By Donna Clapp
From the September / October 2023 Issue
Strategically located at the heart of the country, Illinois is at the crossroads of commerce, putting businesses, people, and goods within a four-hour flight of the entire North American market — and is home to the world’s most-connected airport.
It’s where talent, innovation, transportation, and infrastructure converge and where many of the nation’s top businesses thrive. Illinois companies benefit from a world-class transportation and logistics network, reliable, low-cost energy, abundant water and natural resources, and a highly educated workforce supported by more than 247 higher education institutions, according to Intersect Illinois.
The Land of Lincoln is home to more than 30 Fortune 500 company headquarters, and its strong business climate attracts some of the most iconic companies on the planet, including Allstate, Motorola Solutions, John Deere, and Walgreens. Illinois universities, according to Intersect Illinois, have launched 760 startup companies over the past five years.
Companies in the state also raised more than $10.3 billion in venture capital in 2022 alone.
More than 2,000 foreign-based businesses have a presence in Illinois, contributing to a thriving business environment. The state also has 1.2 million small businesses across industries.
Kristin A. Richards, Director for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), said in March that under Gov. Pritzker’s leadership, the state has reached “unprecedented fiscal health” and continues to create jobs.
“We’re proud to have nearly 500 corporate investments in 2022, and looking ahead, we are doubling down on our business attraction and retention efforts to support economic development in every corner of the state.”
— Kristin A. Richards, Director, Illinois DCEO
“We’re proud to have nearly 500 corporate investments in 2022,” she said, “and looking ahead, we are doubling down on our business attraction and retention efforts to support economic development in every corner of the state.”
The Illinois Department of Employment Security announced this past summer that strong job growth in May 2023 proved Illinois is still in an expansion mode. Industry sectors with the largest over-the-month job gains included: Government (+2,600); Financial activities (+1,900); and leisure and hospitality (+1,400).
The data, according to Deputy Governor Andy Manar, shows “sustained economic stabilization” and job growth is occurring statewide.
“The state’s commitment to investments in workforce and economic development, coupled with the resources provided by IDES, gives jobseekers more opportunities to participate in the labor force and gives employers the ability to expand their businesses with Illinois talent,” Manar said.
A falling unemployment rate and continued job growth prove Illinois’ economy is strong, according to Richards.
“The state is fostering an environment for sustained economic progress by attracting job creators to the state and bolstering Illinois’ top-tier workforce, providing resources to jobseekers, and supporting working families throughout Illinois,” she said.
Illinois boasts the following accolades for its business climate, according to Intersect Illinois:
- Site of Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which is ranked as the most connected airport in the world.
- No. 2 in the nation for business expansions and relocations in 2022.
- Fifth largest GDP in the nation and 18th largest economy in the world.
- Five Federal Laboratories – U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service; Department of Defense U.S. Transportation Command; DOD Construction Engineering Research Laboratory; Argonne National Laboratory; Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
- 6.4 million person workforce, of which 35% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- 84 international consulates, and six international trade offices (Belgium, Canada, China, Israel, Japan, and Mexico).
Southern Illinois And The R4 Advantage
Companies have location choices and choosing Southern Illinois is becoming a common theme. Ample access to rivers, roads, rail, and runways provides this location with a competitive advantage.
Fueled by the region’s central location and logistics infrastructure, companies looking through a post-pandemic lens at supply chain resiliency are finding the region’s transportation assets attractive, then quickly discover its secret sauce – the people. From a world-class workforce to a drop-everything, concierge-type approach, Southern Illinoisans are hard-working, collaborative, and do what it takes to get the job done.
In June 2023, Texas-based Manner Polymers announced its company’s expansion to Mount Vernon, IL, with the city’s central location, skilled workforce, and rail access cited as key factors. Behind the scenes, it was the collaborative local and state efforts at the speed of business that brought this project to life. Additionally, the Reimagining Energy and Electric Vehicles (REV) Act provided a comprehensive incentive package that catapulted the Illinois location to the top. Already a leading polymer compounds manufacturer serving multiple industries and markets, Manner Polymers is also leading in sustainability as its state-of-the-art Mount Vernon location will be the first solar-powered polymer facility of its kind.
In July 2023, Southern Illinois celebrated another announcement, this time in the form of a 100,000-square-foot expansion at a long-standing Southern Illinois cable manufacturer.
A world leader in the industry, Milan-based Prysmian Group acquired General Cable and its Du Quoin facility in 2018. Like Manner Polymers, the company’s choice to expand its Southern Illinois plant, one of 28 in North America, was largely due to the state’s competitive REV incentives combined with the region’s skilled workforce.
As a result of this expansion, workers from Du Quoin and the surrounding communities will advance the company’s cable production goals, including cutting-edge renewable cable critical to the world’s clean energy transition.
With Southern Illinois attracting investment through two of the state’s four REV agreements to date, the region is poised for additional growth as companies discover how Illinois’ unprecedented incentives, combined with its leading workforce and transportation assets, equal a measurable return on investment. Described as Southern Illinois’ R4 Advantage, its access to rivers, roads, rail, and runways provides companies with increased customer reach and decreased transportation costs, resulting in a winning competitive advantage.
United Alloy plans to construct a permanent manufacturing facility in Quincy, Illinois. The project will create at least 100 jobs. Read more…
Whether it is transporting goods along the Mississippi or Ohio Rivers, accessing major interstate or rail line intersections, or connecting to the world through direct jet service to Chicago, the state’s southernmost region is attracting attention.
Leading the charge alongside local economic developers is Southern Illinois Now (SI Now), an organization serving as the region’s business attraction concierge connecting companies to state and local resources to accelerate projects, access incentives, and simplify the decision-making process. Supported by business and community leaders, SI Now serves Illinois’ southernmost 17 counties providing access to a broad geographic region and asset inventory.
Building on what the region’s legacy businesses know and what new companies are finding, the time is now to discover why Southern Illinois is a great place to live, work, and do business.
Visit southernillinoisnow.org for more information.