CHICAGO – With additional evidence released today illustrating Illinois’ expanding economy, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich says several key legislative initiatives will make the state’s business climate even more attractive to companies looking to expand or to relocate and spark more growth. The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced today that in May unemployment rates fell from previous year levels in all 12 metropolitan areas. This was the fifth month in a row in which unemployment rates were down in at least 10 of the metro areas. Danville, Rockford and Decatur metro areas all posted unemployment rate declines greater than one percentage point. Earlier this month, IDES also announced that the state has experienced a rate of job growth that exceeds the nation’s rate of growth for the third consecutive month. This is the first time this has happened in nearly eight years. The IDES statistics also show that, through the past three months, nearly 40,000 new jobs have been created.
“There is nothing more important than making sure we are doing everything possible to spur economic growth and to create more jobs for working families across Illinois. For the past several years, we have been making strategic investments in job training, infrastructure and entrepreneurship that are making this a reality. But more good news is on the way for our business community. We are fundamentally reforming everything from our workers’ compensation system to medical malpractice, which is sending a strong message to companies across the state, throughout the country and around the globe that Illinois is the right place to launch and grow a business,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
As part of his ongoing efforts to ensure Illinois is responding to the needs and priorities of the state’s business community, Gov. Blagojevich will sign a number of pieces of legislation to improve the business climate. He has also launched a series of innovative efforts to make Illinois even more competitive on the national and international stage:
Comprehensive Workers’ Compensation Reform: Gov. Blagojevich led the process to fundamentally change the workers’ compensation system for the first time in almost 20 years. The Governor, business and labor leaders and members of the General Assembly worked together in an agreed bill process (House Bill 2137) that led to the dramatic changes that will reduce business costs, increase benefits and fight the fraud that hurts everybody. Illinois is the 19th most expensive state in the nation when it comes to workers’ compensation premiums, and Illinois companies pay 40 percent more for workers compensation than neighboring states Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana.
Medical Malpractice Reform: Gov. Blagojevich will sign major medical malpractice reform legislation (Senate Bill 475), which will reduce the cost of insurance premiums for doctors and stop doctors from leaving the state. Gov. Blagojevich helped pass the legislation despite his personal opposition to caps because ensuring that doctors stay in Illinois and practice medicine in Illinois is a fundamental part of making sure that patients have access to good health care, which is also a critical concern for the business community.
Attracting Even More International Businesses to Illinois: Gov. Blagojevich will sign legislation (House Bill 4053) creating the Illinois Global Partnership (IGP), a not-for-profit corporation that will build on the state’s successful efforts at spurring international economic development and creating more jobs throughout Illinois. The international market is a critical and growing sector of Illinois’ economy. The state ranks seventh in the nation in total exports, with Illinois experiencing a 14 percent increase in 2004, a growth rate that surpasses the national average. Illinois was also ranked fourth in the nation at attracting foreign investment in a study by the Organization for International Investment released in October 2004. This investment has created almost 300,000 Illinois jobs, a nearly 39 percent increase over the last 5 years.
Creating the Nation’s First Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Focused on the Homeland Security Industry:
Following Gov. Blagojevich’s call to grow this emerging sector in Illinois, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has opened the Bureau of Homeland Security Market Development to attract and support businesses engaged in this critical industry. The bureau offers a variety of investment tools to attract businesses to Illinois and help existing Illinois companies expand operations. Log on to www.hsmd.illinois.gov
for more information.
First State to Develop a Statewide Small Business Health Insurance Pool and Program: Gov. Blagojevich and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce are developing a small business health insurance program that will help small businesses reduce their costs by 10 to 15 percent and provide more health care coverage for their employees. Illinois will be the first state to create a pool where businesses of 50 employees or less can join, saving money on the negotiated rate, administrative costs and broker fees.
Launching a One-Stop Online Business Portal:
Gov. Blagojevich is making it easier for businesses that interact with the state to get all the forms and information they need at one location. Previously, businesses had to comb through numerous state agencies’ Web sites or visit multiple offices to comply with requirements and regulations. Businesses can log on to www.business.Illinois.gov
to find the information they need from state government all in one place. The Web site provides information to business owners at all stages of their business’ development: from starting a new business, to maintaining an existing business, to changing a business. The site allows businessmen and women to get their questions answered, download forms, licenses and permits, and locate information about different programs and services available to them. More than 103,000 people have visited the Web site.
Regulatory Reform Initiative: In February, Gov. Blagojevich launched an initiative to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses in Illinois. The Governor is working to identify and implement reforms that can reduce costs and save time for businesses across the state. While certain regulations may be necessary to protect the public health or safety or the environment, there are more rules on the books than are actually necessary. This effort is identifying forms, paperwork, processes and procedures that are cumbersome to the business community; reforming overly burdensome regulations that do not require legislative approval in the short term; and preparing a legislative package for regulatory reform for next spring’s legislative session.
For more information on Illinois’ labor statistics, visit www.ides.state.il.us.