Illinois looks to double down on its development

By Donna Clapp
From the September / October 2023 issue

Sstrategically located in 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 home to the world’s most connected airport.

It’s where talent, innovation, transportation and infrastructure come together and where many of the nation’s leading 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 skilled workforce supported by more than 247 institutions of higher education, according to Intersect Illinois.

Illinois is home to more than 30 Fortune 500 companies and 1.2 million small businesses in a variety of industries. (Photo: Adobe Stock/ Yulia Sokolovska)

The Land of Lincoln is home to more than 30 Wealth The headquarters of 500 companies and its strong business climate attract 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 startups 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 companies are present in Illinois, contributing to a thriving business environment. The state also has 1.2 million small businesses in various industries.

Christine A. Richards, director of 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’re redoubling our efforts to attract and retain businesses to support economic development in every corner of the state.”

— Christine A. Richards, Director, Illinois DCEO

“We’re proud to have nearly 500 corporate investments in 2022,” she said, “and looking ahead, we’re redoubling our efforts to attract and retain businesses to support economic development in every corner of the state.”

The Illinois Department of Employment Security announced last summer that strong job growth in May 2023 proves Illinois is still in expansion mode. Industry sectors with the largest job gains for the month included: Government (+2,600); Financial activities (+1900); and recreation and hospitality (+1,400).

The data, according to Lt. Gov. Andy Mannar, shows “sustainable economic stabilization” and job growth is being seen across the country.

“The state’s commitment to workforce investment and economic development, combined with the resources provided by IDES, gives job seekers more opportunities to participate in the workforce and enables employers to grow their businesses with Illinois talent,” Manar said.

A declining unemployment rate and continued job growth prove Illinois’ economy is strong, according to Richards.

“The state fosters an environment for sustainable economic progress by attracting job creators to the state and strengthening Illinois’ top workforce, providing resources to job seekers and helping working families across 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.
  • #2 in the Nation for Business Expansion and Relocation 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; US Department of Defense Transportation Command; DOD Civil Engineering Research Laboratory; Argonne National Laboratory; Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
  • 6.4 million people in the workforce, of which 35% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • 84 international consulates and six international trade missions (Belgium, Canada, China, Israel, Japan and Mexico).

Southern Illinois and the R4 advantage

Companies have their choice of location, and choosing Southern Illinois is becoming a common theme. Wide access to rivers, roads, railways and runways gives this location a competitive advantage.

Fueled by the region’s central location and logistics infrastructure, companies looking through the post-pandemic lens of supply chain resilience found the region’s transportation assets attractive, then quickly discovered their secret sauce: people. From a world-class workforce to a concierge-style approach, Southern Illinoisans are hard-working, collaborative, and do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Southern Illinois
Prysmian Group holds a groundbreaking ceremony on July 27, 2023 (Photo: Prysmian Group)

In June 2023, Texas-based Manner Polymers announced its company’s expansion to Mount Vernon, Illinois, citing the city’s central location, skilled workforce and rail access as key factors. Behind the scenes, collaborative local and state efforts at the speed of business brought this project to life. In addition, the Rethinking Energy and Electric Vehicles (REV) Act provided a comprehensive stimulus package that shot Illinois’ location to the top. Already a leading producer of polymer compounds serving multiple industries and markets, Manner Polymers is also leading the way in sustainability, as its state-of-the-art Mount Vernon location will be the first-of-its-kind solar-powered polymer facility.

In July 2023, Southern Illinois marked another announcement, this time in the form of a 100,000-square-foot expansion of a longtime Southern Illinois cable manufacturer.

A global industry leader, 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, to a large degree is due to the state’s competitive incentives for REV combined with the region’s skilled workforce.

As a result of this expansion, workers from Du Quoin and surrounding communities will advance the company’s goals of making cables, including cutting-edge renewable cables, that are 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, equate to measurable returns on the investments. Described as Southern Illinois’ R4 Advantage, its access to rivers, roads, railroads and runways provides companies with increased customer reach and reduced transportation costs, resulting in a profitable competitive advantage.

Whether it’s transporting goods on the Mississippi or Ohio rivers, accessing major interstate or rail junctions, or connecting to the world via a direct jet line to Chicago, the state’s southernmost region commands 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 with state and local resources to accelerate projects, access incentives and simplify the decision-making process . Supported by business and community leaders, SI Now serves the southernmost 17 counties of Illinois, providing access to a broad geographic region and asset inventory.

Based on what legacy businesses in the region know and what new companies are discovering, now is the time to discover why Southern Illinois is a great place to live, work and do business.

Visit southernillinoisnow.org for more information.

See all the latest news related to Illinois economic development, corporate relocation, corporate expansion and site selection.

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