Ever downward

Ever downward

Failing to decide about how to fix our sorry state is deciding to fail.

The state of Illinois — the city of Aurora and its environs, specifically — got some bad news recently when Caterpillar announced it was closing a machine production facility there and eliminating about 800 jobs.

As bad news goes, it could have been worse.

The company will add about 500 jobs in Decatur and move another 150 jobs to North Little Rock, Ark.

Those who will be left jobless will receive severance pay equalling 40 hours of pay for every year at Cat. Further, Cat employees who lose their jobs at Aurora will be able to apply for other jobs within the worldwide company. Finally, Aurora will still be the home of Caterpillar facilities that include 1,200 employees.

Nonetheless, Cat's announcement is indisputably unwelcome. Coming on the heels of the company's recent announcement that it's moving its world headquarters to Chicago instead of expanding its corporate home in downtown Peoria, the trend here is unmistakable.

For all of Cat's deep ties to Illinois, the tide is turning. It's looking to other states to invest and expand.

That's a far cry from the three-shifts-a-day approach Cat oversaw not all that long ago in Peoria. But this company, like other big manufacturers in Illinois, can read the tea leaves.

Illinois' business climate is inhospitable, and it's likely to remain unwelcoming to capital investment for some time. So manufacturers who are here are going elsewhere. Those who might have come under better circumstances are doing the same.

That's why other states are gaining manufacturing jobs while Illinois is losing them.

Since 2012, Illinois has lost 10,000 manufacturing jobs, well-paying positions with generous benefits that provide good livings to middle-class families. During the same time period, Michigan has gained 77,000 manufacturing jobs, Indiana 56,000, Ohio 40,000, Kentucky 35,700, Wisconsin, 16,300, Missouri 2,800 and Iowa 2,800.

All the states that ring Illinois are up, a couple quite substantially, while the Land of Lincoln continues to endure an erosion of its economic base that is reflected by untold economic stress on people who need and want good jobs and a failing, flailing state government that can find hundreds of way to spend money but lacks the revenue to support it.

It is, of course, not entirely the state's fault that Cat is pursuing a different approach. Every manufacturing company has different needs and different competitive markets.

Caterpillar is different from John Deere, which is different from Kraft. But Illinois' downward direction is clear. Even in areas where it's made gains, its growth has been slower than other states.

So why does Illinois continue to embrace failure?

Why has the Legislature gone nearly two years without passing a budget and overseeing changes that would help boost the economy?

The best welfare program ever invented is a good job. So why do our legislators focus more on social welfare programs, while lacking the necessary revenue to fund them, than attracting job creators who would create taxpayers by putting them to work?

Even though it's effectively bankrupt, the state is not legally eligible to file for bankruptcy. Instead, it's sinking further into financial oblivion — budget deficits, underfunded public pensions, unpaid bills.

Somehow, people hope, it will all work out in the end. But how long will that take?

Too many people and employers aren't sticking around to find out.

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jwr12 wrote on April 14, 2017 at 5:04 pm

Failing to decide? Bruce Rauner decided for all of us, years ago, that the cure for what ails us is his particular 'turn around agenda.'  The legislature didn't agree.  And Rauner threw a hissy fit.   It's hard to run a government, when the governor wants to decide unilaterally what the policy should be.  Like Trump, Rauner talks a big game, but has tiny hands when it comes to actually getting work done.