Cat CEO: Illinois should do more to grow business

CHICAGO (AP) — Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman said Sunday that Illinois must do more to grow business and jobs in the state, including adopting a sustainable state budget and lowering workers' compensation costs.

His comments were published in a Sunday column in The Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/wPQCra) and followed the Peoria-based heavy equipment maker's decision days ago to bypass Illinois for building a new plant bringing some 1,400 jobs as it relocates some operations from Japan.

Following the decision, Gov. Pat Quinn — who touted an improved business climate earlier this month in his State of the State address — said he believed the decision was based mostly on Illinois' lack of ocean access.

Oberhelman said Sunday that logistics were a factor. But he also said Illinois hasn't done what's needed to balance its budget, credit agencies have downgraded Illinois' bond rating and Illinois is among the most expensive states for workers' compensation rates. He said an internal study by Caterpillar Inc. showed that when factoring in workers compensations rates, it was cheaper for them to do business in neighboring Indiana.

Oberhelman said he wrote a letter to Illinois political leaders 10 months ago outlining many of those problems, but little has been done since then.

"Illinois must act now, with a bipartisan sense of urgency, to position itself for future job creation that is being discussed in board rooms all across this country," he said.

Oberhelman said Caterpillar hasn't opened a new factory in Illinois in decades even as it's opened factories elsewhere.

"Caterpillar is not threatening to leave Illinois," Oberhelman said. "Rather, we want to grow our presence here. For Illinois to really compete for new business investment and growth, the state must address these matters."

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