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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 23, 2004

Blagojevich reaffirms financial commitment to Opportunity Returns for Fiscal Year 2005 and beyond

SPRINGFIELD – After closing a multi-billion dollar deficit with his recently proposed state budget, Governor Rod Blagojevich today reaffirmed his commitment to his innovative economic development plan that is successfully spurring economic growth from Boone to Alexander County, Opportunity Returns.
 
Opportunity Returns is Governor Blagojevich’s pro-active, comprehensive plan to restoring economic opportunity throughout Illinois.  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 businesses.  The Governor has already unveiled plans for six of the ten regions – Northern Stateline, Northwest, Southern, North Central, Southwest and West Central regions.  He will announce the plans for the East Central, Southeast, Central and Northeast regions in the coming months. 
 
Opportunity Returns is really about creating more opportunities for people throughout Illinois to earn a decent living, to work in better, more secure jobs, and to deliver on the dream of building a better life.  The targeted investments these plans provide are already helping to connect entrepreneurs with investors, great ideas with skilled workers, and the state’s economic assets with demand around the world.  The monetary commitment we are making to Illinois communities is really the savviest use of state resources because it is essentially an investment in the hardworking people of this state, and that is an investment which is bound to yield the highest of returns and simply can not be compromised,” Governor Blagojevich said. 
 
To craft an economic development plan with the capacity to produce both short and long term gains, Governor Blagojevich believes that resources must be targeted to projects that create greater economic opportunities for individual communities and their residents.  While each plan is customized to meet the specific strengths and needs of a particular region, the common thread in all of them is a steadfast commitment to strengthening education and job training, supporting local businesses and entrepreneurship, and expanding public roads and local infrastructure - investments that put the wheels of economic growth in motion.  The state is committing $2 billion in funding over the next five years to Opportunity Returns transportation infrastructure projects across the state, including $500 million in Fiscal Year 2005.  $200 million of that $500 million will be for new capital projects starting this summer that will help spur local economies and create approximately 4,800 construction jobs. 
 
Capital investments in a region’s public infrastructure improve the transportation of goods and people, attract new investment, and help existing businesses thrive.  Among the many highlights of the Governor’s Fiscal Year 2005 Opportunity Returns transportation infrastructure investments are:
 
  • $52.6 million for the U.S. 34 extension in the West Central region, which will cover land acquisition, utility relocation, engineering, and construction on the west end, along with Phase II engineering of the 9.5 mile section of U.S. Route 34 between TR 111 and Kirkwood.
 
  • $24.9 million to widen Illinois Route 13 to six lanes in the Southern region, which will begin planning the first phase of expansion from four to six lanes between Marionville and Carterville.
 
  • $30.3 million for engineering of the Illinois Route 336 Macomb Western Bypass in the West Central region, which will eventually connect Illinois Route 336 to U.S. Route 67 via a four lane highway, bypassing Macomb to the northwest and the northeast.
 
  • $25.5 million to add lanes to Interstate 55 in the North Central region around Bloomington-Normal.
 
  • $23 million for the U.S. Route 67 Jerseyville Bypass in the Southwest region, which will begin building an eastern bypass to redirect traffic from Jersey County’s downtown area.
 
  • $14.8 million for the Illinois 173 Interchange Project in the Northern Stateline region, which will widen the road to four lanes and create a new interchange at Illinois 251 that provides access to Loves Park, Machesney Park, and Rock Cut State Park.
 
  • $13 million for the U.S. Route 20 Galena Bypass in the Northwest region, which will cover land acquisition and engineering costs.
 
Capital investments in job training and education, technology, and business retention and expansion help upgrade worker skills, create well-paying jobs, and foster an innovative, attractive business climate.  Governor Blagojevich is committing an additional $86 million in Fiscal Year 2005 funding to Opportunity Returns to help finance key economic development projects in the four regions that will be announced shortly.  Opportunity Returns capital investment highlights from the first six regional plans announced include:
 
  • $29 million for the World Shooting Complex in the Southwest region to fund the purchase and development of the land in Sparta that is expected to offer more than 100 trap stations, skeet stations, sporting clays, a pistol range and a 3-D archery range, as well as traditional outdoor recreation activities such as fishing, hiking and camping.
 
  • $4.5 million to build the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center, a 50,000 square foot incubator that will help create, attract, and nurture young companies in the fields of nanotechnology, bio-science, health care, agricultural products and other technologies; accommodating up to 25 firms and creating more than 200 jobs in three years and potentially up to 2,000 jobs over the next eight years as these companies grow in the North Central region.
 
  • $4 million to support the Illinois Port District Revolving Loan Fund, which will provide much needed capital to Illinois’ port districts to develop infrastructure, operate more efficiently and remain globally competitive.
 
  • More than $2.8 million to renovate and expand the Science Laboratory Building at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in the Southwest region, the top priority of the Southern Illinois University system.
 
  • Nearly $2.2 million for a new transportation education center at Southern Illinois University - Carbondale (SIUC) in the Southern region.  This will fund design and construction planning for the world-class facility that will bring together SIUC’s automotive and aviation degree programs into a state of the art, technologically advanced complex.
 
  • $1.8 million to construct the new Illinois National Guard Readiness Center/Armory in Galesburg in the West Central region.  The state funding will leverage an additional $8.3 million in federal funding to build the facility, which will cover roughly 50,000 square feet and have the capacity to train between 250 and 300 people.
 
  • $1.6 million for the Rockford Applied Manufacturing Research and Technology Center in the Northern Stateline region that will help expand the center to include a technology commercialization entrepreneurial development center.
 
  • $1.5 million for the new Western Illinois University-Quad Cities Campus in the Northwest region, which will fund additional architecture and engineering assessment costs for the campus that is projected to serve between 3,000 and 5,000 students.
 
  • $500,000 to fund infrastructure improvements to the South Quincy Industrial Complex in the West Central region.
 
  • $300,000 for sewer extensions in Knoxville in the West Central region, which will improve the quality of the Knoxville water system and round out a vastly enhanced infrastructure system for the greater Galesburg community.
 
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the state agency charged with fueling economic development and job creation throughout Illinois, is administering Opportunity Returns
 
Opportunity Returns is allowing us to stimulate economic development more efficiently and effectively.  By targeting resources on a regional basis, we are helping businesses in the fields of technology, transportation, manufacturing, and agriculture grow and advance in a more dynamic way.  The financial commitments made through Opportunity Returns are using innovative partnerships to leverage more funding at the federal, state, local, and private level, all of which are being poured directly into efforts to help businesses thrive and create more jobs.  By the Governor reaffirming his commitment in funding Opportunity Returns throughout the state, we are giving economic growth in Illinois an important shot in the arm,” said DCEO Director Jack Lavin.


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