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Business of Empowerment

With continuing growth bringing in an influx of new residents, Joliet clearly necessitates a robust economic outlook to support those new residents. Specifically, in times when energy comes at a premium price and in an area where demand will only increase, business devoted to providing that energy to Joliet and beyond play a major role in supplying the area.

One organization that has done a great deal toward stimulating the generating power for Joliet and much further is Exxon. Having opened the refinery in 1972, Exxon is coming upon its 44th anniversary for the site, the second-to-last refinery built in the U.S. Then as now, there were a scant number of refineries in the Midwest, so the opportunity to build somewhere in the area seemed clear. As to why Exxon chose Joliet in particular, “It was an attractive community to build in,” says Tricia Simpson of Exxon, with “access to water transportation for bringing in large components for the refinery [and a] skilled workforce for both constructing and running the refinery over time.”

Exxon has taken a strong interest in improving the community. For example, Exxon has invested hundreds of millions of dollars toward an environmental project that will remove more than 90 percent of the sulfur dioxide from plant emissions. Further along those lines, Exxon has helped support a local junior high school begin an environmental club, one that allows students to do soil and water testing to ensure healthy levels of substances in both. Exxon is also a founding sponsor of Shoot for A’s, a campaign that funds high-tech equipment for the classroom.

Besides Exxon, NRG Energy manages to power Joliet both literally and figuratively, as well. Located on over 450 acres of land on both sides of the Des Plaines River, the original plant had generated energy for the area since 1917. Contemporary stations at the plant opened more recently in 1959 and 1966. Nonetheless, NRG Energy remains a staple of the immediate and constantly expanding community. In fact, at full capacity, NRG Energy can power as many as 1.6 million households.

Besides contributing $27 million to the community through payroll and benefits, NRG Energy has invested $23 million toward equipment reducing nitrogen oxide emissions into the air by more than 50 percent. Similar to Exxon’s community involvement, NRG has also sponsored or contributed to the Hill-Memorial Center after-school program, Joliet Township High School and Joliet Junior Honors Program Scholarships. Once again, besides powering the community of the present, NRG Energy seeks to empower the people of the future to ensure more of the same.

Caterpillar in Joliet also works toward not only providing the equipment for international construction, but developing the community, as well. Caterpillar has been a part of the community since 1951. The organization recently won the Governor’s Award for pollution control as a result of it changing processes from chrome plating to another kind of process that saved a lot of waste water that was being put into the river. This initiative also saved a lot of solid waste that Caterpillar had from the cleaning process. Steps like those ensure Joliet’s environmental future.

One of Caterpillar’s largest investments in the community comes in the form of investing in its employees specifically. Caterpillar even goes so far as to invest in the families of employees, as it regularly promotes hiring family members. In a time where corporations seem more intimidating every day, Caterpillar shows how it can offer a consistent space for employees and their families for years to come.

Any community requires attention to its economic situation to thrive, and Joliet has clearly developed businesses that can weather temporary economic woes and thereby continue to help the community as a whole. Investing in energy that people will always need to power their homes and transportation, Exxon and NRG Energy supply the community with not only its basic needs, but also a refuge from concerns that other areas may not have adequately planned for yet. Caterpillar, too, has helped Joliet citizens to remain there with long-term employment opportunities for the entire family. No matter what obstacles Joliet may face in the near future, businesses like Exxon, NRG Energy and Caterpillar will assuredly continue to help Joliet press on.

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