OREGON – With the economy ticking up, so is Woods Equipment Co. in Oregon, executives say.
The company, which employs 300, plans to add 23 more jobs to its factory, where backhoes and other attachments for tractors are made.
Last year, Woods, a division of Portland, Ore.-based Blount International, added a laser cutting system, which was the "biggest investment in 20 years," said Mark Miller, the company's chief financial officer.
Executives said the equipment improves the plant's accuracy and efficiency. It also frees up space in the 400,000-square-foot building, which will be used to make other yet-to-be-determined products, Miller said.
On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, toured the plant and spoke to workers at an outside rally sponsored by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers' "I Make America" campaign.
Shortly before 11 a.m., employees stood outside as winds whipped the U.S., Illinois and Woods flags overhead.
The congressman, in a suit and tie, told the crowd that he was optimistic about the economy, particularly manufacturing in the northern part of his 16th Congressional District, which includes Lee and Ogle counties.
His biggest concern, Kinzinger said, was policies in Illinois that drive jobs away.
"We're not losing jobs to India anymore," Kinzinger said. "We're losing jobs to Indiana."
For instance, he said in an earlier news conference, the minimum wage is higher in Illinois than the national average, yet the state has one of the highest jobless rates.
He ended his short speech to the workers by saying that he understands people have little trust for politicians.
"That's an understatement," an employee whispered.