Hoop Dreams, Job Nightmares

The Madison County Record Feb. 13, 2005, 5:13pm

On the hardwood, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, and Missouri have proven no match for Illinois this 2005.

But buried beneath the headlines celebrating our top-ranked University of Illinois Fighting Illini men’s basketball team comes news that our Midwestern rivals are beating us just as badly in something a bit more tangible.


An Associated Press report released last week said Illinois is creating far fewer jobs than the home states of its Big Ten rivals. That is— the Midwestern economy is growing, but Illinois is not keeping up with the Joneses.

In 2004, Illinois ranked sixth of eight Midwestern states in job growth, adding just 12,200 jobs versus gains like 64,000 in Wisconsin and 47,000 in Missouri.

While the state gained a little, the Metro East itself actually did worse on jobs in 2004, losing 375 of them, according to the Illinois Coalition for Jobs’ annual index.

For those of you wondering about the ‘real’ impact of Illinois’ out-of-control civil justice system, here you have it.

Entrepreneurs and investors have choices for where they locate or expand their businesses. And more and more, they aren’t choosing Illinois, home to America’s reigning “judicial hellhole” champion and runner-up.

No business owner wants to risk being dragged into a lawsuit in Madison or St. Clair County, the places they heard a U.S. Senator from Utah complaining about on the evening news.

By staying far away from here and off the radar of our inventive plaintiff’s attorneys, new business owners figure to at least minimize the risk.

Meanwhile, competition for jobs among states is growing stronger and stronger still.

In our Information Age, new growth businesses rely more on intellectual capital and educated workers to churn out their products and services. They aren’t building large, entrenched factories or giant physical plants.

So it’s much easier for employers today to pick up and move to Iowa or Missouri when lawyer-driven expenses like workers' compensation rates or health care costs rise.

As for the new, high-growth companies--- they are locating in the friendliest business climates they can find. And you don’t call them ‘hellholes.’

In recruiting their current star student-athletes, the Fighting Illini rolled out the red carpet, making it clear that theirs was an environment that would beget future success. The players had many choices, and they chose Champaign-Urbana.

Whether business and jobs will choose Illinois again is up to the politicians we elect to steward our state’s economy.

Will they roll out the red carpet to the employers of tomorrow? Or will they pay pro-business reforms lip service, leaving the future to Wisconsin or Indiana?

Basketball glory is grand-- but it won't put food on the table.

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