Think Big: A Plan for Illinois Jobs

Illinois is the fifth largest economy in the U.S. and we are powered by hardworking families in every corner of our state. Illinoisans are creative, passionate, and determined. From Carbondale to Chicago, I know we are ready to take advantage of the incredible potential and opportunity in our state, tackle the challenges we face, and grow the economy statewide.
I’m running to be a governor who represents our entire state and my plans for our economy reflect that. There are unique assets and needs in Central and Southern Illinois that must be a part of any plan to create jobs in our state. My plan will invest in infrastructure so we can make Illinois a place where people want to do business again. It will provide capital and support for small businesses, the number one job creators in our state. It will lift up our community colleges and public universities as engines of economic growth and incubators for start-ups and new businesses. All while supporting longstanding pillars of Illinois’ economy like agriculture and manufacturing.
The challenges across our state are real, the needs are large, but I’m ready to create jobs in Illinois again. Here’s my plan:


WHY IT MATTERS: Illinois’ role as a transportation hub for the nation is a critical component of our economy. Nearly one-third of all freight traffic in the country either originates, ends, or passes through Illinois. Quality infrastructure attracts new businesses to our state, keeps existing businesses here, and allows all of our businesses — from family farmers to manufacturers — to thrive. Investing in infrastructure is an immediate jobs plan that will employ people on construction projects statewide. In the long term, building and maintaining a world-class infrastructure yields substantial dividends for Illinois as a commercial hub.

RAUNER’S RECORD: Under Bruce Rauner’s watch, Illinois’ infrastructure has crumbled. From our highways to our railroads and waterways, the recent lack of investment has forced maintenance to pile up. One in every three miles of roads and one in every ten bridges will be in unacceptable condition by next year. Illinois has the fourth highest funding need in the country for drinking water infrastructure improvements and nearly 40% of rural Illinois households are still not connected to high speed internet. The needs are great, and this governor’s inaction is crippling.

MY PLAN: As governor, I will prioritize a comprehensive 21st Century Capital Bill to build the infrastructure we need to restore Illinois’ place as an economic leader. My plan will leverage as much federal money as possible to bring significant investment to our surface, rail, water, broadband and community infrastructure. It is time to imagine what Illinois can be in the 21st century and get this done.

  • Create jobs statewide by employing Illinoisans on new construction projects. I will ensure these are good-paying jobs by supporting Project Labor Agreements and prevailing wage.
  • Support our farmers and manufacturers and attract new businesses by creating the transportation and logistics network they need to thrive. Upgrading our roads, rail, and water will be critical to getting goods to market and allowing manufacturers to expand.
  • Build up our high-speed broadband infrastructure to ensure statewide access for businesses and entrepreneurs. Small businesses need high-speed broadband to succeed, and we need to make access throughout the entire state a priority.
  • Ensure safe drinking water by updating our lead service lines and water infrastructure.


WHY IT MATTERS: Small businesses and start-ups are the backbone of our economy and the primary job creators in this state. They employ approximately 2.4 million people in Illinois and comprise almost 46% of the private workforce. Small businesses hire locally, reinvest profits in their neighborhoods, and provide a foundation for communities to grow and thrive. Success stories like Southern Illinois University’s Small Business Incubator and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Research Park prove regional incubators can yield state-of-the-art innovation.

RAUNER’S RECORD: Bruce Rauner has decimated the network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) across the state. SBDCs used to be considered best in class in Illinois, providing critical training and guidance to small business owners. But under Bruce Rauner, one quarter of SBDCs have been forced to close due to lack of funding. As a result, from 2015 to 2016 the number of jobs created and retained by SBDCs was slashed by nearly half.

MY PLAN: As governor, I will prioritize revitalizing small business growth throughout the state. My plan revolves around key priorities including: expanding access to capital, rebuilding SBDCs, and guaranteeing truth in lending for small business borrowers. These policies will create an environment where potential entrepreneurs can thrive knowing they have support from the state.

  • Expand availability of microloans to increase access to capital for small businesses. I will help chartered community banks and certified Community Development Financial Institutions deploy more capital and tie state assistance to benchmarks in order to ensure effectiveness.
  • Restore and expand Small Business Development Centers to help small businesses navigate regulatory requirements and connect with lenders. Business owners need mentorship, training, and support to succeed and SBDCs are critical in making that happen.
  • Introduce a Truth in Lending Act to protect small business owners from online and alternative lending products that are detrimental to their fiscal health.


WHY IT MATTERS: Illinois’ universities and community colleges educate the workforce of tomorrow. They are also economic engines that power our state. The University of Illinois system alone provides $14 billion in economic activity. Illinois State University is the second largest employer in McLean County. For every state dollar invested in Southern Illinois University, it generates over eight times as much economic activity for the local economy. Illinois is also home to more than 800 start-up companies launched in university-based settings.

RAUNER’S RECORD: Bruce Rauner’s 736-day budget crisis starved Illinois’ public colleges and universities of funding, forcing faculty and students to flee the state. Students lost access to financial aid, staff was laid off, and programs were shut down. Bruce Rauner’s damage to higher education in Illinois is done as communities and families continue to pay the price.

MY PLAN: As governor, I will put education front and center in the work to create jobs in Illinois. I know investments in our state universities and community colleges will grow our economy statewide. They are critical sites of innovation, research, and training that must be lifted up to create economic prosperity in Illinois.

  • Empower community colleges as hubs of economic growth, workforce training, and innovation. The National Sequestration Education Center at Richland Community College in Decatur offers associate degrees and training in carbon sequestration technology. This is the type of innovative education that grows and develops our economy. Richland Community College and community colleges across our state need a partner in the governor’s office who will pursue federal dollars, create public-private partnerships, and pursue private investments in technology and innovation.
  • Support university-based start-ups by reinstating matching funds and modest seed grants to help start-ups better leverage federal money. I will also bring together university and business leaders to promote private capital investment in growth stage companies. University incubators and the start-ups they create are a critical resource for economic growth and deserve support from the state.
  • Expand youth apprenticeship programs by promoting partnerships between high schools and trades unions and encouraging companies to establish multi-year commitments for apprenticeship programs. We should also leverage federal dollars as new federal apprenticeship funding opportunities become available.
  • Promote environmentally responsible energy development by investing in renewable energy cooperatives, promoting the widespread development of wind and solar power, and supporting the Advanced Coal and Energy Research Center at SIU Carbondale and other innovative research efforts.


WHY IT MATTERS: Illinois is an agriculture leader, ranked seventh nationally in agriculture sales in the most recent agricultural census. Illinois is a national leader in soybean and corn production, and our net farm income has increased over time despite a decrease in the number of farms. Of Illinois’ almost 75,000 farms, around 95% are family owned and operated. Agriculture accounts for one in 17 jobs in Illinois.

RAUNER’S RECORD: Bruce Rauner has proposed cutting more than 300 agricultural education programs that serve almost 30,000 students. His failure to address the maintenance needs of our roads, bridges, and waterways has made it harder for our farmers to compete.

MY PLAN: As governor, I will support farmers across Illinois. I will make sure that upgrades to our state’s infrastructure take into account farm to market transportation, and I will work to implement policies that help our agriculture communities thrive.

  • Improve farm to market infrastructure by upgrading rural roads, nearly half of which are rated in poor, mediocre, or fair condition. Upgrading the locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers by using federal dollars will also support the $54 billion in agricultural products that flow through the Mississippi River watershed to get to market.
  • Expand access to capital for family farmers so they can invest in new technology that keeps their businesses competitive.
  • Defend agricultural education to ensure that these programs remain a vibrant part of our vocational education programs and that Illinois has well-trained future farmers.
  • Support agricultural research at our universities and colleges to find value-added ways to expand the use and marketability of our state’s natural resources, like soybeans and corn.


WHY IT MATTERS: Illinois’ manufacturers account for more than 13 percent of the state’s output. Between 2009 and 2013, manufacturing exports in Illinois grew by almost 60 percent — faster than the national average. Yet, Illinois’ manufacturing sector has not recovered to anything close to employment levels before the Great Recession.

RAUNER’S RECORD: Since Bruce Rauner took office, Illinois has lost almost 10,000 manufacturing jobs. His failed leadership and manufactured budget crisis meant that the state could not compete to attract manufacturing businesses nor could it support existing manufacturers trying to expand their businesses.

MY PLAN: As governor, I will ensure that we pass balanced budgets and bring stability back to state government so that manufacturers will want to invest in Illinois again. Upgrading our state’s infrastructure and supporting policies that enable research and innovation will allow Illinois to continue growing its manufacturing businesses.

  • Support Illinois’ growing manufacturing export industry through infrastructure upgrades to the roads, rails, bridges, and waterways that transport these goods.
  • Nurture advanced manufacturing by extending quality, high-speed internet access to rural communities across the state.
  • Support manufacturers in securing access to capital and create training opportunities to meet their unique needs. Manufacturing employs 10 percent of the state’s workforce and deserves continued support.
  • Foster the growth of manufacturing incubators like mHUBacross the state and allow local manufacturers, academic researchers, and entrepreneurs to innovate, create jobs, and meet workforce demands.