Illinois Unveils New Five-Year Economic Development Plan

CHICAGO—The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) today issued a five-year economic development plan for Illinois, a proposal that sets out the state’s priorities for encouraging private-sector job growth and business vitality, especially in regions with the highest poverty and unemployment. The plan, developed and administered by DCEO, identifies seven high-growth business sectors in which the state can concentrate its efforts. It also increases accountability by requiring close cooperation with local economic development officials and by specifying five-year growth targets in measures such as job creation and business launches. “With our economy improving steadily and our unemployment rate at its lowest point in nearly six years, we must continue working to secure progress for everyone in Illinois,” Governor Pat Quinn said. “This plan will serve as our guide as we continue to make the smart decisions and investments necessary to drive more job growth statewide.” The 80-page plan, posted at, sets a goal of 360,000 business launches in Illinois through 2019. In addition, DCEO is aiming for 75,000 new jobs drawn from outside the state, 10,000 new jobs in areas with the highest unemployment, a 25 percent expansion in the number of people participating in workforce training and a reduction in poverty rates. “Competition for jobs among states is a competition for talent. With this plan, DCEO is committing itself to improve conditions that nurture talent,” said DCEO Director Adam Pollet. “We want to strengthen the great business clusters we have while making Illinois a focal point for innovation.” The report lists seven sectors that merit close attention because of their prominence in different parts of the state, their growth potential and higher-than-average salaries. They are: Biomedical/technical; advanced materials; transportation and logistics; information technology and telecommunications; machinery and fabricated metal products manufacturing; agribusiness, food processing and technology; and clean technology. To implement what it calls a “living document,” DCEO is committed to working with regional development officials and to incorporating their ideas. The plan will be revised annually and policies can be revised or discarded based on results. The plan provides cost estimates for recommended actions. While the document itself does not represent a funding commitment, it is intended as a guide for lawmakers and stakeholders as future decisions about state budgets are made. The plan builds on Governor Quinn’s work to stabilize state finances and reform the public pension system, addressing two problems that hurt business confidence in Illinois. The Quinn Administration has greatly reduced the backlog of unpaid state bills, slashed discretionary spending and earned praised from bond-rating agencies. Specific policies recommended in the report include:
  • Increase small business access to the state’s job-creation tax credit and direct more of its benefits to communities in economic hardship, while also reducing the use of the legislatively directed EDGE tax credits by large corporations.
  • Pursue a low-cost, sustainable energy and natural resource economy.
  • Establish a revenue-neutral job-training tax credit and expand job training generally.
  • Double the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit and increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour.
  • Reduce the filing fee for limited liability companies.
  • Expand Illinois’ marketing efforts to enhance business retention and expansion.
  • Establish regional business plan competitions.
  • Establish a technology transfer fund.
  • Secure full funding for the CREATE program to ease rail congestion in the Chicago area.
  • Expand the Illinois Clean Water Initiative.
  • Modernize Illinois’ aging locks and dams.
To implement the plan, DCEO will form task forces from inside and outside the agency and will begin meeting with economic development leaders from throughout the state. Download Plan