Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Apr/May 08)
"It has been a productive year as Illinois continues to see positive momentum in the economy," says Jack Lavin, director of Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). He points out that since January 2004, Illinois has created 185,400 new jobs, the best job growth rate of any state in the Midwest. Also, DCEO completed an estimated 525 business investment projects over the past five years leveraging over $11 billion in private investment, and creating more than 34,000 jobs and retaining over 51,000.
Exports are up nearly 16 percent in 2007. In foreign investment, Illinois ranks number one in the Midwest as a destination for foreign investment, with 1,576 foreign firms and an employment base of over 281,500 Illinois residents.
Strong expansion is reported the alternative energy sector. DCEO administers grant programs to support the production of biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, the deployment of E-85 pumps, and R&D into next generation of biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol, as well as solar and wind energy development. Recently, Texas-based Trinity Structural Towers, a manufacturer of structural wind towers, announced a new facility in Clinton, creating 140 new jobs.
New projects are being negotiated. "We were very excited to be chosen as the winning site for the $1.8 billion FutureGen clean coal project to be located in Mattoon, and will continue to work with both the FutureGen Alliance and Congress to try to move this project forward as originally planned," says Lavin. Once the facility is operational, FutureGen is expected to generate $135 million annually in total statewide economic output.
In the film and entertainment sector, according to Lavin, "Since the passage of the film tax credit, film production activity has rebounded dramatically, increasing sevenfold, from an all-time low of $23 million in 2003 to what we anticipate will be above the record high of $125 million in 2007."
The Homeland Security Market Development Bureau (HSMD) of the DCEO is projected to create 1,607 new, full-time, high-tech jobs. Lavin notes that the bureau's Homeland Security Product Commercialization Grant Program created a Homeland Security Innovation Center, a one-of-a-kind homeland security procurement assistance center to establish homeland security industry education and training programs statewide, develop applications with worldwide partners for homeland security centers of excellence, drive two first-of-their-kind homeland security technology testbed projects, conduct trade missions with two foreign governments from and to Illinois, and conduct over a dozen industry events and symposiums statewide.