CHAMPAIGN (AP) – Illinois this week received a three-part dose of news about new jobs and economic expansion a week before a gubernatorial election in which the state’s business climate has been at issue.
Officials told The Associated Press on Monday that Cronus Chemicals LLC chose Illinois over Iowa to locate $1.4 billion fertilizer plant that will employ 175, plus a Chicago headquarters with another 25 employees.
That news followed a Monday announcement that Chicago technology company Coyote Logistics plans to add 500 jobs, and preceded word Tuesday from Amazon Inc. that it plans to add 1,000 jobs in the state by 2017.
With the election less than a week away, Gov. Pat Quinn joined Amazon Vice President for Global Policy Paul Misener in Chicago to announce the company’s plans for new distribution centers and potentially other facilities.
“This is an exciting day. Tomorrow’s another day, and we have another exciting announcement,” Quinn said, apparently referring to plans to officially announce Cronus Chemical’s decision to build in Tuscola, about 20 miles south of Champaign.
He declined to answer questions about the fertilizer plant, saying Tuesday was “Amazon day.”
But Quinn’s Republican opponent, businessman Bruce Rauner, said that while the jobs announcements are nice, the state would do better if it depended less on incentives for companies considering building or expanding. Both the planned fertilizer plant and Coyote Logistics’ plans include millions of dollars in state incentives.
“Frankly, if we reduced our overall tax burden and our overall regulatory burden, and kept a level playing field we could get far more companies coming to Illinois and that will be a big priority for us,” Rauner said during a stop in Arlington Heights.
The economy has been a front-line issue in the race between Rauner and Quinn.
Rauner has regularly accused Quinn of costing the state jobs and leading Illinois through a period of high unemployment and job loss. Quinn in turn has noted he took over the state while it was being hammered by recession and, more recently, pointed out 7 straight months of declining unemployment. The jobless rate in Illinois is now 6.6 percent, its lowest point since July 2008, 6 months before Quinn took office.
While Amazon’s Misener said the timing of his company’s announcement was “a complete coincidence,” a spokesman for the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity said that agency had been in regular contact with Cronus Chemicals hoping the announcement would happen before the election.
“We have some good news here, and, yes, we wanted everybody to know about that before the election,” DCEO spokesman David Roeder said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
But he added the announcement would have been earlier, had the company not had to wait to secure to easements needed for water lines to the plant.
Company officials were not immediately available for comment.
The Cronus plant will get $52 million in state incentives, most of it tax exemptions for the construction site and the bulk of it contingent on building the plant and operating, Roeder said. The package also includes $12.3 million for road improvements, $3.9 in income-tax breaks and other benefits.
Construction is expected to start next spring and take about 3 years. The building phase is expected to create about 2,000 temporary construction jobs.
Coyote Logistics is getting a $2.5 million state grant as part of its plan expand its Chicago headquarters and add jobs.