ManarfloorrSPRINGFIELD – Illinois is changing its approach to economic development to better focus on creating and retaining jobs, tackling pockets of stagnant unemployment, and recruiting new businesses to relocate to and expand within the state, thanks to a comprehensive reform package sponsored by State Senator Andy Manar (D–Bunker Hill).

After months of negotiations and gathering input from business and community leaders from across the state through several Senate hearings, the Illinois Senate today passed Manar’s House Bill 1544, which 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.

“When it comes to creating jobs and encouraging economic development, Illinois can and must do better,” Manar said. “We can start by reforming our current approach to require a strategic statewide plan. Having a plan will help focus state resources on where they are needed most, maximizing job creation and impact on our economy.”

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.

“There is a sense that downstate job creation isn’t as important as job creation in other parts of the state,” Manar said. “This bill will require DCEO to place a priority on areas of the state with continual high unemployment.”

The proposal will also create the Business Development Council, a 12-member board consisting of private sector leaders representing small businesses, the coal, health care and agriculture industries as well as representatives from local economic development entities and private sector organized labor. The Business Development Council will be tasked with developing a business development plan to solicit new companies to relocate to Illinois as well as expand existing businesses.

“With some of the most successful businesses in the world right here in Illinois, the state has to do a better job of getting the private sector more involved in economic development,” Manar said. “Who better to advise on how to best promote our state’s resources than our own successful business leaders?”

Senate President John Cullerton (D–Chicago) initiated the call for reform to the state’s economic development agenda during his annual inaugural address back in January.

“During my inaugural address, I noted that Illinois needed to be aggressive with our economic development agenda,” Cullerton said. “Since that time, Sen. Manar has led the charge to bring public and private stakeholders together to spur economic growth. This legislation will result in a strategic development plan that will hopefully attract and retain jobs for years to come.”

House Bill 1544 passed the Senate with bipartisan support and now awaits approval from the House.

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