J.B. Pritzker: Stable, experienced hand needed to guide state through problems created in past four years
By J.B. PRITZKER
Not long ago, Illinois was far behind when it came to creating and attracting technology companies – and we were missing out on the good-paying jobs those companies create. The Great Recession took its toll and the brightest minds were fleeing our state. But the opportunity to build a strong technology ecosystem was something I knew we could successfully pursue.
Over the last 15 years, I helped found the Illinois Venture Capital Association, Techstars Chicago, the Illinois Innovation Accelerator Fund, the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, health-care startup incubator MATTER, and many of the building blocks of our new economy in Illinois. And I was proud to have founded 1871, which over its first six years has supported the creation of hundreds of new businesses and more than 7,000 good-paying jobs. Two years ago, 1871 was named the best business incubator in North America, and last year rose to become the best business incubator in the world. Today, Illinois is one of the top technology startup hubs in the world.
I’ve spent my career as a businessman and entrepreneur helping to build new companies, and as governor, I believe I can take that experience to build up our economy statewide. There are boundless opportunities across Illinois that we can harness, but first we need to move beyond the instability, uncertainty, and intransigence of the last four years of failed leadership of our state.
We’ve had challenges for a long time in Illinois. These problems did not start with Bruce Rauner, but things got a whole lot worse when our current governor was elected. He chose to hold our state hostage to advance his special interest agenda. For over two years, we went without a state budget – longer than any state in modern U.S. history. It was not just fiscally irresponsible, it had devastating consequences. Rauner’s budget crisis created instability for families and uncertainty for businesses. It drove jobs to surrounding states, forced the state to triple its backlog of unpaid bills, and pay $1 billion in late payment fees. Some 72,000 fewer students enrolled in our state colleges and universities. Illinois dropped to the lowest credit rating for any state in American history – one notch above junk bond status.
It’s hard not to see the impact of Rauner’s failed policies: We’ve had anemic job growth under Bruce Rauner, which places us in the bottom third of states.
These results shouldn’t be surprising coming from Bruce Rauner, a man whose private sector experience is marred by bankruptcies, layoffs, and outsourcing as he made money off of working families’ pensions – the same pensions he now wants to cut.
I’m running for governor to take our state back from Bruce Rauner and his special interest allies and put Springfield back on the side of working families. Together, we can create jobs again in Illinois, balance our state budget, strengthen our businesses, and rebuild our infrastructure.
Investing in a prosperous future begins with education and skills development. We have to fight for a quality education for all Illinoisans from cradle to career, no matter what community they live in or the color of their skin. Students from Chicago to Belleville should have every opportunity to succeed with vocational training in high schools and community colleges and with purposeful investments in strong four-year universities.
But a world class public education system does little for our state’s economy if entrepreneurs have no opportunity to build businesses in Illinois. That’s why I put forward a plan to increase the availability of capital for startup businesses and provide technical assistance and mentorship programs. Small and startup businesses account for nearly two-thirds of all new jobs in our economy.
And we must invest in our state’s infrastructure. Illinois’ role as a supply chain hub of the nation is a critical part of our economy, and in no place is that more true than in Metro East. By rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges and waterways, and by investing in statewide high-speed broadband Internet connectivity, we can give small business entrepreneurs and bigger industries the tools they need to thrive.
We should think of these critical investments as a down payment on the future of our state. And when we’re investing in the limitless potential found in communities across Illinois, that provides the best return on investment for our state.
The defining work of my life has been solving big challenges for the people of Illinois. I’m intent on bringing that same success and leadership to Springfield as governor. I hope to have you standing with me in the work ahead.
J.B. Pritzker is the Democrat nominee for governor in Illinois. He wrote this column at the request of the Illinois Business Journal.