Over my four decades as a CPA, I have seen many changes in the Illinois business climate and understand the considerations a business owner must sift through as they decide their next steps.
However, even in our state's current position, I feel that there are many positives to doing business in Illinois, such as Chicago as an economic engine, a strong manufacturing core, and access to America's transportation hub.
Chicago is an economic engine
First, the biggest advantages to doing business in Illinois is the city of Chicago, the third largest city in the United States by population and gross domestic product. According to a Moody's Analytics 2017 report, Chicago will continue to drive the economy for the state.
The city does better than other states in acquiring talent, obtaining customers and access to capital. We've seen economic growth in Chicago with business and professional services.
With several world-class universities, Chicago gives companies access to talent that can help drive a business. With the considerable influence of Chicago, the state continues to be the fifth largest by GDP in the United States.
Illinois manufacturing is still strong
Manufacturing in Illinois has a strong core, but fiscal problems will need to be solved. Chicagoland's access to capital, skilled workers and transportation is a plus for manufacturers as compared with neighboring states.
Illinois is the transportation hub of America
Illinois businesses have access to the Midwest's largest transportation hub. Between O'Hare International Airport and Illinois' other 115 airports, the state sees an economic output of $40.9 billion through its air transportation per the Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Aeronautics. Couple that with rail and trucking services, and even container cargo shipping through the Mississippi River, Illinois is at the intersection of key transportation routes. With more demand from regional manufacturing and construction markets, local freight trucking is forecast to grow in Illinois.
Disadvantages in Illinois
Illinois lags other states in expenditures toward research and development. Illinois has been late to the technology economy and is playing catch-up and with the state's poor fiscal position, the business community is concerned. Taxes have been increasing at both the state and local levels and Illinois' population continues to shrink, reaching its lowest levels since 2009. Political gridlock continues in Illinois and this uncertainty causes business to hold back on its investments into infrastructure and its labor force.
How can a business owner proactively plan?
Overall, even though Illinois has a lot to figure out, our state offers benefits for business owners. Our firm has helped countless businesses plan their company's future -- including the benefits/detriments of doing business in Illinois. We assist with financial forecasting for alternatives coupled with tax planning services. In many cases, the advantages cited above outweigh the disadvantages. This holds true in the Chicagoland area, but less so in the downstate areas.
We suggest you consider the plusses of Chicago and Illinois despite the sometimes-overheated rhetoric and in many cases, you will find, although not ideal, Illinois has much to offer as long as you have a plan in place.
• Tom Jordan is a principal with accounting firm DHJJ in Naperville.