Gary Camarano
Gary Camarano

MORRISON – Despite all the terrible news about the U.S. economy because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some pockets of activity going on in the Whiteside County/northwest Illinois region.

Although the state’s unemployment rate for April hit 16.4%, several businesses in the region are hiring, and more are getting ready to hire as we move out of the lockdown phase.

I’ve recently been in touch with a number of businesses who report that they are still busy, working on filling existing orders, receiving new orders and hiring to keep up with business.

Locally, the Walmart Distribution Center in Sterling said they are looking to hire 50 folks for all shifts and all areas as of today. They are extremely busy keeping the shelves stocked with food products at Walmart stores across the Midwest.

Frantz Manufacturing is looking for skilled trades, mostly toolmakers and maintenance technicians. Their open positions are posted at

Raynor Garage Doors Inc., another of the region’s manufacturers, is looking to fill 13 factory and three office positions. Due to safety concerns, they have been cautious about bringing people in, and only are interviewing for the "more critical" positions, but expect as of June 1 to be actively pursuing these openings.

Additionally, there are a number of businesses that are still hiring, and active job-seekers should conduct internet searches for opportunities.

The Business Employment Skills Team (BEST, Inc.) recently posted a list of 36 businesses in the region that are in immediate need of workers and are hiring. The list is comprised of manufacturing, distribution, retail and service openings.

Job seekers should visit for information, assistance with job searches and other employment questions.

There has been a lot of disruption and pain recently, and I am not just talking about the economy. People are getting sick and some are dying. It’s tragic, but I do find some encouragement in what’s going on the medical research side as far as testing, treatments and possible vaccines go, and on the business front as companies are expressing confidence that as the lockdown lifts they will be getting back to business.

We are also seeing businesses continuing with expansion plans. In the first quarter of 2020, we approved three Enterprise Zone project applications prior to the lockdown. I expected things to come to a screeching halt, but since then we have added six additional projects and sit just below the amount of investment in the Enterprise Zone for the full year 2019, and we have 16 projects in the pipeline. This is encouraging.

I’m not minimizing the pain we are feeling, or the challenge that lies ahead, but there is still activity and plans for gearing up as the lockdown lifts.

Businesses and job seekers are encouraged to reach out to the region’s economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, workforce development agencies, and social service providers during the COVID-19 pandemic for questions or assistance.

Gary Camarano is the director of Whiteside County’s Economic Development Department. He can be reached at or 815-772-5247.

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