By Illinois Radio Network
SPRINGFIELD – Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s plan for the state’s economy calls for boosting jobs in Illinois’ manufacturing industry by one percent in the next five years and projects the number jobs in the state’s energy sector will stay flat.
The governor said his five-year economic plan, released last week, will reinvigorate the economy and spur equitable growth. The plan focuses on seven major sectors: Agriculture, information technology, life sciences, healthcare, manufacturing, logistics and energy.
“Illinois has the fundamental building blocks of a thriving, inclusive economy,” according to the plan. “We have some of the best talent and higher education institutions in the world. We are a global transportation hub, boasting the highest concentration of transportation and logistics companies in the nation. We have abundant natural resources that provide the foundation for a thriving agricultural sector. Illinois companies deliver world-changing innovations in tech, life sciences, and manufacturing.”
Illinois Manufacturers’ Association President Mark Denzler said the organization was pleased that the plan focused on workforce development.
“No. 1 is some kind of PR campaign to attract young men, women to manufacturing such as they’ve done in the state of Utah,” Denzler said.
The plan said the administration would “work with the manufacturing industry on a marketing campaign to increase the number of people entering high-demand manufacturing occupations.”
“The second idea that we have had that some other states have done are these manufacturing academies hosted on community college campuses,” Denzler said.
Pritzker’s plan doesn’t provide a cost, but said it will work to establish “two manufacturing training academies at downstate community colleges and eliminate residency requirements for those programs so that any Illinois resident can participate.”
Jobs in the manufacturing industry declined by 2.2 percent since 2009, the plan noted. It predicted jobs in the industry to grow by one percent over the next decade. That figure does not include manufacturing jobs that may be included in other sectors.
Denzler said the plan was silent on addressing the state’s workers’ compensation policies and tax costs, which he said were higher than in neighboring states.
“We all face the same global challenges, the same federal changes, so often times its state public policy that makes the difference on where a company will grow or expand,” Denzler said.
Over the next decade, the plan projects the state’s agriculture industry to grow 5.5 percent, information technology to grow nearly 12 percent, life sciences up 2 percent, healthcare up 8.1 percent and transportation and logistics to increase 9.4 percent.
Anther of the industries the report focused on was energy. The report recognized the abundance of corn that makes Illinois a top producer of ethanol. Pritzker’s plan also promotes investments in clean energy.
State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, warned that bypassing other energy resources in southern Illinois such as coal, oil and natural gas was a mistake.
“We’re just leaving all kinds of sorely needed economic output on the table with adversarial business and regulatory environments,” Wilhour said.
Pritzker’s plan showed the state’s energy sector lost 3 percent of its jobs in Illinois over the past ten years. The plan projects employment in the sector to remain flat over the next decade.
While the governor’s plan to reverse population declines included additional investment in higher education, Wilhour said it’s the state’s high tax burden that forces people out.
“Illinois has experienced a mild outbound migration of approximately 0.3 percent on average for the past five years,” the plan said. “This trend is driven particularly by migration among young people, minorities, and rural populations. The Pritzker Administration’s focus on college affordability and quality education has led to renewed investment in state universities and community colleges.”
The plan doesn’t address the state’s high taxes. Kiplinger recently ranked Illinois as the “least tax-friendly” state in the nation. The plan does include tax credit programs for certain businesses.
“Important economic development tools such as the EDGE Tax Credit, the Enterprise Zone program, and Angel Investment Tax Credit may need to be refreshed,” the plan said. “In the coming year, we will perform a rigorous evaluation on the effects of all major tax incentive programs and work with the General Assembly to implement reforms to ensure that they have the intended impact, use taxpayer funds efficiently, and do not leave behind small businesses and underserved populations.”
“The new administration has put a priority on reversing income inequality by addressing wage gaps, healthcare costs, college affordability, unfair tax policies, and job creation in forgotten communities,” the plan said.
Wilhour said there seems to be a lack of political will to deal with the major issues hurting the state’s economy and driving people out, including high taxes and the “constant threat and reality of increased income taxes, it’s a recipe for disaster.”
However, Wilhour said there was hope.
“In spite of our bad policy, in spite of our rampant corruption in government, we have a lot of natural resources, we’ve got a lot of natural advantages, more so than any state around us,” Wilhour said. “We just need to get to a point where we’re ready to do the tough things to be able to take advantage of that.”
Illinois Radio Network can be reached at News@WJBC.com.