Stresses need for private sector involvement in economic development 

Manar GSI TourWSPRINGFIELD – In an effort to gather input from the private sector on ways the state can improve its approach to economic development, State Senator Andy Manar (D–Bunker Hill) has been meeting with local business leaders and touring both small and large businesses throughout the 48th District this summer.

Last week, Manar spent an afternoon touring Grain Systems, Inc.’s manufacturing headquarters located in Assumption. GSI is the largest manufacturer of galvanized steel storage bins in the world.

“You can’t drive very far in Illinois or any region in the U.S. with an agriculture base without seeing a GSI product,” Manar said, referring to the large grain bins dotting the Illinois’ countryside. “That speaks to the quality of their business and product.”

But one question posed to Manar during his tour, and one that he continually hears from small- and large-business owners in the district – was, “What can we do to help?” The question is referencing the desire of many business leaders to work with lawmakers and state officials to help Illinois turn the corner on its recovery from the largest recession in US history.

“It’s obvious to anyone in state government willing to listen, that the business community wants to help. They want to actively participate in helping Illinois reclaim its role as the economic engine of the Midwest,” Manar said. “But lawmakers and state officials have to be willing to listen and be more responsive to their needs.”

Developing relationships between local manufacturers and lawmakers is something Mark Denzler, vice president and chief operating officer with the Illinois Manufacturing Association, has been doing for a while. Denzler helped coordinate the GSI tour for Manar.

"We appreciate Senator Andy Manar's focus on jobs and economic development,” Denzler said.  “It's critical that government work in partnership with the private sector on important issues such as tax policy, education and workforce development, and excessive regulations.  Working together, we can grow the manufacturing sector and create good, high-paying jobs."

Manar has already taken steps to increase the private sector’s involvement in economic development in Illinois.

Manar introduced and successfully passed a comprehensive reform package this past spring to change Illinois’ approach to economic development. The reform package requires the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity—the lead state agency responsible for economic development in the state—to develop a comprehensive, statewide economic development plan.

Under Manar’s proposal, DCEO will consult with business and local economic development organizations to develop an annual economic development plan to submit to the governor and the General Assembly. The plan will focus on strategies for retaining and creating jobs.

“This approach creates an appropriate way for the private sector to have direct involvement in economic development in Illinois,” Manar said. “The result is a broader strategic vision, informed by the private sector, not just Springfield bureaucrats. But it’s a first step. The state must continue looking at ways to expand private-public partnerships, especially in areas related to economic development.” 

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