Future uncertain for state economic development wing

Mar 19, 2013

Illinois' economic development wing is fighting to hold on to its existence.  IPR’s Amanda Vinicky reports on an effort to essentially privatize the state agency:
 The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity would get quite the overhaul under State Senator Andy Manar's legislation.

He calls for getting rid of the agency, then replacing it with a Board of Directors appointed by the Governor, and with a non-profit corporation responsible for doling out economic development funds.

 "So what I'm interested in doing is trying to restructure the agency to some degree so that we can produce a better result in the state.  And I think it's time that we had the conversation about how do we truly tackle unemployment in Illinois. Because I represent a district that has urban parts and has rural parts that have unemployment that is unacceptable."

 The Democrat, who's from Bunker Hill, says a private/public partnership would be more nimble, and could better involve the business community.

But while Manar says it has been successful in other states, DCEO Interim Director Adam Pollet says just the opposite.  He points to neighboring Iowa, which he says Manar's plan is modeled after. "And a report just came out a couple weeks ago that showed that 26% of the tax credits that that authority has given out has gone to companies that have members on the board of directors for that privatized economic development agency.  That's exactly the of issue that we're very concerned about."Pollet also raises transparency concerns.