Why did hundreds of businesses move to Illinois last year?
Originally published in Crain’s Chicago Business on November 1, 2022
By Dan Seals, CEO, Intersect Illinois
Crain’s recent editorial assessing Illinois’ business competitiveness left room for me to share more about the path we are on to bring economic growth and jobs to the state. The story acknowledged many of our state’s leading attributes: elite universities churning out a well-trained workforce; world-class cultural amenities in an affordable setting; and our location at the center of infrastructure that efficiently moves people and products. Good things are happening here, and as the head of Intersect Illinois, part of my job is making sure people are aware.
For the past year, I’ve had a front-row seat as major employers made investments in Illinois. In fact, our recently released annual report notes that from July 2021 to June 2022, Illinois saw 357 corporate relocations or expansions, bringing more than 16,000 jobs and $7.1 billion in investment to the state, all representing year-over-year increases.
Despite those great numbers, much of the media coverage in recent months has been around the loss of three corporate headquarter offices in Illinois. That’s an important story, but not more important than the hundreds of corporate expansions and the thousands of jobs that they brought to Illinois last year. That’s a trend more Illinoisans should know about.
And while we all appreciate quick wins, bold headlines and well-publicized groundbreakings, the reality is that company location decisions take an enormous amount of time and effort – the ones making news today typically were conceived months, or even years, ago. This is especially true with the electric vehicle (EV) industry. The Reimagining Electric Vehicles (REV) Act gives Illinois a new tool to attract EV companies, and Illinois is seeing increased interest because of it. Even so, Illinois is still early in the process. It will take time to see the fruit of that labor.
For our part, last fiscal year Intersect Illinois embarked on a proactive business recruitment initiative, the results of which we are just starting to see. From July of 2021 to June of 2022 we saw an increase in project wins that drew $402 million and created 1,884 new jobs, up more than 10% from the previous year. Our project close rate also more than doubled, from 8.4% in FY21 to 17.8%. I’m particularly pleased that a significant amount of this growth is happening downstate, with 387 jobs and $154.6 million in capital investment occurring south of I-80.
To be sure, there is still work to be done and issues to solve. But Illinois also has tremendous assets to offer. The business leaders who are locating and expanding in Illinois often cite access to talent, markets and infrastructure – those same attributes Crain’s acknowledged – as their reasons for growing here. The 35 Fortune 500 companies and thousands of small businesses headquartered here would agree. In fact, it is a big reason why we have the fifth largest economy in the country. We’re on the right path in Illinois. Let’s not lose sight of that.
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