Quinn touts job news ahead of governor election

AP News
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Posted: Oct 28, 2014 8:22 PM
Quinn touts job news ahead of governor election

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Announcements that hundreds of jobs will be coming to Illinois at a new fertilizer plant and for online retailer Amazon highlighted the starkly different prescriptions for reviving the Illinois economy from Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner.

Quinn joined Amazon Vice President for Global Policy Paul Misener in Chicago Tuesday to hail the company's plans for 1,000 new jobs in the state by 2017, new distribution centers and potentially other facilities. The appearance followed a Monday announcement that Chicago technology company Coyote Logistics plans to add 500 jobs.

State officials also confirmed that Cronus Chemicals LLC had chosen Illinois over Iowa for a $1.4 billion fertilizer plant that will employ 175 in eastern Illinois, plus a Chicago headquarters with an additional 25 employees. The Associated Press first reported the company's plans late Monday night.

"This is an exciting day," Quinn said of the Amazon announcement. "Tomorrow's another day and we have another exciting announcement," Quinn said, referring to plans to officially unveil the Cronus project Wednesday in Tuscola, about 20 miles south of Champaign.

Quinn's challenger in next Tuesday's election, businessman Bruce Rauner, said that while the jobs announcements are nice, the state would do better if it depended less on "special deals" to lure companies considering building or expanding. The 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.

Quinn takes every opportunity to say the Illinois economy is coming back and asks voters to give him a second term to see it through. Rauner says Illinois is lagging behind its Midwestern neighbors in economic performance and is hostile to business.

The state government has a $100 billion pension deficit and a plan to cut that number faces legal challenges. Illinois has the lowest debt rating of any state and its unemployment rate consistently runs higher than the national rate. It has sometimes resorted to cutting tax-break deals with companies such as Sears Holdings Corp. to keep them in Illinois.

Quinn says that when he took office the state was being hammered by recession. More recently, he has celebrated seven straight months of declining unemployment.

Illinois' jobless rate of 6.6 percent still lags the 5.9 percent national rate but is the lowest rate the state has had since July 2008, six months before Quinn took office.

Amazon's Misener said the timing of his company's announcement was "a complete coincidence."

As far as Cronus Chemicals, David Roeder, a spokesman for the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity said that agency had been in regular contact with the company hoping the announcement would happen before the election.

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 three 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.

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Follow David Mercer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/davidmercerap

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Associated Press writer Kerry Lester contributed from Arlington Heights, Ill., and Associated Press writer Sophia Tareen contributed from Chicago.