(Springfield, IL) – February 27, 2012. Remember Enterprise Zones?
They are a Reagan-era economic development scheme which have proven themselves, unlike other Reagan economic theories, to be effective in Illinois. The state has dozens and dozens such zones. And seven are set to expire next year.
That expiration has set off a bi-partisan scramble in Springfield to renew and refresh the zones, plus add 10 new ones.
On Monday, State Senators Pamela Althoff (R–McHenry) and Michael Frerichs (D–Champaign) were tapped to be co-chairs of a newly created bi-partisan Illinois Senate Special Committee on Enterprise Zone Extensions.
“I think we have a tremendous opportunity to fine tune this great economic development tool to make sure it remains useful and productive for years to come,” said Althoff, who previously served as the mayor of McHenry, Illinois.
Frerichs stressed that the six-member panel, which will hold statewide hearings, aims to craft a “comprehensive” update of the zones.
“We know enterprise zones have been creating jobs across Illinois for 30 years,” said Frerichs. “A program this proven and successful deserves this kind of comprehensive approach, rather than piecemeal renewals.”
In 2011 alone, the program is credited with creating 8,980 jobs and nearly $2.5 billion in investments, according to Illinois Senate Democratic staff.
“Nearly $50 billion in capital investment and more than 900,000 jobs have been created or retained since their inception,” said Greg Baise, president & CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.
The committee’s first hearing will be held Thursday, March 15 at Southern Illinois University’s Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center in Carbondale. Three additional hearings are planned for Peoria, Rockford, and Chicago.
A bi-partisan push–in a chamber where bi-partisanship rarely stirs from its stupor–to renew and refresh Illinois Enterprise Zones is a good sign that there will be no lapse in this economic development program.