Governor Pat Quinn departs today for the annual Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference, where he will speak with Japanese business leaders. The governor says he's confident he can drum up support for Illinois business, despite the relatively poor condition of Illinois' economy.
The most recent numbers, from last month, say 9.2 percent of Illinoisans who are looking for work can’t find it. That’s the second-worst unemployment rate in the U.S., behind only Nevada.
It's because of that difficult reality that Gov. Quinn says it's important to try to bring more jobs to Illinois. He touts the many public works projects for which he's traveled the state attending ribbon-cuttings, like a water-pipe replacement program Friday in Chicago.
Yet there remains a massive pension liability — nearly $100 billion — and the state continues to face budget challenges. Quinn, however, remains optimistic that he can sell Illinois overseas, even in competition with neighboring states.
"We're the capital of the Midwest,” says Quinn, “We don't have to worry about Kokomo, or Sheboygan, or other parts of the Midwest. We're Illinois, and we've got great things."
Quinn says Japan has "deep roots" in Illinois and is one of the largest export markets for Illinois products. He says the country is the second-largest source of foreign direct investment in the state, after the United Kingdom. Japanese-owned companies employ more than 53,000 Illinois workers.
The Chicago Democrat says previous trips have led to companies expanding to Illinois. They include the pharmaceutical firm Astellas, which built a new corporate headquarters for the Americas in the Chicago suburb of Glenview last year.