million-square-foot building, which many call the Taj Mahal rising from the farm fields of McHenry County. Motorola owns the building, which sits on a 350-acre campus.

City officials will meet Friday with representatives from Motorola and the state to start talking about marketing the property, even though Motorola won't officially close its Harvard plant for about a year.

But there is talk that it could be a difficult building to fill. McHenry County has had trouble attracting even medium-sized corporations and manufacturers to the area, which is notorious for its gridlock and inaccessibility.

Frank Diliberto, the senior vice president and regional sales manager for corporate real estate agent Inland, said this is a difficult market for such a large, unique building in the Harvard area, any area some distance from any major expressway. …