Illinois can't grow unless its small businesses grow, Gov. Bruce Rauner told owners and employees of several of the state's 1 million such businesses on a brief tour recently.
Rauner's visit was part of National Small Business Week, which took place from April 30 to May 6.
Rauner visited Custom Cup Coffee in Springfield, Computer Techniques Inc. in Taylorville, Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup in Shirley and DoMor Equipment in Eureka before concluding the tour in Jacksonville, where he stopped by ILMO Products Co.
Rauner also spoke with small-business owners in Chicago and students enrolled in the Sangamon CEO program.
“Small-business growth and success is the key to economic growth and truly balanced budgets in Illinois for the long term,” Rauner said in an interview with WMBD TV at DoMor Equipment.
Illinois' small businesses employ 2.4 million people and account for nearly half of the state’s business, at 46 percent, a press release from the governor's office said. Throughout his tour, Rauner noted that small businesses account for two out of every three new jobs in Illinois and across the country.
While thankful for the contributions of the state’s small businesses, Rauner said state policies and regulations do not create the easiest environment for them to thrive. Rauner asked about the challenges they face and several reforms he has been trying to put in place. He advocated changes to the state’s workers’ compensation systems that would lower insurance rates for small businesses and pushed for a property tax freeze. Rauner also promoted consolidation in Illinois’ local governments, which would reduce the tax burden that small businesses operate under.
“It’s essential that we remain committed to small businesses,” Rauner said, according to the release. “They take on the hard work and measured risk of business ownership, which creates jobs and opportunity in our communities. We can help our small businesses thrive by making changes to our broken system, through cutting the red tape and lowering property taxes. By helping small businesses grow, we can create a better future for Illinois.”
Rauner also released a new digital ad dedicated to “the small business owners, the entrepreneurs, the risk takers and the change agents.” In it, he highlights the innovative spirit that drives Illinois’ industries. The ad explains that Rauner, who became a billionaire while running the private equity firm GTRC, shares that spirit and ambition.
According to the narration, Rauner’s first job was cooking burgers and second was parking cars. He worked in the dining hall while pursuing his undergraduate degree and slept on a camping cot while beginning his career at a data company. Rauner then went to Harvard for his MBA and afterward joined GTRC while it was still a startup, helping to grow it to the successful business it is today.
The Illinois Republican Party noted that while Rauner took the opportunity presented by Small Business Week, the four Democratic contenders for next year’s governor race did not. J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy, Daniel Biss and Ameya Pawar did nothing to acknowledge the week, the businesses it was designed to promote or the challenges that they face in the state’s current economic environment, the ad says.