Columns | Northwest Herald

Rep. Chris Miller: Illinois must heed business community’s warnings

In 2011, Doug Oberhelman, then-CEO of Caterpillar, penned a letter to then-Gov. Pat Quinn warning that the business policies in Illinois eventually would force companies like his to leave Illinois.

“In short, when Caterpillar and most other companies look to locate a new factory in the United States, Illinois is not in the running for such projects. It doesn’t have to be that way. ... I want to stay here. But as the leader of this business, I have to do what’s right for Caterpillar when making decisions about where to invest,” Oberhelman wrote.

We know the rest of the story. Those warnings were ignored, and this year, Caterpillar announced the company is moving to Texas. More companies, including Tyson, Citadel, Boeing, FTX and Highland Ventures, have announced they are leaving Illinois, as well.

It is simple. Bad policies lead to bad outcomes. For instance, our governor locked down the economy during the pandemic. We lost countless small businesses because of his actions. It is going to take a long time to recover from his poor decision to shut down small businesses, as about 14% of the jobs lost due to the lockdowns have yet to return.

Our state continues to shrink in population. We have lost population the past eight years in a row. Illinois lost 113,776 people between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, according to U.S. census data. For perspective, that is the equivalent of losing the entire population of the city of Springfield in the span of one year. Consider that no other state in the Midwest lost more than 17,000 people in the same time period.

We are losing businesses. We are losing people. What are our leaders doing about it?

The answer is, not a thing. They won’t even entertain the question.

The Democrats and various members of the media love to brand my downstate colleagues and I as “extremists,” but the truth is we ran for office because the current leadership in our state couldn’t run a lemonade stand, let alone a state the size of Illinois. We pay some of the highest taxes in the nation, and all we have to show for it is bad roads, failing schools, crumbling state parks and incompetently run state agencies. Don’t forget all of the Democratic state senators and state representatives who are being charged with bribery – yes, bribery – the kind we learned about in grade school.

Our taxes are too high. The state’s energy policies are making utilities too high. We have too many business regulations, and we have some of the highest workers’ compensation costs in the nation. We will continue to be unable to compete with surrounding states as long as we keep ignoring the concerns of the business community. We can fix this. We just need the political will to get it done.

Illinois is located in the center of the country. There is no reason for Illinois to be losing companies. Bad leadership has created a hostile business environment, which the business community has warned us about for years. If we want to become a destination for jobs and opportunities, then we must heed the warnings of job creators and enact better policies. Doing the same thing we have always done will only produce the same failed results and more headlines about businesses leaving.

It is time for Democrats and Republicans to work together to bring jobs and opportunities back to Illinois, and it can’t happen fast enough.

State Rep. Chris Miller, R-Robinson, represents the 110th District. He can be reached at