It’s Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair, but as usual, Pat Quinn won’t be the most important politician in the state.
Usually, he’s second or third, after Rahm Emanuel and Michael Madigan. But today, President Obama is visiting Illinois, on the last leg of his Heartland Bus Tour. And Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, is speaking at the Fair. Those heavyweights bump Quinn down to fourth or fifth.
Quinn doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, he’s going to be skipping part of a $20-a-head fundraiser so he can travel to western Illinois and stand in Obama’s shadow.
Obama spent Tuesday night at the Blackhawk Hotel in Davenport, Ia. This afternoon, he’s holding town hall meetings in Atkinson and Alpha, two villages in Henry County, just east of the Quad Cities. He's visiting Atkinson to pose next to a new fire station built with federal stimulus money.
The aim of the three-day Midwest trip is to talk about ideas to grow jobs and improve rural economies. Henry County officials say their county is anything but declining. In fact, they believe their county should be a model of rural growth because of the addition of biofuel plants, wind turbines and expanding agri-businesses like Wyffels.
A job expansion came after two ethanol plants opened within the past three years in Annawan and Galva. The plants generated about $125 million in ethanol byproduct exports, according to Henry County Board Chairman Tim Wells.
Henry County has 133 wind turbines under construction and permits for an additional 54 for 2012 and nearly 80 after that, Wells added. A renewable energy associate’s degree, focused on wind energy and ethanol, is being offered at nearby Black Hawk College.
The Atkinson and Alpha visits come one day after the Obama administration announced $510 million to boost the production of next-generation biofuels. The investment, sponsored by the Navy, Energy and Agriculture departments, invites private companies to bid on new biofuel projects with the government matching the investment.
The president’s bus tour will bring nationwide attention to a corner of Illinois most Illinoisans don’t even know about. Why wouldn’t Quinn want to be there, with TV cameras from all the major networks, and reporters from the big Eastern newspapers?
He may only be the fourth of fifth most powerful politician in Illinois today, but he’ll be the governor of the most talked-about state in America.