Friday, March 20 2015
Bruce Rauner was sworn in as the 42nd Governor of Illinois on Jan. 12, 2015. As a result of his election and promises of change, Republicans have won the state’s top job for the first time in more than a decade.
His goal as governor is to create a more prosperous state, where everyone has an opportunity to succeed. The governor is focused on delivering value for taxpayers, creating a pro-jobs economic climate, ensuring world-class schools and educational options for every Illinoisan.
One of the many issues the new Governor will tackle in the first few months of office will be the state’s economic performance and his plan to “jump-start the economy.” Jobs and economic growth will likely be stimulated by reducing the state’s current income tax rate, freezing property taxes and reducing regulatory burdens to become more competitive with its neighbors.
“Competitiveness must be our watchword and opportunity and compassion our goals, so we can once again become the place people want to come to build a better life for themselves and their families,” said Governor Rauner in his State of the State address.
To realize its full potential, the state must nurture the competitive advantages of its economy and offer more support to existing businesses. The existing economic development plan lays out a clear vision to enable Illinois to continue to be a force in the global economy by driving broad-based growth for all businesses, tackling regional economic challenges, and supporting high-potential industry clusters.
There is much work to be done, but the good news is that Illinois’ resilient economy is well-positioned to build on its strengths as a major hub for commerce. With 33 Fortune 500 companies, a highly-educated workforce, a robust R&D community, a unique central location and a highly-developed infrastructure, Illinois is already a national and global leader.
Likewise, Illinois is a U.S. Leader in wind power production and related manufacturing as well as biomass production and research diversifying the state’s new energy economy and creating supply-chain opportunities across multiple sectors.
The state is a hotbed for technology innovation. It is home to a healthy number of the nation’s fastest-growing private tech companies. It has also become a global industry leader in the highly-specialized field of water technology with more than 100 companies now located in the state, due in large part to the Illinois Clean Water Initiative, backed with a $1 billion Federal Environmental Protection Agency grant. Through this Initiative, Illinois is overhauling old drinking water and wastewater infrastructure while creating jobs, improving the environment, and boosting the economy.
A Vision for Economic Development
The success of this strategic plan depends on commitment and cooperation of a wide range of stakeholders — state government, elected officials, regional representatives, educational institutions and the private sector — to mobilize resources and sustain a vibrant business ecosystem. Accordingly, the plan provides guidance for agencies and organizations to make an impact on the regional and community levels.
Clusters Can Drive Economic Development
However, an essential element of the strategic plan for economic growth is its focus on the promotion of a broad-based bottom-up approach that enables individual regions to identify the industries that they are well-positioned to attract and support. As a way to capitalize on existing assets and opportunities, Illinois’ has identified an initial set of seven high-potential clusters that have the ability to make an outsized impact on the state’s economy.
These clusters already employ a large number of Illinois residents and jobs in these clusters typically pay salaries above the regional average. As the economy grows and new clusters are identified, the state’s economic development strategies will be adjusted accordingly.
Seven Initiatives to Spur Economic Development
State government has a critical role to play in economic development, serving as a catalyst for ambitious projects, coordinating the actions of multiple stakeholders, and connecting companies and individuals to support business growth.