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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Illinois Businessmen Speak Out

By Michael Fonda (Chicago)

Last week two prominent businessmen from Illinois made the case for a more rational government. Jim McNerney, CEO of Boeing Corporation, delivered a stinging rebuke of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in last Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal. Who can blame him for doing so? Boeing has built a 1.2-million-square-foot plant in South Carolina and the NLRB has told Boeing that it can’t operate the plant. The plant is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, will house 1,000 well compensated employees, and it will produce (if it is ever allowed to do so) the new energy-efficient 787 Boeing Dreamliner.

Doug Oberhelman, CEO of Caterpillar Corporation, was the guest host on Squawk Box last week. In reference to Mr. McNerney’s editorial, Mr. Oberhelman made the point that all the money that is spent on lawyers to defend against government boards like the NLRB is money that can’t be spent on research and development. Oberhelman asked, rhetorically: “Do we want more jobs or do we want more regulations?”

We need a more rational approach to business in the United States. We particularly need a more rational approach in Illinois. In the “Opinion” section of yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, there was a column entitled “States of Business”. The column referenced the annual survey of CEOs of the best and worst states for business. The survey was produced by Chief Executive.The columnist made the point that “Tax-raising Illinois has dropped 40 places in five years and, as the magazine puts it, “is now in a death spiral.”

Quotes by Governor Pat Quinn in last Tuesday’s Chicago Tribune, in reference to Illinois’ efforts to keep Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holding Corporation from leaving the state, do not help the business climate in Illinois. Quinn said: “I’m sure that we will work something out, something that will work for the company, but most importantly, work for the common good, for the workers, for the jobs.”

“Most importantly?” Why is the company and its shareholders secondary in importance? “Workers?” You would think that he was talking about Dickensonian London rather than the employees at one of the most beautiful and inviting business campuses in the world. But perhaps the governor is talking not about the employees of companies like Sears, Navistar, Caterpillar and Boeing, but about the “workers” who report directly to him and his department heads.

On March 8, the Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn wrote a column entitled “Caterpillar’s Problem with Peoria.” In the column he wrote: “When companies stop investing in a state, their workers take the first hit, whether they’re unionized or not. Because members of public-employee unions draw their pay and benefits from governments, there is a much longer delay before they feel any pain from an economic downturn. Sooner or later, however, a declining private sector will mean a declining tax base, and a squeeze on public finance.”

I just hope that Governor’s Quinn’s discussions with the leaders of the large private employers of Illinois citizens, Boeing, Caterpillar, Navistar and Sears, will give him the insight to lead the state on a pro-growth trajectory that will be equally beneficial to the small- and medium-sized private companies in our state.

Here are the most recent scores of NBA and NHL teams that are located in Avison Young cities and are still in the playoffs.

Chicago Bulls 103 – Miami Heat 82

Vancouver Canucks 3 – San Jose Sharks 2

Tampa Bay Lightning 5 – Boston Bruins 2

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