Huffpost Chicago

Caterpillar CEO Blasts Illinois Business Climate, Quinn Once Again On Defense

Posted: Updated:
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, right, and Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman, left, discuss Illinois' business climate and taxes during a news conference Tuesday, April 5, 2011, in Peoria, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, right, and Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman, left, discuss Illinois' business climate and taxes during a news conference Tuesday, April 5, 2011, in Peoria, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn once again found himself on the defense this weekend after another Illinois CEO slammed the state's business climate.

Last week, Peoria-based Caterpillar, Inc. -- which employs 23,000 people in the state -- announced that it would build a new plant in North Carolina rather than Illinois, the Bloomington Pantagraph reports. The facility is being built to handle work being relocated from Japan, and 1,400 jobs are expected to be created.

Quinn told reporters Sunday that he had met with Caterpillar executives, and that the plant location was about geography, not politics.

"We don't have any ocean front property in Illinois, so with that particular facility we weren't in the ball game to begin with," Quinn said Sunday, according to the Associated Press. "We met with the Caterpillar people and they made it pretty clear that the logistics would drive the decision."

But a letter from Caterpillar to Illinois communities struck a different tone. Cities and towns that had hoped to have the plant built in their communities received a rejection letter of sorts from the company, which partially blamed state government for the decision.

"Please understand that even if your community had the right logistics for this project, Caterpillar's previously documented concerns about the business climate and overall fiscal health of the state of Illinois still would have made it unpractical for us to select your community for this project," said the email, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

CEO Doug Oberhelman has repeatedly said Caterpillar will not leave Illinois, but has also been vocal about his thoughts on the state's business climate. Last year, he criticized Gov. Quinn for signing off on a tax hike and said the state needed to do more to accomodate businesses.

In a Sunday op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, he repeated those wishes.

"About 10 months ago I wrote a letter to Illinois political leaders expressing my hope that the state would undertake long-term, fundamental reforms so Illinois could compete for jobs and long-term business investment that drives growth," Oberhelman wrote. "To date, we haven't seen much change."

He went on to say that lawmakers must pass a "long-term sustainable state budget that relieves pressures on taxpayers," and "dramatically lower workers' compensation costs."

Oberhelman acknowledged that his company has been very profitable, but said leaving it up to others to "sort out the challenges that Illinois faces ... wouldn't reflect the values in which Caterpillar takes pride."

Quinn told WJBC that Oberhelman's comments were "disappointing" and that Illinois has taken several steps to improve its business climate, including passing a Caterpillar-backed tax credit and worker's compensation reform.

He also said that just last week Chrysler announced that it would be adding 1,800 workers to its Belvidere, Ill. plant.

This is far from the first time Quinn has been blasted by Illinois executives. After his company received a massive tax break from the state, CBOE Holdings Inc. CEO Bill Brodsky said he was "embarrassed" to live in Illinois. CBOE, Sears and CME Group all threatened to leave Illinois unless the General Assembly approved millions of dollars in tax breaks -- which they did.

Around the Web

Quinn defends Illinois' business climate against CAT criticism ...

Quinn defends Illinois' business climate after Caterpillar CEO says ...

Caterpillar rules Illinois out of plant plans - BusinessWeek

Caterpillar: Illinois won't work for plant; Quinn plans to address some ...

Quinn defends Illinois after Caterpillar CEO blasts jobs climate

Cat CEO: Illinois should do more to grow business

Caterpillar: Illinois won't get factory