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Illinois Loses Out On Proposed Toyota-Mazda Plant


Illinois reportedly is out of the running for an assembly plant proposed as a joint venture by automakers Toyota and Mazda.

Credit intersectillinois.org
Mark S. Peterson

The effort to bring the plant to Illinois has been spearheaded by Intersect Illinois, the state’s privately run economic development corporation. Crain’s Chicago Business quotes Intersect Illinois President Mark S. Peterson as saying he’s been told that Illinois is not among the finalists for the plant.

"While we showed very well, particularly in the areas of workforce, and our proposal was very well received, in the end the site readiness of some other locations took us out of the consideration set going forward," Peterson told the publication.

He also said the fact that Illinois does not have a so-called “right to work” law was a factor. The remaining three states – believed to be in the southeastern U.S. – which are under consideration, Peterson said, all have such laws.

In an angry news release from Illinois Working Together, director Jake Lewis called the news a failure of the Rauner administration. He said the state has lost more than 12,000 manufacturing jobs since Gov. Bruce Rauner took office.

“Gov. Rauner has created widespread economic uncertainty that has caused long-lasting damage to Illinois' business climate,” Lewis wrote.

Toyota and Mazda had announced in August that they would build the plant somewhere in the U.S., with opening planned for 2021. It would create an estimated 4,000 jobs. The Rochelle/DeKalb area was said to be under particular consideration.

DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith says the loss wasn’t due to a lack of effort. He says he worked with the mayor of Rochelle and impressed the company with what the region has to offer.

“We worked so hard with the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation, and with Northern Illinois University extolling the virtues of what we have,” Smith said, “not only in terms of workforce, but in terms of education.”   

DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation director Paul Borek said the efforts of the DeKalb Development Team led to Illinois coming in fourth among 11 states that were finalists for the plant, out of the original 20 states that applied for consideration.

"Outstanding teamwork among local public and private sector development professionals and the State of Illinois has enabled the City of DeKalb and DeKalb County to compete effectively for a significant national manufacturing project," he said in a written statement.

Borek said the company indicated it was impressed by the region's transportation advantages, workforce, and proximity to O'Hare Airport and Chicago.

"Illinois and DeKalb competed considerably better than projected," he said. "In the end, it appears the advanced readiness of some sites and the availability of right-to-work laws led to a decision to focus additional due diligence exclusively on the southeastern U.S. However, DeKalb has an excellent site and more large-scale manufacturing requirements are anticipated."

Mayor Smith said he is disappointed the plant won’t be coming to the area, but says it was worth it to try.
“Moving forward, when we have a comparable project – or a project of any size for that matter -- we’ve done our homework, we’re ready to strut our stuff, if you will,” he said. “I’m looking forward to that.”

  •  WNIJ's Guy Stephens and Susan Stephens contributed to this report.
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