New year, outta here: Another Illinois manufacturer seeks refuge in Indiana

New year, outta here: Another Illinois manufacturer seeks refuge in Indiana

Enjoy Life Foods plans to move its lone Illinois manufacturing facility and up to 150 jobs to southern Indiana this year.

Inaction in Springfield means 2016 isn’t looking any brighter for Illinois manufacturing workers.

Enjoy Life Foods, a subsidiary of Mondelez International Inc. specializing in allergen-free foods, will shutter its Schiller Park, Ill., facility and move to a larger plant in southern Indiana before the end of the year.

Illinois lost 14,500 manufacturing jobs on net in 2015, including 600 layoffs at Mondelez’s Chicago plant in July; now, the Enjoy Life Foods move will cost Illinois another 125 to 150 manufacturing jobs in 2016. Enjoy Life Foods offered jobs at the Jeffersonville, Ind., plant to all affected workers.

“Overall, we look for the best place to locate for our manufacturing,” said Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Joel Warady. “Finding a manufacturing-friendly state was part of the process.”

Notably, Enjoy Life will retain its corporate headquarters in Chicago, which employs 50 people. Warady says a new employee is hired there every 20 days.

This echoes a troubling trend in Illinois. White-collar employment has grown steadily over the years, while blue-collar opportunities across the state disappear en masse.

Bureau of Labor Statistics data show manufacturing workers in Indiana earn better pay than their Illinois counterparts, and blue-collar job creation is much stronger in Indiana.

Policies that kill Illinois manufacturing jobs are to blame. Among them:

  • High property taxes (A Chicago Tribune analysis estimates the effective property-tax rate for a Schiller Park business to be nearly 9 percent.)
  • The highest workers’ compensation costs in the region, by far
  • Lack of a Right-to-Work law, which effectively blacklists the state with respect to new manufacturing investment
  • The Midwest’s least friendly bureaucracy for small businesses

Different manufacturers often cite various mixes of these four pain points as reasons for leaving the state.

For example, Hoist Liftruck Manufacturing Inc. is in the process of moving hundreds of well-paying manufacturing jobs from Bedford Park, Ill., to East Chicago, Ind.

CEO Marty Flaska said that without high property taxes and high costs for workers’ compensation insurance, he would not have considered moving.

Flaska also cited the fact that simple permitting processes take mere days in Indiana, as opposed to months in Illinois.

Whether one manufactures forklifts or food products, Illinois is rarely the smart place to do business. And workers are suffering for it.

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