Illinois - A Premier Business Location

31 Mar, 2003

By: Jack Lavin

On November 11, 1803 Meriwether Lewis and William Clark took the first steps toward their famous expedition when they crossed the Ohio River from Kentucky into the territory that is now part of Illinois.

When 21 year old Abraham Lincoln rode into Illinois in 1830 he hardly seemed destined for greatness. He was riding a family ox wagon and had just one year of formal education.

Depressed business conditions in Vermont led John Deere, a journeyman blacksmith, to Illinois where in 1937 he developed the world’s first commercially successful self-scouring stele plow. He would produce a supply of plows and then sell them, initiating an entirely new approach to manufacturing.

For nearly 200 years, Illinois has helped business and people realize their dreams in the middle of a country billed as the Land of Opportunity.

Leading companies around the world recognize Illinois as one of the nation’s premier business locations. Centrally located, abundant in resources, and rich with talent and vitality, Illinois provides the ideal climate for starting, growing or nourishing a company – large or small. As a testament to the many benefits Illinois has to offer, the state is home to 35 Fortune 500 companies, like Boeing, State Farm, Sears Roebuck, Motorola, and Allstate. Approximately 1,800 international corporations and more than 606,000 small businesses are also located in Illinois.

Within the allied materials industry, the plastics industry is of particular importance to Illinois. The Prairie State lays claim to 878 plastics facilities, the third highest concentration in the United States. One reason is its close proximity to numerous producers of primary and secondary plastics related components. Illinois employment in plastics totaled 61,994 in 2002.

Illinois ranks fourth in the United States in manufactured fabricated metal products, with 131,871 people employed in the field. Illinois is strong in such areas as bolt, nut, screw, rivet and washer manufacturing (concentration ratio of 3.32); spring (heavy and light gauge) manufacturing (concentrations of 4.07 and 2.29); and crown and closure manufacturing (concentration of 3.38).

Illinois’ geographic location is unparalleled, serving as North America’s transportation center and a global center for commerce, with more than 570,000 workers in the state supporting $32 billion in annual exports. Illinois'' modern transportation system utilizes air, ground, rail, waterways and telecommunications technologies to provide direct routes to every U.S. market and international port. Illinois is a natural for warehousing and distribution facilities, which is why nearly 300 of the Fortune 500 companies operate major regional or national distribution centers in Illinois.

Illinois provides businesses with access to superior technology; abundant, stable energy; and world-renowned research and development facilities. Illinois is home to 621 federal research labs. Argonne National Laboratory is the leading federal laboratory in the state, focusing on advanced materials, chemicals and energy technologies, as well as transportation technology and biotechnology. The state’s assets also include Fermilab, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the USDA National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, and the National Center for Food Safety. Many of these centers, in partnership with colleges and universities such as Northwestern and the University of Illinois, are also supporting research in the emerging field of nanotechnology.

Moreover, Illinois’ extensive telecommunications network and digital infrastructure provide fast, direct, convenient links to every destination important to business – making it easy for companies to build and maintain crucial relationships.

Illinois is well positioned to serve the energy needs of businesses and industries, with an abundant supply of electric capacity (29,879 megawatts). Producing 139 billion kilowatt-hours per year at 61 facilities enables Illinois utilities to offer relatively long-term rate stability to current and potential energy customers. Illinois is also the nation's leader in the generation of nuclear power, generating approximately 72.6billion kilowatt hours of electricity with seven nuclear units.

Because Illinois understands that a quality employee base is often a company’s most valuable asset, education remains a top priority for the state. Nearly half of Illinois’ workers have pursued education beyond high school, and Illinois universities awarded over 7,500 MBAs last year. Nearly one-half of the state’s 5.9 million workers are professionals, skilled technicians, craftspeople or machine operators. Illinois workers are known for their productivity. Illinois’ manufacturing value added of $82.93 per hour of labor is among the best in the Midwest and exceeds the national average by $1.18 per hour.

Manufacturers will find the resources they need in Illinois to achieve their goals. According to the most recent statistics, about 18,000 manufacturing companies operated in the state, generating a gross output of $73.4 billion and 15.7 percent of the gross state product. Major industries concentrated in Illinois include primary and secondary metals, industrial and farm equipment, electric equipment and appliances, electronic components, food processing, and printing. Illinois ranks first among the states in the production of construction machinery, cookies, candy, service industry machines and environmental controls. The state is also a leader in the production of farm machinery, cereals, magazines, plastic products and machine tool products. For manufacturers, it's important to know that Illinois companies can supply almost any sub-assembly component or finished products.

There are nearly 1250 firms manufacturing advanced materials in Illinois. Illinois strongest niches include plastic bottle manufacturing, unsupported plastic shape manufacturing and other plastic product manufacturing like plastic plumbing fixtures, and resilient floor coverings. The development of new uses for recycled plastic products will also continue to drive growth and innovation in the plastics industry. In 2002, plastic exports reached almost $872 million. Some of Illinois largest plastic employers include quality companies like Medline Ind. Inc, Prairie Packaging, Courtesy Corp, Tenneco Packaging, and Silver Line Building Production.

The National Institute for Metalworking Skills has accredited six institutions or companies in Illinois. These accredited programs will improve the quality of training in metalworking and foster partnerships between education and industry. With more metalworkers getting accredited in Illinois the quality of the skilled workforce will increase. In 2002 the Illinois fabricated metals industry had over $1 billion in exports. The major fabricated metal employers in Illinois are AJ Oster, Spraying Systems Co, Textron Inc, Camcar, and AmerockCorporation.

The Illinois Trade Office was established in 1965 to assist Illinois companies in locating distribution channels for their products in foreign markets. Today the office has locations in Brussels, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Warsaw, Toronto, Johannesburg, and Shanghai. Illinois ranks number one in the Midwest as a destination for foreign investment. The state has attracted over 6,447 foreign establishments that employ more than 340,000 Illinoisans. Over 70 nations maintain consulates in the state and over 40 international banks have established branches or representative offices in Chicago.

A DCEO initiative assisting small business owners and entrepreneurs is the Capital Access Program, commonly referred to as CAP, which is designed to encourage lending institutions to make loans to small businesses that do not qualify under conventional lending practices. According to statistics compiled by the U.S. Treasury, Illinois is ranked #4 nationally in CAP loan volume

To assist companies in keeping their workers on the cutting edge of their respective industries, DCEO administers the Industrial Training Program (ITP), a streamlined, cost-effective program to help Illinois workers keep their skills consistent with changing technologies and business processes. Businesses benefit through increased productivity, reduced costs, improved quality and competitiveness. ITP provides grants that can reimburse companies for up to 50 percent of the cost of training their employees.

And to promote job growth and retention, the state administers the EDGE (Economic Development for a Growing Economy) program which offers tax credits that allow eligible firms to reduce business costs. The credit is based on the personal income tax collected on the salaries of employees associated with the project. The individual income tax rate in Illinois is three percent.

When the job is done, Illinois offers a tremendous quality of life for its residents. From the big-city excitement of Chicago to the peaceful Amish communities of Eastern Illinois, and to the majestic Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois, Illinois is a reflection of America. Moreover, Illinois has a cultural haven in Chicago. Rising from the ashes, Chicago became the prototype of a modern industrial metropolis, a center of world-class architecture. Chicago offers a breathtaking skyline, stunning lakefront, theater and four-star restaurants. It’s why Chicago is the top destination in the U.S. for business travel and why Illinois welcomed a record 85 million domestic visitors in 2001. Housing is affordable - a 2002 survey listed three Illinois metropolitan areas among the 10 most affordable housing areas in the U.S. Four Illinois cities have achieved five-star rankings for the quality of life offered to their residents.

Just imagine what you can do right here, right now in Illinois, the land of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Jane Addams, and Carl Sandberg. Illinois has it all, historic sites, trails, state parks, museums and world-class shopping. Under the leadership of Governor Rod R. Blagojevich the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is improving the state’s competitiveness in the global economy. Resulting in high quality jobs, rising real incomes and prosperous, growing industries.


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