State Economic Development Gets a Major Boost

by Jim Schultz
Intersect Illinois

A new economic development organization seeks to drive business growth in Illinois.

In an effort to boost economic development in Illinois, Governor Bruce Rauner helped launch the Illinois Business and Economic Development Corporation (ILBEDC) earlier this year. The premise was simple: lead the state’s economic development efforts from the private sector so it can be faster and more responsive to the needs of business. The Midwest is full of states like Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio that are privatizing their economic development programs and gaining a competitive advantage over us, and that needed to change.

And it’s already working. Within months of launching, the ILBEDC has played a major role in landing two new Amazon distribution centers and recruiting German pharmaceutical giant Vetter Pharma to invest $320 million in an Illinois-based production facility that will employ hundreds of new workers. The involvement of a private economic development entity has transformed the way we are able to approach, market and recruit to these companies. There is no doubt in my mind that we would not have had these successes under the old, government-only way of doing things.

The focus on companies like Amazon and Vetter was no mistake. The goal is not just to search for Fortune 1000 headquarters, which can generate good headlines but often have limited long-term impact—we want economic development in Illinois to also focus on helping small and midsized businesses. We know that small businesses are the backbone of our economy and are responsible for most of the state’s job growth. Our mission is not just to land corporate headquarters, but to recruit business operations that have a large downstream impact. By focusing on enterprises that depend on an ecosystem, there is a multiplier effect that helps small businesses when that company chooses Illinois.

Now that it has experienced some early success, the ILBEDC needs to take the next step, beginning with a newly launched branding and marketing campaign that capitalizes on the state’s assets. “Illinois Business and Economic Development Corporation” doesn’t exactly roll off one’s tongue, so one of the first tasks for our new chief marketing officer, Kelly Nicholl, was to develop a new name and visual identity for us. Intersect Illinois was born out of this effort and is now the guidepost for all of our work.

The thought behind Intersect Illinois is to market what makes Illinois attractive for new businesses in a memorable, unique way. Illinois is where the big city meets one of the nation’s largest producers of agriculture, and is home to the finest transportation and logistics networks in the country. It’s also where 37 Fortune 500 companies meet thousands of small and startup businesses… the list goes on and on.

The world intersects in Illinois. Our location, quality of life and strength of workforce are incredible assets that are second to none. We plan to take that message all over the country and the world so that we can get our economy booming again. iBi

Jim Schultz is CEO of the Illinois Business and Economic Development Corporation, now known as Intersect Illinois. For more information, visit intersectillinois.org

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