Jimmy John Liautaud Is Silly to Move - NBC Chicago
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Jimmy John Liautaud Is Silly to Move



    Jimmy John Liautaud is probably one of those chaps who thinks the government had nothing to do with his success.

    Liautaud received his education at a private school -- Elgin Academy -- and he didn’t use a Small Business Administration loan to start his business, Jimmy John’s Subs. He borrowed $25,000 from his father.

    So he probably thinks he’s justified in moving out of Illinois to protest the state’s tax increase, and threatening to take his Champaign-based business with him.

    “I’m not a greedy American pig,” Liautaud says. “I’m a hard working, bread-baking, meat-slicing delivery guy who happens to be immensely successful.”

    He’s immensely successful thanks to the state of Illinois, which provided the customer base that got Jimmy John’s off the ground. Liautaud opened his first sandwich shop in Charleston, the hometown of Eastern Illinois University. College students, who wanted late-night food delivered to their dorms, were his target market. Liautaud promoted himself by walking around campus, handing out free sandwiches.

    “College kids loved his irreverent attitude and dirt-cheap prices,” according to the company history on Jimmy John’s website.

    So Jimmy John’s opened another store in Macomb, home of Western Illinois University. See the pattern? Jimmy John’s grew by attaching itself to the Illinois public university system, which, of course, is funded by taxes paid to the state of Illinois. That explains why Liautaud has six restaurants and a corporate headquarters in Champaign.

    If Jimmy John’s had started as an off-campus offshoot of a private college, such as Knox, or Olivet Nazarene, he’d have more credibility as an anti-government crusader. But those little schools wouldn’t have delivered the customer base that Jimmy John’s needed to thrive. There are some big projects the government still does best. Like creating large communities of young people who help young entrepreneurs get rich.

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