The world is changing fast, and manufacturers in Illinois are concerned about keeping up. Referring to the United States, “we export less than half as much of our manufacturing output as the global average,” said Mark Denzler, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “We [rank] 13 out of 15 major manufacturing economies in the proportion of our manufacturing output that is exported.” Denzler made his comments to the Illinois House International Trade and Commerce Committee, which also heard from Illinois-based manufacturing titan Caterpillar.
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Lobbyist Rob Carney said the heavy equipment manufacturer’s worldwide vision supports its state workforce: “Over 90 percent of our products built in Decatur, Ill., are exported, so it’s pretty easy to see the benefit in terms of job numbers.” Carney says Cat sees the entire world as its market, rather than just the 5 percent of the world population the U. S. takes up.
Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity director Adam Pollet said while foreign trade missions get a lot of attention, they make up less than 10 percent of the activity of his office. He said attracting and retaining businesses is the main event for DCEO.
One lawmaker on the committee got in a shot about workforce diversity. State Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood) says the state’s manufacturing community is “its own worst enemy” if it complains about reloading its workforce; that children of “white men that retire” are not interested in following in their fathers’ footsteps, and that companies have not proactively recruited minorities.