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Earlier this spring, I attended a meeting of the House Manufacturing Caucus, a group of pro-manufacturing state lawmakers who collaborate to craft legislation and policy to improve the conditions for the success of industry in Illinois. During one of the breaks, I spoke with the caucus chairman, a dynamic and influential state legislator from the Chicago area. We were chatting about various manufacturing issues when I mentioned that IMEC would be seeking funding in the state budget as we had in years past. I casually inquired as to whether the caucus could have an impact on funding for manufacturing-related initiatives. She didn’t laugh, but her response told me all I needed to hear: we can’t do anything on the budget.

A lot has been written about the process by which the state creates the spending blueprint for a given fiscal year. I have learned firsthand that our district legislators—the “grass roots” folks—have little, if any, influence over which programs are funded. Sure, they can speak with their leadership and make a pitch, but the final plan is negotiated among a few “budgeteers.” It’s the “way it is” in Illinois.

Fortunately, IMEC has consistently earned the confidence of the legislature as a viable economic development resource, and this year was no exception. Unfortunately, the funding line passed by the legislature for IMEC was ultimately vetoed, along with $1.4 billion more.

Granted, there are many deserving programs which also saw their funding eliminated. You would be hard-pressed, however, to find one that consistently delivers a documented return on the state’s investment. Companies who receive IMEC’s assistance add jobs, save costs and make capital improvements in their facilities, equipment and business systems. Independent studies have verified that these economic benefits return four dollars to the state tax rolls for every dollar the state contributes to IMEC. We can legitimately make the argument that by not funding IMEC, the state is costing itself the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue.

Many smaller companies have tremendous potential to succeed, but they often lack the resources and time to make needed improvements in their operations. That’s why the state’s investment is so critical. We leverage state funding to reach out to hundreds of manufacturers, identify their needs and then meet those needs by providing hands-on help in areas such as cost reduction, operating efficiency, and quality improvement and growth strategies.

Here’s the frustrating part: Our local legislators understand and value the contributions manufacturing makes to the state’s economic well-being, and they demonstrate it by making manufacturing a priority. I want to thank them for their confidence and recognize their leadership, especially Representatives Leitch, Schock, Smith, Sommer and Moffit, and Senators Koehler, Rutherford and Risinger.

We’ll make the case this fall for restoration when the legislature convenes to consider new spending plans. In the meantime, we’re a strong organization that can weather short-term fluctuations in government support. Our clients can count on us to deliver for them. iBi

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