The spring legislative session brought about a long overdue capital investment program to the state of Illinois. We finally will be able to greatly improve the quality of the infrastructure in our area, but the capital bill means more than just road upgrades. It means that skilled workers will be able to go back to doing the important work that makes our country strong. We need these vital construction jobs to stimulate our local economy and return prosperity to our area.
As a state legislator, I believe that it is my duty to ensure that the state does everything it can to create jobs and make sure the local economy remains strong. Our capital investment program takes care of both of these needs. With the passage of this law, I have been able to secure over $80 million for local roads, bridges, schools and other infrastructure projects. This includes $30 million for Veterans’ Drive in Pekin and $26 million for Technology Boulevard in East Peoria. The return on this investment does not stop with new infrastructure and construction jobs. These local projects will bring more businesses to the area and increase economic development for years to come.
With these infrastructure projects beginning in the area, the demand for skilled workers has increased. Knowledgeable and professional individuals are necessary to ensure that the work is being done the right way. Skilled labor is what makes these projects possible. During this spring’s legislative session, I sponsored House Bill 952 to make sure all laborers, workers and mechanics employed by or on behalf of any public body engaged in the construction or demolition of public works will be paid no less than the general prevailing rate of hourly wages. It is important to me that all of the workers involved in these projects get paid fairly for the quality work that they do, and I am proud to say that this legislation has become law.
It is clear that traditional manufacturing and construction jobs have decreased in our area over the years. I believe that energy-related jobs, specifically in renewable energy, represent the next area for growth. Jobs involving the manufacturing or installation of renewable or energy-efficient technology will become vitally important in the near future. Green collar jobs, as they are called, will be a linchpin in revitalizing our local economy, which is why I convened a Green Collar Economic Development Summit in June. I believe that state and local governments need to work together with researchers and entrepreneurs to create an industry that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, and bring high-paying jobs to this area.
Illinois is an international leader in the production of biofuels, with most being produced right here in central Illinois. Our state is also leading the way in wind power, with many wind farms located in our region of the state. Firefly is a perfect example of a renewable energy company doing great things right here in our area. Bradley University continually produces talented graduates and top-notch research. The Ag Lab in Peoria has a long history of researching and implementing new technologies. With a smart, skilled workforce, abundant natural resources and an outstanding university, there is no reason that central Illinois could not become the cradle of renewable energy industries. iBi