Northern Illinois Mayors Expect Little Disruption From Minimum Wage Hike

Feb 28, 2019

Credit Flickr user 401(K) 2012 / "Money" (CC v. 2.0)

The Mayors of DeKalb and Rockford responded to the statewide minimum wage hike that was signed into law last week. The measure will raise the state's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. 

DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith worries about the effect this may have on small businesses. Smith says he would have preferred that the increase be done more incrementally. 

"I would have liked to have seen something that was written into law that mandated perhaps a one or two year step, and then let's take a look at it," he said. "You know, economies change."

But he says the law taking effect means businesses know what to expect.

Jerry Smith is Mayor of DeKalb

"If you know that you're going to be paying nine and a quarter next year and ten the following year, or whatever the case may be, the smart businesses -- small or large -- are going to make those adjustments that are necessary so the bottom line is still black," he said.

Smith says the City of DeKalb already pays its employees at a level where the wage hike's effect on city government will be minimal.

Tom McNamara is Mayor of Rockford
Credit City of Rockford

In Rockford, Mayor Tom McNamara characterizes the wage increase as a mixed bag overall. He says residents and local businesses have spoken both for and against the new provision, and it's too early to discern the overall effects. But McNamara says it will have little direct effect on city government.

"All of our employees but three of them make $15.00 or more per hour," he said. "So for our direct, immediate impact, it will be low."

But that doesn't apply to more indirect services.

"We're still reviewing what type of impact it will have on any of the contracts for services that we have. That will take some time to review," McNamara said.

Contracts include jobs like landscaping and any other service that city employees don't provide directly.

Nathan Bryant is President of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council.
Credit RAEDC

President Nathan Bryant of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council also discussed the measure. He says the city's economic competitiveness is unlikely to be greatly affected by the minimum wage law, even with its proximity to the Wisconsin border.

"It's important to understand that a certain wage job is only going to travel so far, and when our labor pool has the ability to swell to almost 800,000 people, and a lot of that gets drawn from the suburbs," he said. "It's a tactical advantage for us. You do not have that tactical advantage when you start looking across the border."

Bryant says Rockford also has competitive advantages in workforce development and delivering projects on time and under budget.