Seal-Rite Door exits Rockford for Wisconsin
Seal-Rite’s doors are hardly the first to close in Illinois and reopen in the Badger State.
Seal-Rite Door Inc. announced plans to shutter its Rockford facility and add 80 jobs to its Beloit, Wisconsin, site just 18 miles away.
Those jobs will come as part of a $16-million expansion of the company’s Wisconsin Stateline Industrial Park. Seal-Rite Door, a custom door fabricator and distributor, has been based in Rockford for 15 years. Rockford employees will have the option of moving with the company.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. will welcome the manufacturer with up to $250,000 in tax credits during the next three years, according to the Associated Press.
While awarding tax breaks to select companies is not a productive way to stimulate economic growth, Illinois leaders should take to heart the ease with which neighboring states can persuade companies to leave the Prairie State.
Seal-Rite’s doors are hardly the first to close in Illinois and reopen in Wisconsin. In 2016 alone, Colbert Packaging Corp., Vonco Products LLC, Prestige Metal Products Inc. and Haribo all either moved to or expanded operations in Wisconsin.
The driving factors behind businesses’ decision to flee the Land of Lincoln isn’t lost on Rockford city leaders. “We retain companies every week and we are fighting against a whole host of factors from lower wage costs in Wisconsin to lower tax rates in Wisconsin,” Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara told WKOW-TV.
McNamara’s concerns echo those of many other Illinois cities. Statewide, property taxes in Illinois are among the highest in the nation. And the state’s hostile business climate raises red flags in the eyes of prospective employers, large and small.
But it isn’t just businesses fleeing Illinois’ heavy tax burden: Rockford is among Illinois’ fastest-shrinking cities. Years of population loss in Rockford caused it to fall from Illinois’ third-largest city to No. 5 behind Naperville, Joliet, Aurora and Chicago. Rockford has seen the most severe population losses in the state since 2010, losing more than 6,100 people, or 4 percent of its population.
Rockford is losing business, losing population and faces massive pension debt that is pushing the city toward slashing public services and raising its already-high tax burden. Those service cuts and tax hikes risk further driving residents and businesses out of Rockford.
Without serious reform from the Statehouse, businesses will continue to resettle in more temperate tax climates, and Illinoisans seeking opportunity will follow suit. When the Illinois General Assembly reconvenes in 2019, fixing the Illinois Constitution’s pension clause and curbing lawmakers’ excessive spending should be top priorities.