Printing company foresees robot in Indiana benefitting from Illinois $15 minimum wage

Printing company foresees robot in Indiana benefitting from Illinois $15 minimum wage

The owner of a growing book printing company faces a greater threat from out-of-state competitors thanks to lawmakers in his home state. Calls for a $15 minimum wage and progressive tax could hurt his workers and business in southern Illinois.

Rick Lindemann started working for Total Printing Systems as a child, but now owns the book printing company and has grown it after buying out his parents in 2016.

Since becoming the owner, he added 10 employees, bringing the total to 57 at two locations in Newton, Illinois. He grew wages from $8.75 to about $11 an hour.

Now, politicians who think they know business and the market better than he does want to impose a $15 minimum wage. State lawmakers passed the minimum wage bill on Feb. 14 and it awaits Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature.

“The whole idea is an arbitrary standard and not letting the market dictate. It doesn’t do any good for anyone,” Lindemann said. “There will be a brief spike in wages, then no raises forever.”

Lindemann is 42 and prints books, from mass runs to single copies on demand from digital platforms. Newton is a village of fewer than 3,000, south of Interstate 70 about midway between St. Louis and Indianapolis.

“The biggest negative is competition for business against companies in other states. Indiana paying $9 to $10 an hour is more competitive than I can be paying $15. It’s not an even playing field. You’re definitely not going to draw anyone new to the state as long as costs are higher in Illinois.”

He also mistrusts calls for a progressive state income tax.

“It’s too gray more than anything,” Lindemann said. “It’s a disincentive to work for higher wages and seems they’ve been much less transparent throughout this process about what you’d pay in certain brackets.”

He said mandates by Illinois leaders are causing retailers to fast-forward automation and self-ordering. They are hurting the low-wage workers they claim to be helping.

“Retailers need to cut the head count in order to sell their product at a reasonable rate. The same applies to manufacturing. It makes robotics much more cost-effective if people cost more,” Lindemann said.

Plus, he said the automation costs are dropping.

“Two things are converging at this point: Robots are more affordable. People are less affordable.”

He said state leaders are effectively running his business and others out of Illinois. The economy and business opportunities are better out of the state, which also sends workers packing, making it harder for him to find good people to hire in Illinois.

“It would be easier to move the company out of state than I would have thought two or three years ago.”

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