Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
United States Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was in town today to visit the new Joliet Gateway Center Bus Station. The visit will highlight “the historic bipartisan infrastructure law and how it will make once-in-a-generation investments in our infrastructure and create good paying jobs across the country, including in Illinois,” according to Congressman Bill Foster (IL-11). He was on hand for the visit, along with Governor JB Pritzker. The City of Joliet also received their “check” today through Congressman Foster’s office to put towards their massive water project.
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by CITGO & Silver Cross Hospital*
Q1 2022 Small Business Index
The US Chamber of Commerce & MetLife have released the 2022 Quarter 1 Small Business Index that tracks small business sentiments both regionally and nationally over time. The score for Q1 2022 was 64.1, up from 63.0 in last year’s final quarter. These past two scores are consistent with each other and represent the highest index rating since a pandemic low of 39.5 in the second quarter of 2020. Before the onset of the pandemic, the index reached a score of 71.7.
Provided below are some of the key findings of the report:
- 85 percent of small business owners are concerned about the impact of inflation on their business operations.
- 33 percent of business owners consider inflation their biggest challenge.
- 67 percent of small businesses say they have had to raise their prices in response to this challenge.
- 76 percent of small business owners are concerned about supply chain delays disrupting their business operations.
- 24 percent of business owners consider this their biggest challenge
- Only 26 percent of small businesses consider the US economy to be in good health
- 61 percent of US Small businesses rate the health of their business as “somewhat good” or “very good.”
- This is compared to 58 percent of small businesses in the Midwest.
This data was collected through interviews with 750 small business owners and operators from across the United States. Read more about the methodology for the report here.
Read and interact with the full report here.
Small Business Bill of Rights
In honor of National Small Business Week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is calling on Congress to embrace a set of five free enterprise principles that emphasize what small business owners, founders, and entrepreneurs need from government to grow and thrive.
The Small Business ‘Bill of Rights‘ summarize the basic rights of business owners in America—and represent policies the U.S. Chamber supports and fights for every day. Our elected leaders must ensure that founders, entrepreneurs, and small business owners operate in an environment where they can:
1. Hire and Manage Employees
2. Establish the Terms on Which They Do Business
3. Be Protected Against Frivolous Lawsuits
4. Benefit from their Business and Direct its Future
5. Be Free of Onerous Regulations
In addition, please click here to view a webpage created by CO—by U.S. Chamber of Commerce highlighting small business events happening in May, and tools and resources business owners can use to celebrate Small Business Week and year-round.
Small Business News from the US Chamber: Dream Big Awards
The U.S. Chamber’s Dream Big Awards program has officially opened for 2022 application submissions. Applications from small business owners through July 8, 2022.
Every year at The Big Week for Small Business, the Dream Big Awards program honors the achievements of small businesses and highlights their contributions to America’s economic growth. The 2022 Small Business of the Year award winner will receive national recognition and a $25,000 cash prize!
A business must meet the following requirements to be eligible for the Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award or a Business Achievement Award.
- For-profit business operating for at least one (1) year primarily within the United States.
- Have less than 250 employees OR gross revenues of less than $20 million for each of 2021 and 2022.
The Award categories are as follows:
- Emerging Business
- Green/Sustainable Business
- Minority-Owned Business
- Veteran-Owned Business
- Woman-Owned Business
- Young Entrepreneur Business
- LGBTQ-Owned Business
- Community Support and Leadership Award
Learn more about the Dream Big Awards here.
Find the application from the US Chamber here.
$309 million available to Illinois homeowners struggling with their mortgages
Gov. JB Pritzker was joined by the Illinois Housing Development Authority and local elected officials in Chicago Friday to promote the Illinois Emergency Homeowner Assistance Fund for struggling homeowners.
Overseen by IHDA, the emergency assistance fund is funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act and is dedicated to assisting Illinois homeowners who have struggled to pay their mortgage or other housing expenses such as utilities and home energy services because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know that families across Illinois are still facing financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we want everyone to know that housing help is here,” IHDA Executive Director Kristin Faust said at a news conference.
ARPA was passed by Congress in 2021 and Illinois received $309 million to cover housing costs such as past-due mortgage payments, property taxes, property insurance, and delinquent homeowner and condo association fees. Part of the delay in setting up the fund was a wait for federal approval.
Homeowners can apply for a grant up to $30,000 in mortgage support that will eliminate or reduce payments associated with homeownership. To be approved, homeowners must consult with a certified Housing and Urban Development counselor or speak to their mortgage service provider to ask for help and then, depending on the outcome, apply for assistance through the IHDA online portal. Applicants are required to have a certificate from a HUD-certified housing counselor or a letter from the mortgage servicer detailing efforts to resolve the delinquency.
To qualify, homeowners must be at least 30 days behind on their mortgage, have household income at or below 150 percent of the area median income, own and occupy the property as their primary residence and have experienced financial struggles directly related to COVID-19 on or after Jan. 21, 2020. When applying, homeowners will need to provide proof of identification, household income, household occupancy, ownership and delinquency of the mortgage, property tax, or insurance statements.
People can apply for funds at no cost until the end of May through the IHDA website at www.ihda.org, or they can contact the Housing Assistance Fund call center for assistance at 866-454-3571. The IHDA has also partnered with nonprofit housing counseling agencies, community-based organizations and legal aid groups to assist homeowners facing language or technological barriers to the online application portal.
Renters can apply for assistance through the Illinois Department of Human Services. Eligible households could receive up to 15 months of rent payments, including previous rent owed from June 2020 through August 2021. To be eligible for rental assistance, residents must have a household income at or below 80 percent of area median income, have experienced a financial hardship directly or indirectly due to the pandemic and be behind on rent or at risk of experiencing homelessness or instability.
The income limit will depend on the county and is adjusted for the number of people living within the household. Since the pandemic began, IHDA has distributed more than $593 million to fund more than 64,000 applicants in need of rental assistance, according to its website.
“Housing stability is a crucial part of our economic recovery,” Pritzker said. “A good life, a good job, the ability for kids to focus in their classrooms – it all starts with having a roof over your head.”
Out-of-state businesses are buying Illinois’ sales pitch
Maybe before you scream “Get me outta this $%^& state!!!” again, you should read what Dan Seals says to out-of-state businesses when he tells them, you should be in Illinois.
“Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have here,” said Seals, the CEO of economic development organization Intersect Illinois, a public-private partnership between state government and many of the leading companies in the state. “And maybe it’s a grass-is-always-greener sort of dynamic, but I meet a lot of people who are doing well but think they’re the only ones who are doing well. And it just surprises me that there is such a wide gap between how we perceive ourselves and what the reality actually is here as far as our business environment is concerned.
“You don’t get an economy this big, you don’t get one this diverse and you don’t get companies that large all here by having a bad business environment. That’s illogical. And so I wish we could get more Illinoisans to be those kinds of ambassadors for what we have here and help me tell that story.” Out-of-state companies are paying close attention to Seals’ marketing spiel. Maybe you should too.
Seals and Intersect Illinois — a 12-employee public-private partnership formed in 2016 by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner that counts many of Illinois’ biggest and best-known corporations as funders — are telling Illinois’ story through their new “Be in Illinois” campaign. He described it as a very targeted, tailored marketing campaign to attract out-of-state companies.
Intersect Illinois already has seen success. The organization has helped bring to Illinois 15,800 jobs and $4.6 billion of capital investment in its first six years. For instance, Lion Electric, a Canadian company that makes electric school buses, plans to open a manufacturing plant in Joliet later this year. In downstate Bloomington, Rivian manufactures electric cars.
Intersect Illinois does this working in concert with governmental units and regional organizations throughout the state. His group never works alone, he emphasized, but it works smartly. Those billboards other states have posted along Illinois tollways hoping to lure businesses? Seals, who joined Intersect Illinois in September, sees billboards as inefficient and a waste of money. “I don’t understand the logic there,” he said. But, he added, it’s about time Illinois stopped ignoring what other states are doing. “We’ve been rather shy about telling our story here in Illinois,” he said.
That story includes being the fifth-largest economy in the country, 18th largest in the world. Thirty-eight Fortune 500 companies already call Illinois home, and 1,900 foreign companies are located here. With a large and well-educated workforce and great access to air, rail and road transportation, Illinois has a lot going for it. And with so many businesses here already, companies like Rivian and Lion Electric can find local sourcing for many of the parts it needs. There are more than 1,800 suppliers in the electric vehicle space in Illinois, Seals said.
In addition, Intersect Illinois cites a 200% increase over the past five years in startup companies launching from Illinois universities. Illinois companies raised more than $7.1 billion in 397 deals last year. “Some of our neighboring states have been beating their chests and talking about how great they are,” Seals said. “Their economies are much smaller. They have fewer opportunities. They’re not doing the kind of innovation that we’re doing here.” The average size of companies the group works to attract is about 200 employees, but the group works with businesses as small as five employees and as large as those that employ thousands. “Trophy companies,” Seals called them.
Intersect Illinois is targeting six areas of business: manufacturing, electric vehicles, technology, agribusinesses, logistics and life sciences. The “Be in Illinois” campaign will start by focusing on electric vehicles and agribusiness, then advance to those other sectors. Intersect Illinois often connects with out-of-state companies to feel them out about a move, “sometimes before they realize they’re going to move,” Seals said. Intersect Illinois wants to be on a company’s shortlist when that decision does come.
If a company or site-selection consultant contacts Intersect Illinois about a company’s move here, they let Intersect Illinois know what they are looking for and Intersect Illinois will put together a request for proposals to share with towns and counties and their economic development groups all across the state. For instance, what size or type of site is a company looking for? What kind of access to transportation does it need? What kind of workforce? What size population center is it looking for?
“Initial reaction has been fantastic, yes,” Seals said. “We’re seeing people engage with our ads. We’re seeing people opening up our emails. We’re getting questions coming in. So yes, I’m very bullish on our future.” He has good reason to be bullish.
For instance one chemical manufacturing company Seals spoke to a while ago was surprised to find out “that our chemical manufacturing workforce is among the best in the Midwest. It is huge, the labor pool that we have. They didn’t expect that.” And Rivian, the electric car company in Bloomington, started here by sending in their own engineers from California on a regular basis until they figured out that they could hire engineers out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, one of the nation’s best engineering schools.
None of this means the business climate in Illinois is perfect or that there is no need for improvements. Nor does it mean that all Illinois businesses are thriving. That would be naïve. It’s just that many Illinoisans seem to have a perception that doesn’t match reality. We are doing well here and working to do better. As Seals said, “It’s been fantastic to see how we’re moving forward from where we’ve been.”
Rivian R1T truck named ‘Coolest Thing’ made in Illinois
Rivian’s all-electric R1T truck is 2022’s “Coolest Thing Made in Illinois.”
That was the result of the third annual Makers Madness bracket-style tournament hosted by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association which allows Illinoisans to vote for the “coolest” product made in the state.
This year’s winner was announced Wednesday at the Governor’s Mansion.
Manufactured in Normal, the R1T is the first electric truck in production that features four motors, eight driving modes and up to 400 miles of range on a single charge, combining off-road capabilities with the driving style of a sports car. It can accelerate from zero to 60 in three seconds and has a towing capacity of up to 11,000 pounds.
The all-electric truck bested a diverse group of challengers, including General Mills’ Fruit by the Foot snack, which is made in Belvidere.
Pritzker signs bills aimed at easing teacher shortage amid data suggesting progress
Gov. JB Pritzker signed a package of bills Wednesday aimed at easing the state’s shortage of teachers and other education professionals, even as a new report shows Illinois just added a record number of new teachers to its ranks.
Speaking in the library of Springfield High School just blocks from the Capitol, Pritzker said that while the education workforce picture is improving, more work still needs to be done.
“In Illinois, schools still have more than 2,100 unfilled teaching positions statewide,” he said. “That includes 15 unfilled teaching slots here in Springfield and 64 in Decatur, with similar need for paraprofessional positions. With new tools though, and new funding at their disposal, districts all across the state are working to find new ways to bring people into this profession and to encourage them to stay there.”
Pritzker signed four bills Wednesday, including House Bill 4246, which lowers the cost of renewing a lapsed educator license to $50 instead of $500; House Bill 4798, allowing currently enrolled teaching students with at least 90 credit hours to be licensed as substitute teachers; Senate Bill 3988, lowering the minimum age to become a paraprofessional in grades eight or below to 18 instead of 19; and Senate Bill 3907, allowing short-term substitute teachers to teach up to 15 consecutive days in a classroom instead of just five.
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry