Congratulations on your win. However, your work is just beginning. You and I both know there is much on your plate, and I’m not sure how long it will take to get our state back in order. I’m hopeful it will be during my lifetime.
Very recently, I have started an initiative within our Chamber of Commerce here in Naperville. The initiative, Around the Chamber in 80-days allows me to visit with our Members, small, medium and large businesses to learn what challenges they’re facing and how our organization might help them. As soon as I began asking my questions, the proverbial flood gates open.
First, future Governor, let's discuss our workforce. Business owners are desperate for talent in this tight labor market, but the challenge to hire and grow is greater here in Illinois. One of our Members stated, “Three years ago I had a robust workforce, today that workforce is cut in half because they’re moving to more lucrative positions in other states where the cost of living is more affordable.” We need to find a way to bring talent back to our state because it’s a desirable, affordable place to live.
Second, our Members are struggling to get new business because there are fewer businesses to work with, and the pot continues to shrink. Again, nationally we see the GDP at an all-time high, but Illinois isn’t feeling it. Another one of our Members shared “We have expanded our business to Indiana, Texas and Michigan and business there is booming. Here in Illinois; it’s flat.” How do you propose to make this state a destination for business? How will you create a pro-business environment that doesn’t tie the hands of business owners and their dreams of prosperity? If businesses aren’t coming here, neither are the people.
Next, we need to talk about fiscal rejuvenation. Illinois has the second-worst fiscal health among U.S. states. Based on the states’ 2015 financial statements, all in, state and local governments in Illinois owe more than 203 billion dollars for pensions and retiree health insurances. If not remedied, bankruptcy is inevitable. I’m hopeful you can create a strong bipartisan group of legislators that will make positive change sooner rather than later.
Personally, I love Illinois. I think it’s a great state with great potential. However, with years of mismanagement and partisan politics you may have forgotten about the value small businesses bring to our state. You and I both know that small business is the backbone of this country. With nearly *30 million small businesses employing 47.8 percent of US workers, their impact can be seen through job creation, innovation and economic impact. Something this state desperately needs. We must attract these businesses. Illinois has great potential, and I hope you believe the same.
Future Governor, if you believe in the potential of this state, I ask that you cast aside politics and truly connect with legislators from both sides of the aisle, talk about the needs of your constituents and what needs to done to be competitive again. I plan on sticking it out, as for my children and grandchildren, your leadership will likely dictate their decision, and my hope is they’ll stay.