Out-of-state companies buy Illinois sales pitch

If you’re someone who thinks Illinois has it all wrong when it comes to business, this column isn’t for you.

In fact, it might just be for you.

Maybe before yelling “Get me out of this state $%^&!!!” again, you should read what Dan Seals says to out-of-state businesses when he tells them you should be in Illinois.

“Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have here,” said Seals, CEO of the economic development organization Intersect Illinois, a public-private partnership between the state government and many of the big businesses in Illinois. State. “And maybe it’s kind of a dynamic where the grass is always greener, but I meet a lot of people who are fine but think they’re the only ones doing okay. surprises that there is such a big gap between how we perceive ourselves and what the reality really is here when it comes to our business environment.

“You don’t get such a big economy, you don’t get such a diverse one, and you don’t get such big companies here by having a bad business environment. It’s illogical. And so I would like us to can get more Illinois to be those kind of ambassadors for what we have here and help tell this story.”

Out-of-state businesses are paying close attention to Seals’ marketing spiel. Maybe you should too.

The story

Seals and Intersect Illinois – a 12-employee public-private partnership formed in 2016 by the then Governor. Bruce Rauner, a funder of many of Illinois’ largest and best-known corporations, tells the Illinois story through his new “Be in Illinois” campaign. He described it as a highly targeted and tailored marketing campaign to attract businesses from out of state.


Intersect Illinois has already seen success. The organization helped bring 15,800 jobs and $4.6 billion in capital investment to Illinois in its first six years.

For example, Lion Electric, a Canadian company that manufactures electric school buses, plans to open a manufacturing plant in Joliet later this year. In South Bloomington, Rivian makes electric cars.

Intersect Illinois does this in conjunction with government units and regional organizations throughout the state. His group never works alone, he stressed, but they work smart.

Those billboards that other states have posted along Illinois tolls in hopes of attracting business? Seals, who joined Intersect Illinois in September, considers the billboards to be inefficient and a waste of money.

“I don’t understand the logic there,” he said.

But, he added, it’s time for Illinois to stop ignoring what other states are doing.

“We’ve been pretty shy about telling our story here in Illinois,” he said.

This history includes being the fifth largest economy in the country, the 18th in the world. Thirty-eight Fortune 500 companies have already made Illinois their home and 1,900 foreign companies have operations there.

With a large, well-educated workforce and excellent access to air, rail, and road transportation, Illinois has a lot to offer. And with so many companies here already, companies like Rivian and Lion Electric can find local sourcing for most of the parts they need. There are more than 1,800 electric vehicle providers in Illinois, Seals said.

Additionally, Intersect Illinois cites a 200% increase over the past five years in the number of startups launched from Illinois universities. Illinois companies raised more than $7.1 billion in 397 deals last year.

“Some of our neighboring states beat their chests and said how great they are,” Seals said. “Their economies are much smaller. They have fewer opportunities. They don’t do the kind of innovation that we do here.”

The average size of business the group strives to attract is around 200 employees, but the group works with businesses as small as five employees and as large as those employing thousands. “Trophy companies,” called them Seals.

Intersect Illinois targets six business areas: manufacturing, electric vehicles, technology, agribusiness, logistics and life sciences. The “Be in Illinois” campaign will begin by focusing on electric vehicles and agribusiness, and then progress to these other sectors.

Intersect Illinois often connects with out-of-state businesses to make them aware of a move, “sometimes before they realize they’re going to move,” Seals said. Intersect Illinois wants to be on a company’s shortlist when this decision is made.

If a company or site selection consultant contacts Intersect Illinois about moving a company here, they let Intersect Illinois know what they are looking for, and Intersect Illinois will prepare an RFP to share with cities and towns. counties and their economic development groups. across the state.

For example, what size or type of site is a business looking for? What type of transportation access does he need? What kind of workforce? What size population center is he looking for?

See success

The campaign is bearing fruit.

“The initial reaction was fantastic, yes,” Seals said. “We see people interacting with our ads. We see people opening our emails. We get questions. So yeah, I’m very optimistic about our future.”

He has good reason to be optimistic.

For example, one chemical manufacturing company that Seals spoke to some time ago was surprised to find “our chemical manufacturing workforce is among the best in the Midwest. That’s Huge, the labor pool we have. They didn’t expect that.”

And Rivian, the Bloomington electric car company, started here regularly sending its own engineers from California until it realized it could hire engineers from the University of Illinois at Urbana. -Champaign, one of the best engineers in the country. schools.

None of this means that the business climate in Illinois is perfect or that there is no need for improvement. It also doesn’t mean that all businesses in Illinois are thriving. It would be naive.

It’s just that many Illinoisans seem to have a perception that doesn’t match reality. We are doing well here and working to do better.

As Seals said, “It’s fantastic to see how we’re moving forward.”

Sallie R. Loera