SPRINGFIELD- - In a bold, historic effort to jumpstart the Illinois economy in the face of budget shortfalls and limited fiscal resources, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is leading the most aggressive, innovative approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history through Opportunity Returns.
Opportunity Returns is Governor Blagojevich’s comprehensive, pro-active plan to revitalize the economy and spur job growth. Developed largely from the input of local business, labor and public sector leaders, Opportunity Returns delivers services on a regional basis and contains tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to business. As the state agency charged with stimulating economic development and job creation throughout Illinois, DCEO will use almost all of its human and capital resources to administer the Governor’s plan and ensure it continues to yield high returns.
Opportunity Returns is able to accomplish more with less through two key measures: it calls on more than a dozen state agencies to pool their existing resources, using partnerships in funding and expertise to produce real results; and it acts efficiently by targeting those resources to meet the priorities identified by the local communities as being most crucial to generating renewed economic growth.
DCEO’s Fiscal Year 2005 operations budget is $893.6 million. This represents an overall decrease of $1.4 million from the Department’s Fiscal Year 2004 appropriation. Due to the projected $1.7 billion deficit, subsidies to tourism programs and advertising at the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will be reduced. The savings from these reductions will be earmarked toward paying for core functions of the state including K-12 education, human services (especially Medicaid.)
“As the economic development agency of the state, DCEO capitalizes on Illinois’ strengths as the center of transportation, manufacturing, and technology development,” said DCEO Director
Jack Lavin. “Opportunity Returns allows us to do this more efficiently and effectively by targeting resources on a regional basis which helps these industries grow and advance in a more dynamic way. We are using our resources to produce good jobs with health benefits so people can raise and support their families by building public infrastructure, creating a revolving loan fund to modernize manufacturing equipment, or providing training grants to bring our workers up to speed with new technologies.”
FY05 DCEO Budget Highlights:
- Opportunity Returns: The department is implementing Opportunity Returns, the Governor’s unprecedented plan to restore economic opportunity throughout Illinois. Recognizing that the state’s economy is actually a collection of regional economies, each with distinct identities, opportunities and challenges, Opportunity Returns makes targeted investments in ten regions across the state, all geared towards paying significant economic dividends. DCEO employees are based in each region implementing the plans. These regional teams enable the state to closely track economic conditions and trends, rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges, and customize regional development initiatives with greater precision.
- Integration of Workforce Development Programs: Responding to the Governor’s call to consolidate job-training programs, the department successfully implemented the “21st Century Jobs” Training Initiative. This realignment sparked a national trend for integrating workforce development resources with the state’s economic development efforts and improved the utilization of federal and state resources.
- Efficiency: To improve efficiency, the function of paying stipends for county coroners and sheriffs, and State’s Attorney’s salaries is being transferred to the Department of Revenue. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is also being transferred to the Illinois Department of Public Aid. This reorganization will help DCEO focus on its core mission of economic development and job creation.
“At the inception of Opportunity Returns, every DCEO agency program and resource was closely scrutinized to assess how it specifically promotes economic development and job growth or how it must be reconfigured to do so. What came out of that process was a package of programs and services that are designed to act in innovative ways at the local level, be accountable to the taxpayers and produce a maximum impact in this challenging economy. With the Governor’s leadership, our agency will continue to create greater economic opportunity throughout the state,” DCEO Director Lavin said.
FY05 innovative DCEO programs and services:
Entrepreneurship Centers: The fiscal year 2005 budget includes an increase of $5.5 million in GRF to support the Governor’s commitment to establish 20 Entrepreneurship Centers throughout Illinois. These centers provide entrepreneurs with an array of crucial services including recruiting, legal, financial, and other support all under one roof.
- Employer Training Investment Program: The fiscal year 2005 budget includes an increase of $7.8 million in GRF for the Employer Training Investment Program. This program is one of a new generation of employer-focused, customized training programs designed to address the needs of manufacturers and ensure their workforce has the necessary skills to compete and thrive in the 21st century economy.
- Job Training and Economic Development Grant Program: An increase of $3.6 million in general funds will expand the Job Training and Economic Development program, which assists low-wage, low-skill workers to advance their careers, and helps unemployed, disadvantaged people learn skills necessary to secure employment.
- Port Development Revolving Loan Fund: The fiscal year 2005 budget includes $4 million to provide seed funding for the Port Development Revolving Loan Fund. This investment is designed to facilitate and enhance the utilization of Illinois’ navigable waterways and the development of inland intermodal freight facilities.
- Innovation Challenge Grant Program: The fiscal year 2005 budget includes $10 million from the General Revenue Fund (GRF) for the new Innovation Challenge Grant Program. This initiative provides bridge funding for companies involved in the federal Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, resulting in an improved competitive position for Illinois small businesses and fast-tracked Illinois proposals.
- Governor’s Small Business $mart Energy Program: A new investment of $4 million in GRF will provide funding to conduct energy audits and to help train building designers, construction workers, and others in the industry to make new and existing buildings more energy efficient.
- Governor’s Manufacturing Energy Efficiency Program: The fiscal year 2005 budget includes $4 million in new funding from GRF to assist manufacturers in responding to high-energy costs, which can represent up to 15% of their operating costs, by increasing energy efficiency.
- Regional Airport Marketing Program: A total of $975,000 from the GRF will be used to provide matching grants to Illinois regional airports for the recruitment and retention of air carriers, and for planning to attract and retain customers.
- llinois Opportunity Fund: $250,000 to address start-up costs of the proposed $200 million Illinois Opportunity Fund, a private venture capital fund designed to spur investment and create jobs in areas throughout the state where this type of funding is almost non-existent.