Illinois cannot ignore the warnings of the business community

In 2011, Doug Oberhelman, then the chief executive officer of Caterpillar, wrote a letter to then-Governor Pat Quinn warning that Illinois’ trade policies would eventually force companies like his out of Illinois.

“In short, when Caterpillar and most other companies look to locate a new factory in the US, Illinois is not in the running for such projects. It doesn’t have to be like this… I want to stay here. But as the leader of this business, I have to do what’s right for Caterpillar when making decisions about where to invest,” Oberhelman wrote.

Of course we know the rest of the story. Those warnings were ignored and just this year Caterpillar announced that the company is moving to Texas. Other companies such as Tyson, Citadel, Boeing, FTX and Highland Ventures have also announced they will be leaving Illinois.

Is simple. Bad policies lead to bad results. For example, our governor has shut down the economy during the pandemic. We’ve lost countless small businesses to his actions. It will take a long time to recover from its poor decision to close small businesses as around 14% of the jobs lost to the lockdowns have yet to return.

Our state continues to lose population. We led the nation in emigration in 2021 and have lost population for the past eight consecutive years. According to Census Data, Illinois lost 113,776 people from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021. Put into perspective, this is equivalent to losing the entire population of the city of Springfield in the space of one year. Also consider that no other Midwestern state has lost more than 17,000 people in the same amount of time.

Houston we have a problem.

We are losing businesses. Are we losing people and what are our leaders doing about it?

The answer is not one thing. They won’t even consider the question.

Democrats and various members of the media love to label me and my Downstate colleagues as some sort of “extremist,” but the truth is, we ran because the current leadership in our state couldn’t run a lemonade stand much less a state the size of illinois. We pay some of the highest taxes in the nation, and all we have to prove are bad roads, failing schools, crumbling state parks, and incompetently run state agencies. Oh, and don’t forget all the Democratic state senators and representatives who have been accused of corruption – yes corruption – of the kind we learned about in elementary school.

Our taxes are too high. Our state’s energy policies are making utilities too high. We have too many company regulations and we have some of the highest workers’ compensation costs in the nation.

We will continue to be unable to compete with surrounding states as long as we continue to ignore the concerns of the business community.

We can fix this. We just need the political will to do it.

Illinois is located in the center of the country. There is no reason Illinois is losing businesses. Poor leadership has created a hostile business environment—one the business community has warned us about for years. If we are to become a destination for jobs and opportunity, then we need to heed the warnings of job creators and implement better policies. Doing the same thing we’ve always done will only yield the same failed results and produce more headlines about more companies walking away.

It’s time for Democrats and Republicans to work together to bring jobs and opportunity back to Illinois, and it can’t happen fast enough.

Chris Miller is a Republican member of the Illinois House of Representatives from Urbana and the head of the Illinois Freedom Caucus.

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