CHICAGO -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich continued on Thursday to promote large-scale reforms of state government by announcing his plans for fundamental changes at a key state agency that has often been identified with bureaucratic inefficiency and mismanagement.
The changes announced by the governor today included his call for a revised mission for the department that is charged with economic development and job creation, as well as his appointment of a new director for the agency, and even a new name for what is currently the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA).
“I am here to appoint a new director for DCCA— and to point the department in a new direction,” Blagojevich said.
“Today, DCCA is a department with great potential, but greater problems,” he said, citing the fact that businesses and local governments often express frustration at an inability to navigate through a maze of red tape, and are unable to access valuable grants and programs.
Blagojevich said that by reforming the department, it will more effectively fulfill its core mission-- to create jobs and expand economic activity throughout Illinois.
One step that the new department will take to promote statewide economic growth will be through an innovative venture capital program. As a candidate for governor, Blagojevich spoke often about the initiative that he intends to create to bring much-needed private investments to the state, especially to areas that have lacked access to capital in the past.
Adding that “a new day for DCCA begins with a new name, one that better reflect its goals,” Blagojevich said that he will direct it to be renamed the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
He added that the new director will be assigned to carry out important internal changes within the department and help him bring about reforms and more sensible spending throughout state government. Helping the governor fulfill his reform agenda, the department will help the governor in his review of all Illinois FIRST and members’ initiatives—to decide which fill an essential need and which are “political pork.”
“The department will be on the front lines in my effort to carry out government-wide reforms and institute the fiscal discipline that the people of Illinois want and deserve,” he said.
To lead the new DCEO, Blagojevich named Jack Lavin, who brings with him experience in both the public and private sector. As deputy state treasurer in the early 1990s, he helped triple the amount of money the state invested in economic development. The programs he oversaw helped more than 25,000 families and businesses gain access to credit.
Since serving in state government, Lavin posted impressive successes creating jobs in the private sector. As Chief Financial Officer for Rezko Enterprises-- a firm that had 8 restaurants when he began in 1995 and grew to more than 120 five years later, as sales increased from $4.3 million to $60 million-- he helped create more than 1,800 jobs.
“Jack knows what businesses need in order to grow, understands how state government can help, and is dedicated to putting people to work,” he said.
Among Lavin’s first tasks at the department will be a top-to-bottom review, aimed at finding opportunities for streamlining the department and consolidating functions both within, and outside, the department.
As an example of consolidation, the department will likely serve as one of the few agencies where state job training programs-- which now exist in the form of more than thirty separate programs, at the cost of $800 million per year--- will be carried out.
Blagojevich said that performance audits will be conducted to demonstrate whether such changes are working.
The governor’s venture capital project will take the form of a $200 million fund of funds, which will be raised privately and will be independently and professionally managed. The “Illinois Opportunity Fund” will be aimed at creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and workers across Illinois—in particular, in downstate communities which have not had access to venture capital.
“Under my administration, it will be businesses that will expand, not state government,” Blagojevich said.
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