|Posted Online: Posted online: June 13,
2007 7:05 PM
Print publication date: 06/14/2007
Forum addresses challenges, opportunities in Illinois
on this story
By Rita Pearson, email@example.com
Once dominated by manufacturing, the Quad-Cities and most
areas of Illinois and the nation face significant economic
changes -- a shrinking manufacturing base, growing low-wage
service sector and demand for a skilled work force in critical
A panel of community leaders wrestled with these problems
and offered some solutions Wednesday at a "State of Working
Illinois: Challenges and Opportunities" forum at the Milan
About 45 business leaders and educators attended the event
hosted by the Workforce Development Board of Rock Island,
Henry and Mercer counties, the Center for Tax and Budget
Accountability, and the Illinois Works for the Future
From 1990 to 2005, Illinois lost 24 percent of its
manufacturing jobs, or 222,500 good-paying jobs and replaced
them with lower-end service-sector jobs that pay 29 percent
less, said Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for
Tax and Budget Accountability.
The northwest region -- which includes Rock Island County
and nine other counties -- lost 6,664 manufacturing jobs from
2001 to 2003, yet manufacturing jobs still make up 15 percent
of the total employment in the region, he said.
Rock Island County is expected to see its greatest job
growth in the services, including professional and business,
education and health, leisure and hospitality, according to
the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Illinois is an affluent state with a $500 billion gross
state product -- greater than Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Colombia,
Belgium and Sweden -- but its economic growth has lagged
behind the rest of the Midwest and the nation, he said, adding
that only Michigan has done as poorly.
By 2006 more than 40 percent of the Illinois work force did
not have employer-provided health care, and about 27 percent
of Illinois population was either on Medicaid or uninsured, he
said. These trends could be reversed if good policies are
enacted, Mr. Martire said.
Chuck Stewart, executive director of the Workforce
Development Board in the three-county area, said he sees more
collaboration among work force developers, business and
educators, but there is a need for K-12 education to get on
the same page.
Teacher and administrators are so focused on meeting No
Child Left Behind standards that they're using up available
resources at the expense of music and fine arts, vocational
education, and career development, he said.
The federal government will cut $300 million in Illinois
funding for vocational education so schools can focus on NCLB
test scores, Mr. Martire said.
Tim Wells, a banker with Wells Fargo Bank, Geneseo, and
chairman of the Workforce Development Board, said he sees a
need for more cooperation between the public and private
sectors. He also called for more efficiency in the public
school system, even if that meant more consolidations among
Stephanie Acri, owner of Evans Manufacturing, said her
company has grown from 32 to 45 employees, but has a high
turnover rate. She found help from Black Hawk College and the
Success Network agencies.
New hires now receive training and other low-cost or
no-cost services to help stabilize the work force and maintain
its competitiveness, she said.
Education and health care are top priorities in Illinois,
but the state is cutting higher education and K-12 funding,
Mr. Martire said. "We're having the wrong debate in Illinois.
It's time to make state policy responsive to the communities
based on the data."
Wednesday's regional forum was the third of 10 planned in
the state, said Valerie Chepp of the Center for Tax and Budget
Rose Karasti of the Chicago Jobs Council invited local
leaders to join a statewide campaign for an economic and work
force development policy that works for everyone, especially
the homeless, disabled, those in jail, and those in chronic
poverty, she said.
The campaign calls for increasing the state's job training
and economic development program budget to $10 million and an
additional $5 million each in new appropriations and
transitional jobs programs.
"The State of Working Illinois" 2006
-In 2006, Illinois ranked fifth nationally with a gross
state product of $500 billion.
-Illinois gross state product grew less than U.S. or
Midwest States (1990-2004).
-Between 1990 and 2005, Illinois lost 24 percent of its
manufacturing jobs, a loss of 222,500 jobs.
-All job growth in Illinois came in the service sector.
Most pay 29 percent less than the manufacturing jobs they
-Good-paying information sector jobs declined sharply after
-Private sector employer-provided health insurance coverage
declined from 75 percent of the work force from 1979 to 1981
to 60.8 percent from 2001 to 2003. By 2006, more than 40
percent of the work force didn't have employer-provided
-The 10-county Northwest region of Illinois, which includes
Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties, lost 6,664
manufacturing jobs, or 19 percent, from 2001 to 2003.
Manufacturing makes up 15 percent of the total employment in
the region, higher than the state average of 12 percent.
-Through 2014, Rock Island County is expected to see its
greatest job growth in services: professional and business,
education and health, leisure and hospitality.
-Through 2012, only 23 percent of the new jobs projected
for the region will pay more than the current state annual
average wage of $38,139. This means more than 77 percent of
the new jobs in the region will be lower paying -- likely
driving down median income in the area.
Source: The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and
Northern Illinois University,