by Ted Dabrowski
Illinois is bleeding people to almost every state in the nation. People are packing up and voting with their feet. Gone – goodbye.
When people leave, they don’t just take their belongings. With them go their earnings, their spending power and their contribution to society. When they own companies, they even take the jobs with them.
For the past 15 years, Illinois has netted the loss of more than 800,000 people to other states. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, that’s the equivalent of losing Aurora, Rockford, Joliet, Naperville and Springfield – five of Illinois’ six largest cities.
That trend is not sustainable – and certainly not if we want to be a great state.
There is hope, however. Many states and companies have used economic declines as opportunities to stimulate innovation. Illinois needs to do just that - use the current crisis to break out of its cycle of overspending, over borrowing and higher taxes.
Illinois can do that by changing its image and innovating how it delivers its core services. Think Apple Computer in 1997 – then, the great company we know today was suffering, hemorrhaging money and failing in the midst of the late 1990’s tech boom. It had gotten away from its original mission and strengths – the consumer and innovation. But in a short period of time, with the return of Steve Jobs and a renewed sense of purpose, the company revamped its image with new products and, once again, a customer focus.
Illinois can do the same by returning to its roots as a place that is friendly to businesses and entrepreneurs. By taking the lead in education reform, Illinois can make Chicago the hub for school choice and online learning. By tackling health care costs, Illinois can lead the nation in how care is delivered to its most needy residents. And through bold reforms of pensions, Illinois can show the nation how to regain control of its finances. There are solutions for returning prosperity, and people, to Illinois.
We have a choice: reform, or keep watching people leave.