By Mark S. Peterson, President & CEO, Intersect Illinois
As many site selectors and consultants know, one of the most important factors when deciding on a location is talent. Fortunately, along with an unrivaled experience in numerous target industry clusters, its unparalleled infrastructure network, a superior quality of life, and the strong public support and partnerships, the state of Illinois also known for its exceptional talent and innovation. When combined, the choice becomes clear – Illinois is where business meets its next opportunity.
When I came to Illinois to begin my position as President and CEO of Intersect Illinois, the economic development organization whose purpose is to position the state of Illinois as one of the most innovative locations in the world, to attract new investment, jobs and economic prosperity, I made it a personal mission to familiarize myself with the state’s assets and attributes. One of the factors that stood out is the talent and depth of the Illinois workforce.
Illinois has over 6.6 million people in the workforce who are ready to put their minds to work. This is a highly-educated workforce, with over 39.4 percent of adults over the age of 25 holding an Associate’s degree or higher. Many of them have also benefited from the over 200 higher education institutions statewide (three of which are in the Top 30 universities in the country) and over 80 nationally-ranked public high schools. The University of Illinois graduates more engineers each year than MIT, Stanford and Cal Tech combined and Illinois has two of the Top 10 MBA programs in the world (University of Chicago and Northwestern). Illinois is also the 2nd largest producer of computer science degrees nationally, awarding nearly 10 percent of the nation’s computer science degrees. These STEM degree graduates represented 31.8 percent of Illinois’ graduates and outpaces the national average of about 28 percent.
This dedicated workforce has a wealth of opportunity in the state. As a headquarters hub and economic powerhouse, Illinois is home to the headquarters of 37 Fortune 500 and 14 global 500 companies, 241 companies on the Inc. 5000 list, and 29 S&P 500 companies. Illinois has the largest business services sector in the Midwest, over 40 percent greater than the next state. There are over 50,000 establishments dedicated to business and professional services, including well over 100 companies employing more than 500 people. A little under 1.5 million of the workforce is focused on management, sales and business support. Many businesses have partnered with some of the higher education institutions to create skills-training programs. These courses, such as those offered at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Research Park, Argonne National Lab, Illinois Science and Tech Park and America’s Urban Campus, allow for a direct pipeline into a company or industry, and ensure a trained and ready workforce available to companies. The state is a leader in numerous industry sectors, including advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, IT, agriculture and food processing, and technology. Additionally, Illinois has become a start-up mecca, with 45 percent of Chicago start-ups returning ten times their investments. This rate beats cities such as San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. Chicago itself was also recently named the No. 1 metro for new and expanding companies.
Illinois is a magnet for the country’s brightest minds. Due to its central location and the wealth of natural resources, the state is an obvious choice for people in the Midwest who are looking for either a bustling city center or a smaller town environment. But, this location also attracts businesses and people who are thinking on a larger, national or international scale. Illinois’ placement makes it an ideal location for those looking to connect their business overseas and across the United States. With it triple-hub airport system, Illinois lays within a four-hour flight to all major North American destinations. Illinois has the third-largest interstate highway system in the United States, with its truck transportation industry ranking third in the U.S. with $6.9 billion in economic output. Its 146K miles of highway allow truck access to over 70 percent of eastern U.S. locations in 13 hours or less, with over 75 percent of the U.S. population lying within two-day ground delivery. The state’s world-class infrastructure is able to get products and goods out of the state and into the hands of consumers fast. Combined with the fact that Illinois is the only state with all seven Class 1 Freight railroads and has two major inland ports and 14 waterway ports with access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, a business can stay local while also thinking global.
Illinois is full of people willing and wanting to work and grow. When its talent is combined with an infrastructure system that is rated in the top of the country every year, it is clear why Illinois is rated the No. 2 state for business creation by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The choice is clear – your next business opportunity waits in Illinois.
Bio: Mark S. Peterson has an outstanding background in economic development, financial administration, and high-value fund raising. Prior to accepting the role of President & CEO, Intersect Illinois, Mark served as President and CEO of the Greater Rochester Enterprise for nine years. Now, Mark is strongly committed to promoting Illinois, attracting quality businesses, and changing lives through job creation.
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