DeKALB – DeKalb County is aligning itself to be one of the state’s economic drivers, Gov. Bruce Rauner told stakeholders Thursday at a fundraiser event.
“DeKalb epitomizes the competitive advantage that Illinois has got going for it,” Rauner said in his keynote address at the DeKalb County Economic Development Corp.’s annual dinner.
The governor credited the county’s agricultural and manufacturing base, rail access and proximity to Chicago.
“This is one of the best locations in America to build business,” he said.
The governor, who opted to wear a sport coat and khaki’s instead of a suit to the business-attire event, chose to pull the microphone from the stationary lectern and make his address with it in hand, near the edge of the dais.
Elected officials, business owners and advocates, representatives from state and local agencies and others filled dozens of tables in the Duke Ellington Ballroom, located in the Holmes Student Center on the Northern Illinois University Campus.
“The DCEDC annual dinner is a fundraising event conducted to generate revenue to support the marketing, business development, workforce development and business climate improvement activities of the organization,” said Paul Borek, executive director of the DCEDC.
The governor addressed the crowd, against the backdrop of the state heading into a fifth month without a budget. The current fiscal year started July 1. Democrats passed a spending plan in May, but Rauner vetoed it a month later.
“I vetoed the phony budget that got passed, that has a $5 billion hole in it,” he said in his address.
Instead, he is pushing for what he calls reforms that would relieve businesses of such things as unfunded mandates and would help give local governments more control over how local businesses are regulated.
“It’s your city government, your county. You should decide how bidding gets done, how outsourcing, how contract gets done – also, how collective bargaining gets done. It’s your community, its your town ... you should decide,” Rauner said.
Among the county’s economic highlights mentioned at the event is the enterprise zone designation it received from the state this summer.
The municipalities of DeKalb, Genoa, Sandwich, Sycamore, Cortland and Waterman look forward to bringing jobs and economic investment to the area by using special tax incentives the enterprise zone allows.
But the required certification of the zone is on hold because the Rauner administration said the state is losing too many jobs and the cost of doing business in Illinois is too high.
“We have to get some of state policies realigned that will be more conducive to business growth and adding jobs,” said state Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley, who also attended the fundraiser. “Until we get those in place, we’re not really going to be very successful attracting people with our enterprise zone.”
The governor put the brakes on capital development projects around the state. In fact, he made his remarks just steps away from the stalled Stevens Building project on the NIU campus.
“I’m sorry that DeKalb is suffering from no budget. They shouldn’t have to suffer,” said Rauner. “It’s wrong what’s going on. And what we’ve said to the Legislature is, ‘Stop playing games. Let’s vote on common sense, bipartisan reforms, let’s get a truly balanced budget so we can grow our economy and help great communities like DeKalb.’ “
Democrats said the Republican governor is holding up economic progress in the state, including Illinois having a budget.
“The governor is holding the budget process hostage to a personal agenda that he believes will improve the economy. Meanwhile, his budget stalemate is beginning to have an immediate and negative impact on the economy. Something’s got to give,” said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago.