Manufacturers group CEO: Illinois ‘needs to step up its game’

Greg Baise, president and CEO of Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, presented IMA’s middle class manufacturing agenda in the community room in Peru’s Municipal building. The five-point plan included getting the state’s fiscal house in order, workers’ compensation reform, tax reform, property tax reform and education and workforce development support.

Illinois has not recovered manufacturing jobs since the Great Recession, while neighboring states have.

That was the focal point of a presentation from Greg Baise, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, which he shared Wednesday morning at Peru’s municipal building.

Baise shared numbers that contrasted Illinois’ loss of 1,600 jobs since June 2009 with gains of 163,700 jobs in Michigan, 90,800 jobs in Indiana, 76,700 in Ohio and 41,300 in Wisconsin.

“If there’s anything you remember about my presentation today, I want you to remember these numbers,” Baise said. “That’s bad. You folks have seen what happens to communities when manufacturing leaves.”

Baise identified five particular areas that need attention.

These were: getting the state’s fiscal house in order, meaningful workers’ compensation reform, tax reform, property tax reform and education and workforce development support.

He said it’s hypocritical for the state to tell businesses what to do when the state has not had a budget in nearly two years and is saddled with massive obligations to pensions.

Baise pointed to the state’s requirements for companies that offer paid parental leave as an example of unnecessary meddling.

To illustrate why he thinks Illinois needs worker compensation reform, Baise said Illinois values the loss of a worker’s right arm at about $450,000 while in other states that figure is about $150,000.

“It’s out of balance,” Baise said.

But he didn’t advocate for sudden, dramatic change or aiming to offer the least compensation in the nation.

“We don’t need to race to the bottom,” he said.

Baise said while he might not agree with everything President Donald Trump says, the president has made sure manufacturing jobs are a much-discussed topic.

“The good thing about what President Trump is doing is he’s highlighting those issues,” Baise said. “What I think President Trump needs to talk about more is supporting the technology and education to train students today for those jobs.” 

Baise said manufacturing is becoming more technology-driven, and it is important that students are educated and prepared for manufacturing jobs, which are opening up as Baby Boomers retire.

“One of the things Illinois has always been able to do is have a qualified workforce, so we need to step up our game a little bit,” Baise said.

Ben Hohenstatt can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or perureporter@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_Peru.

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Brynn Twait works as a reporter covering the City of Peru. She can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or perureporter@newstrib.com.

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