State urged to keep Chicago from killing rest of Illinois economically
There appears to be no such thing as bad for business in Chicago, Andy Shaw said on ABC 7 News.
Shaw, president of the Better Government Association (BGA), joined anchor Stacey Baca to discuss how the discrepancies between Chicago-area economic growth and downstate economic growth should factor into the General Assembly’s efforts to reach a budget agreement.
“We’re the murder capital, and we have high taxes, and the schools are talking about shutting down early, and there’s still corruption,” Shaw said. “And yet nine out of 10 jobs created in the state of Illinois since the Recession have been in the city of Chicago. Cook County is the only county in the Midwest in the top 20 [counties nationally] in job creation, and the city is booming in spite of all of its problems.”
Shaw echoed the case made in a recent article from Tim Jones on the group’s website, bettergov.org. Chicago has attracted people and businesses from downstate Illinois counties, including Caterpillar, which moved from Peoria to Deerfield, and Archer Daniels Midland, which moved from Decatur to Chicago.
“People want to live here; companies come here,” Shaw said. “They basically ignore all the problems because the upside is good, and that’s an interesting phenomenon. The sad thing is, the rest of Illinois is hurting. When they’re only getting one job out of those 10 new ones, you know that rural Illinois is in trouble.”
Shaw noted that of the state’s 102 counties, 86 have seen reductions in their populations in the past few years.
While Bacca pointed out that most of the headlines about Chicago are negative, often about violence, Shaw explained that the city’s struggles are confined to specific areas while its growth is mostly occurring downtown and in the inner ring.
Despite the drawbacks of Chicago, Illinois is following the regional trend of urban migration.
“Jobs and people are migrating to the cities,” Shaw said. “It’s all the same around the Midwest. It’s Minneapolis, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Columbus. All of them are attracting people and jobs while their rural areas are losing people and jobs. And here’s why it’s important: It’s time for government to rethink its approach to this issue. It’s not just about tax cuts and deregulation. We need to think about ways to help the rural areas regain some economic vitality, or they’re going to continue to go down the tubes.”
Shaw agreed with Jones’ article, saying that the state should not rely on traditional measures to spark economic growth, like tax cuts and reductions to government regulation. He stressed the need to put in place programs that focus on rural areas, pointing out that Chicago’s tax increment financing program and tax credits and economic programs have had an urban emphasis.
Baca pressed him for specific ideas to address the issues arising from this urban migration, but Shaw countered that he is not an economic polity expert. He stressed the need for innovative, new approaches, and argued that the state’s elected officials and their advisers are the ones who need to start coming up with ideas.
“I’m not an economist; I don’t have the answer,” Shaw said. “But the reason the BGA cares about this is this is a wake up call to Gov. Bruce Rauner, [Speaker of the House] Michael Madigan, [Senate President] John Cullerton and the other lawmakers to think outside the box. The old solutions to economic development issues probably aren’t relevant anymore, and we need some new ideas. I’ll try to come up with some, but we pay them to have the ideas.”
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