Actually, Illinois is a great place to do business right now. And Gov. Pritzker has helped

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In the battle to attract the businesses of tomorrow, states around the country are using creative methods to differentiate themselves from others. And as we continue to build the best economic conditions our state has had in generations, it comes as no surprise that others count Illinois among their toughest competition.

While it’s true that the business community once turned its nose down at our state, the reality is that Illinois’ economic ecosystem today is hardly recognizable from years past. It’s time to reintroduce Illinois and set the record straight on why this is the place businesses want to be.

For one, Illinois is literally at the center of it all. We are the only state where all the Class I railroads meet in two locations. O’Hare airport is one of the most globally connected airports in the world. We have the third largest interstate highway system in the U.S., and inland waterways that connect to the Great Lakes, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Whether a business is shipping products via rail, roads, rivers, or runways, there is a big advantage to being in Illinois. How much of an advantage? PWC estimates that for many companies, logistics makes up around 10% of revenue. You won’t often see factors like these making headlines, but these are the things businesses care about.

Businesses also understand value, that you get what you pay for. Illinois offers a large, skilled workforce of over six million people, half of which have bachelor’s degrees or higher. Illinois’ astounding 244 higher education institutions are among the best in the world. The University of Illinois alone graduates more engineers each year than MIT, Stanford and Caltech combined. Beyond that, our community college system is the third largest in the nation. That means Illinois is providing customized training to students of all ages to ensure they gain the skills that are most in demand now. Put all of this together, and you have an extremely robust pipeline of talent at-the-ready to support business growth.

To fully understand why a new business relocated to or expanded in Illinois on average every day in 2023, we also have to acknowledge the strength of our state’s leadership. Businesses want to know that states are making intentional, coordinated and strategic efforts at the highest levels to constantly improve their business climate, as we are here in Illinois.

This hasn’t always been the case, but Gov. JB Pritzker is on the phone with CEOs daily to pitch our state and ask how we can better support their business. This active role may seem hard to quantify, but the results speak for themselves. For example, when Stellantis idled its Belvidere facility in the summer of 2022, the governor made it a priority to do whatever needed to be done for them to reopen and bring $4 billion worth of investments along with it.

More: $5B UAW, Stellantis deal could include construction of two more Belvidere plants

For all of these reasons and more, some states have attempted to discredit Illinois as a great place to do business. Take for example a Wyoming-based survey’s claims about that state versus ours. Wyoming may have the lowest tax rate in the U.S., but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it also has the smallest economy. Not exactly a location where businesses can grow or dip into a skilled workforce or offer the kinds of infrastructure that multiple industries rely on to thrive. In fact, Wyoming can’t lay claim to even one Fortune 1,000 company that calls it home.

More: Study claims Illinois is worst place to start a business. Here's why

John Atkinson
John Atkinson

On the other hand, Illinois is home to nearly 60 Fortune 1000 companies, like ADM, State Farm, John Deere, Walgreens, Motorola Solutions and United Airlines. Small businesses thrive here, too, with a recent JPMorgan Chase survey reporting that small and medium-sized businesses in our state are feeling more optimistic about business in the region than the nationwide average. It also has the fifth highest GDP in the U.S. and is ranked second in the nation by Site Selection Magazine for new and expanding companies.

It's a great time to do business in Illinois − and to have the facts on our side.

John Atkinson is the chairman of Intersect Illinois, the state's business attraction organization.

This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Illinois is a great place to do business, and Pritzker has helped