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Apr 20, 201709:50 AMOpen Mic

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Wisconsin should target Illinois workers

(page 1 of 2)

For the record, I do not hate Illinois. My dad is from Chicago and I grew up in Beloit, which is so close to the Illinois border that its sister city, South Beloit, is in the Land of Lincoln.

I don’t even hate the Bears. Why would I? The Packers nearly always beat them. And I must confess to cheering for the Cubs in last year’s World Series. In fact, my first baseball cap was blue with a red “C” on the front of it, and my first Major League Baseball game was at Wrigley Field (I was six and I got lost).

My point is that I do not have anything personally against our neighbors to the south. But I do see the Land of Lincoln as a land of opportunity for Wisconsin, if we are willing to take advantage of Illinois’ considerable woes.

For those who may not know, here is a summary of how bad things have become below the Cheese Curtain.

  • Last year, 762 people were murdered in Chicago, a 58% increase from 2015.
  • Illinois has a $7 billion budget deficit and its Republican governor and Democrat-led legislature haven’t passed a comprehensive budget in 21 months.
  • Illinois has $129.8 billion in unfunded state pension liability.
  • Its bond rating is the lowest of the 50 states and near junk status.
  • The state government owes vendors $10.8 billion.
  • Politicians at all levels of government are proposing fee and tax increases. At the state level alone, lawmakers are considering a corporate rate hike and adding currently exempted services to the sales tax.
  • Chicago and Cook County have enacted minimum wage and paid sick time laws, which along with tax increases, drive up the cost of doing business there.
  • At 5.4%, Illinois’ unemployment rate is the highest in the Midwest (Wisconsin’s rate is 3.4%; the U.S. rate is 4.5%).
  • A Gallup poll, conducted in March, found that 75% of the people living in Illinois have no confidence in state government.

Not surprising, many businesses are leaving Illinois and so are its citizens. Illinois lost more population than any other state between 2013 and 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Last October, a scientific poll conducted by Southern Illinois University found that 47% of Illinoisans would like to leave the state.

Therein lies the opportunity for Wisconsin. Our state has a labor shortage. Baby boomers dominate the workforce, but they are either at or fast approaching retirement age. Our birth rates are below replacement levels and since 2008 more people have left Wisconsin than have moved in.

Through the Future Wisconsin Project, the WMC Foundation has worked with stakeholders like the K–12s, technical colleges, four-year public and private colleges, young professional groups, local chambers, and multiple state government agencies on efforts to retain as many born and raised Wisconsinites by exposing them to the great career options our state’s economy has to offer.

But even if you put a wall around the state to keep everyone here from leaving, Wisconsin would still have a workforce problem. The bottom line is that we need people to move to Wisconsin.


Old to new | New to old
Apr 26, 2017 01:21 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I moved here 26 years ago I am leaving I hope this year. We began by
vacationing here because Wisconsin managed their parks way better than anyone else- I think the WMC agenda has changed that though I haven't been in a park for years because I lived in the country. We decided to leave quickly because we found the right house near our daughter in another state. I am glad we did as with DNR changes related to wells etc. opt out zoning only for Dane and other changes I am not sure we could sell our rural property when we originally planned on selling it 3 years from now. WMC has won but workers have lost and if you have children do you really want to invest in a state where the business community is against reducing childhood lead poisoning? Not the Wisconsin we moved to but the state is where dreams go to die. But your core problem is that the born-heres really hate us. After 25 years living in rural Wisconsin I still hear regularly people running down people from Illinois and you find rather quickly a division between born here and moved here families totally unlike any other place I have lived- this tends to be more in rural than urban but in the new city where we bought a house my wife already knows probably 50 families - in moving to Madison I know my landlord and a few of his friends- you have got a lot of changes to do before you can attract a lot of out of state workers here especially to the counties where you lack growth and an existing community of newcomers.

Apr 26, 2017 01:47 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Interesting comments, Anon 1:21. I'm also a transplant to Wisconsin — born and raised in Illinois and moved here when I was in my mid-20s. Overall I find Wisconsinites to be very genial and welcoming; however, they have a severe inferiority complex, especially about Illinois. I've always been welcomed, but with a backhanded comment about originally being from Illinois, or being a Bears, Cubs, you name the Chicago-based team fan. A lot of complaints are directed toward people from Illinois who help keep this state afloat through tourism dollars, and there just seems to be a culture of misdirected animosity to anyone from the Land of Lincoln. FIBs and other nicknames are cute, but they also represent a lot of ingrained contempt for anyone who's not from here, often with the ironic assumption that people from Illinois think they're better. I can honestly say that I never thought I was better than someone from Wisconsin prior to moving here, mostly because I didn't give Wisconsin a second thought. And that's Wisconsin's biggest problem. It's a great place to spend a long summer weekend, or it's a great place to get some quality cheese and beer, but other than that the state has done a terrible job of marketing itself to outsiders as a place where cutting-edge industry and commerce can happen. Until Wisconsin fully embraces a 21st century outlook and sells itself on that, it will always be seen as just a bunch of ag land with some nice lakes.

Apr 27, 2017 02:44 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

The quality of life has taken a downturn. Our current state government has no problem raping the land, lessening environmental regulations, and taking away the reasons to actually live in this state. Our roads are becoming a joke. Our support of education at all levels is a tragedy. Our governing body is all about making things more profitable for the big companies while the worker gets less and less. Yes, Illinois is worse off than Wisconsin, but why would someone from Illinois want to move to Wisconsin rather than Minnesota or another state?

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