Illinois businesses and jobs escape to Wisconsin

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Illinois businesses and jobs escape to Wisconsin

By John Ruberry

Last Mon­day I had a errand to run for work – which brought me to Milwaukee’s sub­urbs. And for the first time in five years I drove on Inter­state 94 north of the Illinois-​Wisconsin state line – on what is known as the Mil­wau­kee to Kenosha I-​94 Cor­ri­dor.

A lot has changed since 2012. As I left a toll road south of the bor­der and entered a true free­way – okay, to be fair, the toll road has been there for decades – I noticed a lot.

Busi­nesses – with huge facil­i­ties – that weren’t there five years ago leap out at you. Most obvi­ous is the mas­sive Uline ware­house in Pleas­ant Prairie. The head­quar­ters office of the indus­trial sup­plier moved a few miles north from Waukegan, Illi­nois into Pleas­ant Prairie in Kenosha County in 2010. Its “Chicago ware­house” fol­lowed four years later.

In the 1980s Wisconsin’s tourism slo­gan was “Escape to Wis­con­sin.” Illi­nois busi­nesses are now heed­ing the call.

Yes, the Chicago area has a cou­ple of Ama­zon ful­fil­ment cen­ters, but far­ther north on my drive I saw a mas­sive one in Kenosha – it opened in 2015. The Mil­wau­kee Busi­ness Jour­nal calls it “the largest in the recent Kenosha County indus­trial boom.” There is a “Hir­ing Now” sign out front.

[cap­tion id=“attachment_102246” align=“alignleft” width=“258”] Sears Hold­ings, an Illi­nois loser[/caption]

South of Kenosha County is Lake County in ILL-​inois. There is no Lake County indus­trial boom. There is no Illi­nois indus­trial boom.

Why is that? Sure, tax incen­tives from Wisconsin’s Repub­li­can gov­er­nor, Scott Walker have helped greatly. Illi­nois, when inept Demo­c­rat Pat Quinn was gov­er­nor, offered tax breaks to Sears Hold­ings, which oper­ates the Sears and Kmart brands, and Mit­subishi Motors, to encour­age them to stay. This was a few months after a huge income tax hike was enacted. What about attract­ing new busi­ness? By all accounts Sears and Kmart are on life-​support and Mit­subishi closed its Bloom­ing­ton plant in 2015.

Cor­po­rate taxes might be slightly higher in Wis­con­sin – no place is per­fect. But Illi­nois has the nation’s high­est median prop­erty tax rate. And Illi­nois’ expen­sive work­ers com­pen­sa­tion laws frighten busi­ness owners.

In 2015 Wis­con­sin became a right-​to-​work state. All the states that bor­der Illi­nois except for Mis­souri are right-​to-​work states and Show Me State vot­ers will be asked next year if they want to join the trend. Nearby Michi­gan has been right-​to-​work since 2012. Job cre­ators don’t like unions and based on recent work­place votes, nei­ther do work­ers.

Illi­nois has its 800-​pound odi­ous gorilla in its base­ment, a woe­fully under­funded public-​worker pen­sion sys­tem. Wisconsin’s state pen­sions are by most accounts fully funded. Busi­nesses don’t like uncer­tainty and Illi­nois’ pen­sion bomb, despite a mas­sive per­sonal and cor­po­rate tax hike put in place this sum­mer, has not been defused. Not even close. Ka-​boom is coming.

[cap­tion id=“attachment_102242” align=“alignright” width=“225”] Blog­ger in Pleas­ant Prairie[/caption]

This sum­mer Wis­con­sin and the Mil­wau­kee to Kenosha I-​94 Cor­ri­dor snagged its biggest prize, the Fox­conn fac­tory. The Tai­wanese man­u­fac­turer will hire any­where from 3,000 to 13,000 employ­ees for its facil­ity in Mount Pleas­ant in Racine County. Yes, Illi­nois had also bid on the Fox­conn plant.

Indi­ana is also enjoy­ing great suc­cess poach­ing Illi­nois firms for the sim­i­lar reasons.

And when the jobs leave the peo­ple leave. And Illi­nois is one of only three states with neg­a­tive pop­u­la­tion growth.

John Ruberry reg­u­larly blogs from Illi­nois at Marathon Pun­dit.

By John Ruberry

Last Monday I had a errand to run for work–which brought me to Milwaukee’s suburbs. And for the first time in five years I drove on Interstate 94 north of the Illinois-Wisconsin state line–on what is known as the Milwaukee to Kenosha I-94 Corridor.

A lot has changed since 2012. As I left a toll road south of the border and entered a true freeway–okay, to be fair, the toll road has been there for decades–I noticed a lot.

Businesses–with huge facilities–that weren’t there five years ago leap out at you. Most obvious is the massive Uline warehouse in Pleasant Prairie. The headquarters office of the industrial supplier moved a few miles north from Waukegan, Illinois into Pleasant Prairie in Kenosha County in 2010. Its “Chicago warehouse” followed four years later.

In the 1980s Wisconsin’s tourism slogan was “Escape to Wisconsin.” Illinois businesses are now heeding the call.

Yes, the Chicago area has a couple of Amazon fulfilment centers, but farther north on my drive I saw a massive one in Kenosha–it opened in 2015. The Milwaukee Business Journal calls it “the largest in the recent Kenosha County industrial boom.” There is a “Hiring Now” sign out front.

Sears Holdings, an Illinois loser

South of Kenosha County is Lake County in ILL-inois. There is no Lake County industrial boom. There is no Illinois industrial boom.

Why is that? Sure, tax incentives from Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker have helped greatly. Illinois, when inept Democrat Pat Quinn was governor, offered tax breaks to Sears Holdings, which operates the Sears and Kmart brands, and Mitsubishi Motors, to encourage them to stay. This was a few months after a huge income tax hike was enacted. What about attracting new business? By all accounts Sears and Kmart are on life-support and Mitsubishi closed its Bloomington plant in 2015.

Corporate taxes might be slightly higher in Wisconsin–no place is perfect. But Illinois has the nation’s highest median property tax rate. And Illinois’ expensive workers compensation laws frighten business owners.

In 2015 Wisconsin became a right-to-work state. All the states that border Illinois except for Missouri are right-to-work states and Show Me State voters will be asked next year if they want to join the trend. Nearby Michigan has been right-to-work since 2012. Job creators don’t like unions and based on recent workplace votes, neither do workers.

Illinois has its 800-pound odious gorilla in its basement, a woefully underfunded public-worker pension system. Wisconsin’s state pensions are by most accounts fully funded. Businesses don’t like uncertainty and Illinois’ pension bomb, despite a massive personal and corporate tax hike put in place this summer, has not been defused. Not even close. Ka-boom is coming.

Blogger in Pleasant Prairie

This summer Wisconsin and the Milwaukee to Kenosha I-94 Corridor snagged its biggest prize, the Foxconn factory. The Taiwanese manufacturer will hire anywhere from 3,000 to 13,000 employees for its facility in Mount Pleasant in Racine County. Yes, Illinois had also bid on the Foxconn plant.

Indiana is also enjoying great success poaching Illinois firms for the similar reasons.

And when the jobs leave the people leave. And Illinois is one of only three states with negative population growth.

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit.