Illinois' business-recruitment company has changed its name and is talking up some recent successes, but is hoping Springfield can make "selling" Illinois easier.
The Illinois Business and Economic Development Corporation has shed its cumbersome name and replaced it with Intersect Illinois. The private corporation's CEO, Jim Schultz, said the name reflects Illinois’ geographic, academic and industrial advantages. Schultz hopes future governors from both parties will see value in a private business that will help foster new growth in Illinois.
"Should the next governor be a Democrat, Republican or Independent, we hope they think this is really a great company, and we want to build upon this," Schultz said.
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Schultz said recent decisions by German pharmaceutical company Vetter and retail giant Amazon to invest in new Illinois facilities and expand on existing ones show the state has the elements conducive to business. Vetter last week announced plans for a new facility in suburban Des Plaines that, once constructed, will employ hundreds of high-paying pharmaceutical manufacturing jobs. Amazon is looking to employ thousands in its new Joliet warehouse and expand downstate facilities.
On the other hand, Schultz said Illinois' political partisanship is driving business away. "The more we continue to play this partisanship game, it just makes it more difficult for us to market the state." Schultz cited General Electric's recent decision to choose Boston for its international headquarters over Chicago.
Schultz said one of the most frequent criticisms from prospective businesses is Illinois' expensive workers' compensation laws.
"It'd be great if we could find a path ahead to finding some structural reforms to workmans' comp," Schultz said. "It's clearly one of the top issues businesses look at when considering the State of Illinois."
Schultz referenced Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman's comparison between the company’s Decatur facility and the much cheaper facility in West Lafayette, Indiana. Oberhelman said the cost of workers' comp insurance is nearly double in Illinois compared with Indiana.
Though Intersect Illinois is a private business not subject to Freedom of Information Act queries, Schultz said the group will strive to be as transparent as a public entity when working with taxpayer dollars. Schultz said its website will be constantly updating to show finalized contracts that would involve any types of state or local incentives they may be involved in.
The group’s website said Intersect Illinois is entirely funded by private donations.