Expand north, or completely change the address?
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his administration have made both pitches to Illinois businesses since Walker took office in 2011. The courting continued this week when Walker spoke to the Commercial Club of Chicago, a civic organization.
The Journal Sentinel reported that Walker said he’s not interested in poaching business from the state, a less direct message than his “Escape to Wisconsin” campaign from 2011. Then, he planned openly to recruit businesses across the state after Illinois voted to increase the business tax.
On Monday, at a press conference following the private speech, he encouraged Illinois companies to consider Wisconsin as a place to expand or grow, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Exactly how successful his overtures have been is up for debate. Internet shopping firm FatWallet.com moved to Beloit from Rockford, bringing 50 jobs, according to the Rockford Register-Star. But while the governor said he has been talking to other firms, he said his administration is not keeping score of any moves.
Indiana, meanwhile, put on a similar full-court press and knows well the results. According to the Peoria Journal-Star, the Hoosier state landed almost 1,600 jobs and $294.1 million in investment from Illinois-based companies since the 2011 tax hike.
Representatives from both states, however, say that despite their efforts to draw business away from Illinois, they consider a strong Chicago and Illinois as critical to the Midwest’s overall success, thanks to their role in international trade.
So who is winning?
Democrats and Republicans played tennis with job numbers during the recall effort against Walker, both claiming statistics to support their claims of failure or success.
Democrats said Wisconsin lost more private-sector jobs since Walker took office than any other state, while Walker touted other federal numbers claiming more than 23,000 new jobs since he took office. Indiana has at least shown the ability to draw jobs from Illinois, while the Land of Lincoln cited a Bureau of Labor Statistics report in April that said it had added 48,000 public sector jobs since the tax increase, according to the Peoria Journal-Star.
As the June recall election came into focus, Walker worked hard to highlight job success whether or not they came from elsewhere. In April he spoke at Trace-a-Matic in Brookfield, which planned to hire 35 more workers before the end of the year. He shook hands at Milwaukee Light Bulb in Mount Pleasant, which expects to add a dozen jobs over the next four years. And he made the point that many small manufacturers are struggling to find qualified workers to fill positions.
Comparing apples to apples, Wisconsin has the best unemployment rate of the three in question, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wisconsin is at 6.8 percent, tied for 17th. Indiana is tied for 32nd at 7.9 percent and Illinois is tied for 40th at 8.6 percent.