Rauner on hand for ribbon-cutting of EpiWorks' expansion

Rauner on hand for ribbon-cutting of EpiWorks' expansion

CHAMPAIGN — Gov. Bruce Rauner stopped in Champaign for a ribbon-cutting Tuesday morning at one of the fastest-growing companies in town.

"Go Illini, go Illini, yay Illini," Rauner said to kick off his speech at II-VI EpiWorks, which recently quadrupled the size of its headquarters at 1606 Rion Drive in northwest Champaign.

In 2017, EpiWorks doubled its workforce, growing from about 50 employees to about 100.

Rauner previously visited the company, which makes semiconductor wafers used in everything from cellphones to data centers, in April 2017.

"When I was here a year ago, I said I want to come back for the ribbon cutting," Rauner said.

EpiWorks, founded by University of Illinois graduates David Ahmari and Quesnell Hartmann, was sold to Pennsylvania-based II-VI Inc. in 2016.

Rauner didn't make any announcements at Tuesday's event, which was attended by local business and elected officials, but touted the state incentives that helped EpiWorks expand.

"It was an honor for us to offer EpiWorks EDGE tax credits to help support the growth of the business," he said.

In 2016, the business received Economic Development for a Growing Economy tax credits from the state worth about $1.65 million.

After a private tour of the expanded facility, Rauner answered a couple questions about his appointment of Chicago corporate attorney Sanford "Sandy" Perl to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

He dodged a question about what caused the 16-month delay in filling the last empty seat on the board.

"Well, just, we wanted to make sure that we've got superstars and the right people in the right spots," Rauner said. "Sandy Perl is a phenomenal U of I alumnus."

Perl, of Glencoe, is a partner at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis and has represented corporations and private-equity firms, including Rauner's old firm, GTCR.

Rauner also said he doesn't know Perl's political affiliations.

"I don't know, actually," he said. "That's not a question I really care about in that particular role. It's really more about leadership for the university."

Under state law, no more than five of Rauner's nine appointed trustees can be from the same political party.

Right now, there are four Republicans, two Democrats and two independents, so Rauner was free to appoint someone from any party.

Perl will need to be confirmed by the Illinois Senate.

Rauner had three seats to fill on the board after the terms of three former trustees expired in January 2017.

In March 2017, he appointed Chicago private-equity investor Donald Edwards, a Democrat, and last July, he appointed Christie Clinic physician Stuart King, a Republican.

Rauner was also asked about his proposal to revive the death penalty in Illinois for mass murderers and cop killers and whether he would support capital punishment for more categories of victims, such as firefighters.

"I'm open to considering what other folks would recommend," he said. "I would be very open to considering that. I could be supportive."

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