Skipping over Illinois, Toyota-Mazda plant heading to Alabama

Skipping over Illinois, Toyota-Mazda plant heading to Alabama

The $1.6 billion assembly plant will create an estimated 4,000 jobs for Alabama residents by 2021.

The Toyota-Mazda plant Illinois missed out on is going to Alabama, according to Alabama news website

The $1.6 billion assembly plant will create an estimated 4,000 jobs in the Huntsville, Alabama, area. It is estimated the plant will be up and running by 2021, and workers there will produce more than 300,000 vehicles annually, according to

Illinoisans found out about the lost opportunity in October, when it was announced that the Land of Lincoln was officially out of the running for the plant, despite efforts by state leaders and from communities within Illinois such as DeKalb and Rochelle. Following the news, an Illinois economic development official indicated that Illinois had lost out on the Toyota-Mazda plant due to Illinois’ lack of a right-to-work law and “shovel-ready sites.”

Sources told the deal was already finalized but hadn’t been officially announced, and that the choice about where to build the plant had been whittled down to North Carolina and Alabama. Both North Carolina and Alabama are right-to-work states.

Though Illinois did make Toyota and Mazda’s list of top 11 candidates, industry observers speculated that the site would likely go to a Southeastern, right-to-work state.

That Illinois made it on the short list was no small feat, as every other state on the list was right-to-work.

This is not the first time the Prairie State has been passed over for investment because of its lack of a right-to-work law. Jim Schultz, the former director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, told Crain’s Chicago Business in 2015 that more than 1,100 companies blacklist Illinois because it doesn’t have such a law.

Two-thirds of global chief financial officers surveyed by CNBC in 2015 said a right-to-work law is either “important” or “very important” when deciding where to grow their businesses.

Over half of all states have adopted right to work, including all of Illinois’ neighbors. (Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signed a statewide right-to-work law in 2017, but the Show Me State’s right-to-work statute is currently on hold for private sector workers pending a voter referendum.)

The lack of right to work, combined with Illinois’ high workers’ compensation costs and hefty tax burden, makes the state uncompetitive in attracting manufacturing jobs.

But rather than addressing these issues, Illinois lawmakers have actively tried to make a bad situation even worse, including an attempt in 2017 to pass Senate Bill 1905, which would have cracked down on local governments and local officials considering right to work.

Right-to-work zones could help attract companies to communities that would otherwise be overlooked along with the rest of Illinois due to the lack of a statewide right-to-work law. These zones would allow local governments the chance to make their communities more competitive with towns in Illinois’ neighboring states and other right-to-work states.

But SB 1905 would’ve prohibited local governments from passing right-to-work ordinances and would’ve even held local leaders criminally liable for trying to enact them.

The bill took aim at communities such as the village of Lincolnshire, which enacted a right-to-work ordinance in 2015.

SB 1905 passed both the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives, but was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in September 2017. Lawmakers later attempted to override the governor’s veto twice, but each time came up one vote shy of the 71 needed.

Without changes in state policy, Illinois will continue to be at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting manufacturing jobs.

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