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Quinn's Seaport Quip Misses the Point

Seaport, schmeport. Caterpillar CEO says Illinois is bad for business

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Quinn's Seaport Quip Misses the Point

AP

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, right, and Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman, left, discuss Illinois' business climate and taxes during a news conference Tuesday, April 5, 2011, in Peoria, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

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One week ago Friday, Governor Pat Quinn explained that Illinois did not win the new Caterpillar plant moving to the United States.  

“We don’t have a seaport” he barked when asked if he should be blamed for fostering a hostile business environment in Illinois that turned off Caterpillar.

Officials from Caterpillar offered a bit of credence to his claim when they released a statement about their relocation.

"The decision to shift production from Japan to the United States is driven by the proximity to a large base of customers in North America and Europe. Our objective is to better serve those customers from this new factory," said BCP Vice President Mary Bell. "The Athens site was selected from among dozens of locations considered due to its proximity to the major ports of Savannah and Charleston, a strong regional base of potential suppliers, a positive and pro-active business climate and a good pool of potential employees with manufacturing experience."

Illinois wasn't on the short list of destinations.

And while access to the Atlantic Ocean may have helped Georgia in this case, Illinois' lack of a seaport is not the issue. It's the business climate in Illinois, said Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman, in an OpEd that was distributed to various Illinois papers Sunday.

In it Olberhelman writes about why Illinois hasn't even been considered for expanded business interests for quite some time. It's because of the state's policies that make it too expensive to do business here. 

Below is a sample: 

Illinois needs to adopt a long-term sustainable state budget that relieves pressures on taxpayers. Unlike some, I do not favor an early rollback of the temporary tax increases in Illinois; but they should expire as planned. Keeping the temporary tax increases in place for now gives the state time to develop a multiyear plan that balances the state budget. In addition, the state needs to dramatically lower workers' compensation costs. Some say these changes are not politically possible in Illinois. But if Illinoisans put pressure on both parties to make these types of improvements, I think the state can become a place that can successfully compete for business growth and new jobs.

Let me be clear. Caterpillar is not threatening to leave Illinois. Rather, we want to grow our presence here. For Illinois to really compete for new business investment and growth, the state must address these matters.

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