Incentives vital to lure new businesses

We are competing globally to keep and attract jobs. Now, more than ever before, we must be creative and innovative in luring businesses.

As an economic development official in the Greater Peoria region of Illinois, my primary goal is to grow jobs. Creating a positive business climate is a long-term strategy. Greater Peoria has strategically diversified its economy so our people have more job and career options.

This diversification also has allowed us to reduce the severity of recessions so we are able to recover more quickly and more strongly. This is important to businesses.

Peoria, Ill., is home to Caterpillar Inc. headquarters as well as 13,000 other businesses. We have 200,000 jobs in our region. Even through the toughest nationwide recession in history, greater Peoria produced more than 3,800 new jobs since January 2007.

Caterpillar recently announced a $540 million expansion to its facilities here. We are experiencing growth in logistics, manufacturing, health care, professional and technical services. More than $1 billion in large capital investment has occurred, including a new Caterpillar Visitors Center and Riverfront Museum, Peoria NEXT Innovation Center, Bradley University expansion and University of Illinois College of Medicine Cancer Research Center.

While the state of Illinois faces serious business climate issues, the greater Peoria region remains strong and is experiencing growth.

Company site-selection teams use comprehensive criteria to make location decisions. Businesses strategically place their facilities to reach their customer base and achieve their goals. They review overall business environment, utility and road infrastructure, available skill sets, workforce education levels, natural-disaster risks, and legislative rules and regulations related to their industry.

These factors are weighted based on the direct and indirect value they contribute to company sustainability. Ultimately, companies need to get their products and services to customers, have a quality workforce, make profit and offer qualities that attract employees.

With that said, for a community, region and state to keep and create jobs, three factors must be achieved:

● Collaboration: Businesses often view government as a deterrent to success because of rules and regulations that can interfere with conducting business. However, elected leaders often believe businesses are neither transparent nor accountable. Job development is a common area of strength that provides value to both sides. Communities, regions and states are part of an overall team and must work together to capitalize on strengths and minimize risks for businesses.

● Competitive tools: States such as Georgia, Texas and Michigan are developing innovative ways to attract businesses. These states have found ways to reinvent their economic development programs to grow jobs. When states join with regions and communities to create a valuable portfolio for businesses, they win the jobs. If they don’t join together to compete, they will never win.

● Common sense: Businesses don’t expect you to “give away the farm,” but they do need to know the business environment is sustainable. Smart states, regions, and communities listen to businesses. They are willing to invest in incentives, infrastructure, legislation and the workforce to create a winning package.

Vickie Clark is president of the Economic Development Council for Central Illinois.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.