RLI set to expand Peoria campus

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RLI Site Plan 1

Since the day it was founded 50 years ago, with an office in downtown, RLI Corp. has called Peoria home.

That won’t change in the future as the specialty insurance company, which completed renovations of its corporate headquarters now on the city’s extreme north end just two years ago, is about to begin expanding its campus to prepare for future growth.

RLI officials announced this week it will erect a new 40,600 square-foot building next to its headquarters at Lindbergh Drive and Bird Boulevard that will be capable to housing 100 employees in a state-of-the-art structure that will enable the company to continue to attract the next generation of employees to the community.

“We are proud to be headquartered in Peoria and have a rich, 50-year history of success that is based on our Midwestern roots. This investment in the community reinforces our commitment to Central Illinois and continuing to maintain our business operations here,” said Lisa Gates, assistant vice president of communications.

The $15 million addition will bring the size of RLI’s headquarters to more than 120,000 square feet. A rerouting of Lindbergh will give it a walkable campus, according to the company’s plans. “RLI’s business continues to grow and we are expanding our corporate campus facilities to better support this growth and to provide a modern, collaborative and inspiring work environment for our Peoria-based employees,” Gates said in an email.

Construction will begin this spring and completion is expected in late 2016, the company said.

RLI was founded by Gerald D. Stephens, a native Peorian, who recognized that replacing contact lenses was expensive. He started RLI (Replacement Lens Insurance) at an early stage of the contact lens industry and became the world’s largest insurer of lenses.

The company started in the Lehman Building in downtown Peoria and in late 1971 moved to its present location, into a 23,000 square-foot building constructed for $70,000. The company had 39 employees at the time. It has employs nearly 900 people.

RLI eventually expanded the business, getting into the commercial property and liability insurance field as well as writing a commercial umbrella program. The company earned a reputation for making a profit covering higher risk projects not typically covered by larger, multi-line insurers.

Today RLI offers nearly 50 different types of casualty, property and surety coverages to niche or underserved markets. These include general liability, commercial and personal umbrella liability, commercial transportation, professional liability, and property reinsurance coverages. It has four subsidiaries, including RLI Insurance Co. and Mt. Hawley Insurance Co.

RLI has offices throughout the United States, including in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, St. Louis, San Francisco and Seattle.

RLI is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol RLI. With a market cap of $2.3 billion, it normally trades in the range of $50 to $53 a share.


About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).