Governor Pat Quinn announced today that OnLight Aurora is a recipient of an Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge Grant award, a statewide competition to establish ultra-high speed broadband networks across Illinois. The state is awarding $1 million in Illinois Jobs Now! capital funding to OnLight Aurora to help connect the city of Aurora’s fiber optic network to its education, business, and healthcare communities and accelerate economic growth and job creation.
“Smart communities will foster the job engines of the future,” Governor Quinn said. “To win in the information economy, we need information infrastructure that is second to none. Through the Gigabit Communities Challenge, Illinois will build stronger, smarter communities with Internet connections more than 100 times faster than they are today.”
OnLight Aurora is an independent, not-for-profit organization that was formed out of a technology task force organized by Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner in 2011 that included volunteers from Aurora’s business community and city officials. The mission of OnLight Aurora is to leverage the world class connectivity of Aurora’s Fiber Optic Network for non-municipal use. The $1 million award from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will help provide connectivity to Aurora’s public and private K-12 schools; higher education and healthcare institutions; commercial corridors and community anchors in underserved areas; and major non-profit organizations across the city.
“This grant will help OnLight Aurora continue to close the digital divide within our city by capitalizing on our Fiber Optic Network,” said Mayor Weisner. “We know that technology has the potential to revolutionize our educational system and it is an absolute must for successful companies of all sizes. By developing the infrastructure of the future, we drive economic development, strengthen our tax base, and address our community’s most fundamental needs: jobs, quality of life, and global competitiveness.”
“One of the major factors in companies locating to a city is the access to technology,” said Joseph Henning, President and CEO of the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce. “This grant will make it more cost effective to provide current businesses and those looking to make Aurora home, with the technology they need to succeed in today’s global business environment while creating thousands of jobs over the next five years.”
OnLight Aurora Board Member and software business owner Mark McCoy added, “It has always been OnLight Aurora’s goal to provide internet access to the many organizations that make Aurora a great city for families and businesses. This grant will help move Aurora into the future and assure success for our schools, hospitals, business community and non-profits.”
WASHINGTON–North Dakota, Utah and Texas will likely be leaders in the next decade when it comes to growth and job creation, according to a report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released ahead of the group’s jobs summit on Wednesday.
Rounding out the top 10 “future boom states” are Virginia, Wyoming, Washington, Maryland, Colorado, South Dakota and Massachusetts, according to the Chamber’s report on enterprising states.
“Businesses need a highly skilled workforce — including many workers with certificate or two-year degrees — that is able to perform the jobs of a 21st century economy,” according to the report. “States that are able to get students involved in…science, technology, engineering, and math – and provide the tools, support, and tax and regulatory environment for companies to continuously innovate will be the most competitive.”
For full story, visit their website.
March 12, 2012
After winning rare bipartisan approval in the House of Representatives, a package of bills aimed at kick-starting the market for initial public offerings and other financing options for start-up companies may reach a Senate vote in a week.
The Jumpstart Our Business Start-ups bill, or JOBS Act, would help young companies by exempting smaller businesses from some regulations imposed after the tech stock bust of 2000, said Kate Mitchell, chairwoman of the IPO Task Force, a group organized by the National Venture Capital Association. Former venture-backed start-ups account for 12 million U.S. private-sector jobs, according to an NVCA-commissioned study.
The measure won a 390-23 vote in the House on Thursday and has White House backing.
Venture capital lobbyists plan to deliver a letter today with 700 signatures to Senate leaders urging a quick vote, NVCA spokeswoman Emily Mendell said.
“I see this as a confluence of smart regulatory reform and a jobs agenda,” said Mitchell, a partner at Scale Venture Partners in Silicon Valley.
She said the companies need access to IPOs and other capital to grow quickly and create jobs.
The association has argued that IPOs have fallen 80% since the 1990s. It largely blames the cost of complying with the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley securities law, which it says can cost a company $1.5 million a year, and restrictions on when investment banks can publish research reports on IPO clients after a public offering. Loosening those restrictions would increase information available to investors, the association says.
The bill would allow companies with less than $1 billion in annual sales, or that are selling less than $700 million of stock, to give investors two years of audited financial results before they go public instead of three, and have lighter regulation for up to five years after the IPO.
It would also let investment banks publish research about their clients’ IPOs deals before they happen, which is now barred under the so-called “quiet period” rules to avoid market manipulation.
Other provisions would raise from $5 million to $50 million the ceiling for shares that a private company can sell as part of a public offering before having to register with the SEC, raise the SEC registration threshold from 500 to 1,000 shareholders, and increase the number of shareholders permitted to invest in a community bank from 500 to 2,000.
The bill would help businesses about the size of Demandware, a maker of Web commerce software used by clients such as Panasonic and Callaway Golf, which is scheduled to go public this week; and Chuy’s Holdings, a Texas-based chain of 31 Mexican restaurants that is in pre-IPO registration.
Chuy’s CEO Steve Hislop said he hasn’t yet determined if the proposed rules will affect anything about his company’s deal.
The bill sparked some backlash from groups representing consumers and small investors, who said it would boost chances of immature companies going public, and also of fraud by investment bankers.
Kathleen Smith, head of an IPO-focused mutual find company and research firm, said Congress wants to be seen as supporting anything intended to create jobs.
“If it’s a job-creating headline, the politicians will all agree we need jobs,” said Smith, a principal at Renaissance Capital, which runs the IPO Plus Aftermarket mutual fund.
Banks that manage IPOs will be able to use inside access to past financial results to dominate research on new companies, with incentives to promote their firms’ banking clients, she said.
Instead of being narrowly tailored to help small business, the bill will loosen rules, some decades-old, for larger companies that did 98% of all recent IPOs, she said.
“But we’re better independent analysts when we have three years of financials, because we know more.”
Courtesy of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce
As the General Assembly returns to Springfield to begin the second year of the 97th session and candidates for legislative office look toward voter approval in the March 20th primary, it is appropriate that we reflect upon the big picture issues that continue to demand the attention of our state’s political leadership.
Last year at this time the Illinois Chamber published “Jobs Agenda: A Blueprint For Growth & Prosperity.” I’m pleased to report some progress was achieved, as the legislature adopted a few measures that emerged from the recommendations. However, the overriding themes have not changed as we preview “Jobs Agenda II.” More must be accomplished if our state is to accelerate economic growth, significantly improve employment opportunity and raise Illinois’ standing in the eyes of the nation relative to other states.
All business owners, managers and chamber members who encounter a candidate for legislative office over the next two months should attempt to keep their incumbent legislator or the would-be legislator focused on the following talking points:
Commit to Making State Fiscal Responsibility a Reality. Governor Quinn and the legislators continue to adopt budgets that fail to meet the Illinois Constitution’s mandate for a balanced budget where expenditures do not exceed revenues. According to research compiled by the Institute for Truth in Accounting, Illinois is in the 48th worst financial position of the 50 states.
The goals should be obvious: meet outstanding bond payments, satisfy the full pension payment obligations due each year, get current on all accounts payable, pay future vendors and tax refunds within 90 days and do not obligate expenditures that exceed available revenue. State budget makers must get on a spending trajectory that will reach these goals.
The remedies are harder:
1. Public employee pension liabilities and health care commitments of more than $100 billion are the single greatest obligation. As has already been done in the private sector, these benefit programs are unsustainable and must be restructured. Current and former public employees must assume more responsibility for their health care costs.
2. The largest budget item is Medicaid benefits. The state has over-promised services it cannot afford and has underpaid health care providers for services delivered. The Medicaid program must be restructured to control costs, reduce the number of eligible recipients and adjust payments to more closely meet cost of care.
3. The high cost of corrections is directly related to the number of incarcerations. To reduce the inmate population the state must revisit sentencing, drug policies, education and employment.
The chief fix to improving the state’s fiscal condition is an expanding economy. The state’s focus must be on public policies that encourage private sector job growth. Illinois needs to pursue an agenda that will help the private sector generate 500,000 more jobs in our state. A half million new jobs would bring the number of people employed in Illinois back to where it was a decade ago. Jobs are a magnet for population growth. Population growth accelerates spending. Spending equals tax generation.
Our elected officials need to understand that they cannot tax our citizens and businesses back to prosperity. The state’s elected leaders need private sector confidence and investment to do that for us.
Attack the high costs of doing business associated with taxation, workers’ compensation, litigation and regulation. Governor Quinn and the legislators should begin by following the lead of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle who is rolling back the excessive county sales tax rate and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel who is rolling back the city’s employee head tax. Or mimic Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who has successfully imposed a hard cap on real estate taxes and is pursuing a program to step down the corporate income tax rate.
Raising the state’s corporate income tax rate a year ago to impose the fourth highest rate in the country is a poison pill that must be diluted before it does more damage. Our state’s leaders need to start rolling the rate back immediately and make sure to target a new rate that is not just competitive, but attractive.
Legislators must revisit the workers’ compensation statute. There was progress in 2011, but the results are not going to show sufficient savings to move Illinois from the top of the list of most expensive states when workers’ compensation costs are measured. In order to change the state’s standing there must be a clear and dramatic departure from past practice. The private sector employer community must keep legislators focused on the need to change the definition for determining work-related injuries. Legislators should be reminded that since public agencies – including the state – are major employers, reducing workers’ compensation expenses can help them with government budget problems.
Outsiders continue to view Illinois as a “judicial hellhole” that attracts litigation because a lax standard for venue means that companies from all over the world find themselves appearing in Illinois Circuit Court. For example, Madison County has become the venue of choice for asbestos cases and has a docket that exceeds the number of cases filed in any other jurisdiction in the country. Another legal reform that could improve Illinois’ image in the eyes of employers would be to raise the level of responsibility that any business must have in order to be held liable for 100 percent of a damage award. The employers’ exposure to liability in Illinois is clearly an aberration to what is common across the nation.
Keep focused on guaranteeing employers access to a high-quality workforce. Despite unacceptably high unemployment statistics, employers across the state lament the lack of qualified workers to fulfill their job needs. This disconnect is pronounced and must be addressed. If public officials and educators can partner with employers to satisfy this fundamental need, the state will be on the road to prosperity.
Illinois’ standing as a leading industrial state and headquarters for multi-national corporations, and Chicago’s status as a world class metropolitan area, are synonymous with the emergence of a truly global economy. Globalization of the state’s economy has made it obvious that Illinois’ approach to education must change.
The foundation is obviously making sure there are better educational outcomes for the state’s public schools. To successfully compete on a global scale and gain distinction for quality outcomes, it is apparent Illinois must commit to a longer school day and school year, embrace early childhood education, and impose higher learning standards.
Educators and employers must simultaneously assault and reverse the trend in high school dropout rates and put more emphasis on career academies and technical training opportunities. The key to a prosperous economy is having every able-bodied citizen adequately prepared and gainfully employed. Employers cannot afford to be complacent or disengaged from the state’s education community. Instead, employers must work with educators to implement programs that align employer needs for workplace skills with the K-12 curriculum, as well as institutions for higher education.
A state that values human capital and promotes educational systems that yield quality outcomes for a higher percentage of youth not only stimulates private sector growth and prosperity for its citizens, but also puts less pressure on major state budget expenses like health care, unemployment, and law enforcement.
Recognize that economic development and job growth does not occur without favorable public policies. Every public official must commit to making private sector job growth the No. 1 priority for our state. Most often the attention on government’s role in helping the private sector has to do with taking steps to eliminate barriers and regulations imposed by governments, promoting greater efficiency and responsiveness in agencies, and trying to modernize systems. It is necessary to continue giving attention to government operations and interface with employers.
However, there are also government expenditures that are advantageous to stimulating job growth. Continued investment in transportation and infrastructure is a fundamental public sector obligation that is critical to the state’s economy. The state and local economies also benefit from expenditures for convention and tourism promotion.
It is encouraging that Governor Quinn has recognized the importance of international trade to Illinois’ economy and has recently announced plans for trade missions. International trade is already a major contributor to the state gross product and is fertile ground for opportunity and future job growth. Our public officials need to embrace international trade opportunities by putting more emphasis on trade missions and interaction with foreign consulates, increasing the state’s presence at trade fairs – including those held on other continents – and by putting an increased focus on business matchmaking and partnerships with multi-national corporations that are investing or seeking business in Illinois.
The time for attention and action is now. Business and civic leaders across the state must appreciate that the political discourse of 2012 is an important moment for setting our state on a new path toward a more prosperous future. Between now and the November election there is time to help nurture the thoughts and actions of the candidates for public office toward embracing the elements of a proactive jobs agenda for their success and for a better Illinois.
Surprise! 2011 Ended With Unexpected Economic Bang
David Mielach, BusinessNewsDaily Staff Writer
While Americans were getting ready for the holiday season, the United States Chamber of Commerce delivered what might have been the most coveted gift of all: a report that claims that 2011 was ending on an economic high note. In fact, many analysts say the economy may have grown by as much as 3 percent from October to December, which the chamber said would represent the largest growth since spring of 2010.
Part of this sudden economic boom came from record holiday sales. According to a recent survey by digital tracker comScore, online sales hit $36.3 billion during the first 56 days of November and December, a 15 percent increase from the same period a year earlier. And just 10 days before Christmas, the National Retail Federation revised its projection of holiday sales to $469.1 billion, up from its own October estimates of $465.6 billion.
Strong holiday sales were not the only factor, however, in 2011′s strong finish. While holiday shopping reached an all-time high in 2011, the Chamber of Commerce says many other economic indicators ended the year unexpectedly healthy.
For the full article, visit the US Chamber here.
The Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce a new membership benefit that will help your business or organization save money on the everyday purchases to run your business.
Through a partnership between the Aurora Chamber and Office Depot, Chamber Members can save anywhere from 15 to 30 percent on copy paper, ink, toner and general supplies. You also will receive deeper discounts on their most-purchased items.
Chamber Members will receive a straight 5 percent discount on almost everything Office Depot sells.
This program is completely free for Chamber Members to enroll. You can click here to begin the process or contact Anthony Falbo, program manager, at (815) 474-4086 with any questions.
“In this economic climate, every dollar counts and we are pleased to provide this benefit of bulk purchasing to our Members,” explains Joseph Henning, president & CEO of the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce. “If you choose to enroll and use this membership benefit, your business will save on the products your organization wants and needs.”
Office Depot values its relationships with the small-business community and chambers of commerce and has a long history of collaborating to provide industry-leading rewards programs.
“We foster mutually beneficial working relationships with many businesses in Illinois,” said Steve Calkins, senior vice president of North America Business Solutions Division for Office Depot. “This is another opportunity for us to showcase our high-quality office products and services in a very cost-effective manner.”
For more information, contact:
Anthony Falbo, program manager, at (815) 474-4086 or the Aurora Chamber at (630) 256-3180.
The Illinois Tollway has developed and is asking for public comment on a comprehensive 15-year capital plan. The plan includes projects which complete the rebuilding of the 52-year-old system and commits nearly $12 billion in transportation funding to improve mobility, relieve congestion, reduce pollution and link economies across Northern Illinois. Work on these capital improvement projects will begin in 2012.
The Tollway has spent the last year getting its fiscal house in order, according to the Tollway’s capital plan highlights, making sure its operations are honest and efficient, and reviewing how to improve its customers’ experience, while contributing to the economic growth of our state and region.
One of Illinois’ greatest assets is its central location and strong transportation system. While the Tollway has focused on maintaining its current system, numerous communities throughout the region are advocating for new transportation projects with increasing urgency. Illinois residents, business owners, planners, elected officials and others understand that new roads can improve quality of life by saving people time and money, creating jobs and stimulating local economies.
While the demand for improved transportation is increasing, both federal and state dollars available for transportation are shrinking. The Tollway receives no state or federal tax dollars for maintenance and operations. Toll revenues pay for debt service, operation costs and all construction and maintenance of the system. The system is funded entirely by user fees and only those who use our system pay for it.
The goals of the Illinois Tollway’s 2005 capital program were to rebuild much of the existing system, build the I-355 south extension and implement open road tolling to ease congestion. That work is now 85 percent complete – with nearly $5 billion in improvements delivered on time and on budget. The last capital program was financed in part with a toll increase for cash-paying and commercial customers only. Seventy-five percent of the Tollway’s customers have not had a toll increase since 1983 – 28 years ago. As a result, the Tollway has the second lowest per-mile rate of any toll road in the nation.
The Tollway’s proposed 2012-2026 capital plan includes rebuilding the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) as a 21st century, state-of-the-art corridor linking Rockford to O’Hare Airport, a new interchange to connect I-294 to I-57 – one of only two places in the nation where interstates cross but do not connect – and a new all-electronic Elgin O’Hare West Bypass that can provide western access to one of the nation’s busiest airports. In addition, the plan addresses the Tollway’s existing system needs and includes funding for planning studies for the Illinois Route 53 Corridor and the Illiana Expressway.
This capital plan will create more than 120,000 permanent jobs and add $21 billion to the economy. For every $1 billion of annual construction, more than 13,000 construction-related jobs will be created. And, this capital plan sustains those jobs over the next decade.
Congestion costs the Chicago area between $4 billion and $7 billion annually. The Tollway’s new capital plan will ensure that the Chicago area remains competitive with other major cities in the U.S. and around the world. Without an innovative, multi-modal transportation system capable of handling increased travel demand, our regional economy will suffer.
The plan includes a proposed toll rate increase of 35 cents at a typical toll plaza. With this proposed toll increase, our customers will get a fully rebuilt, state-of-the-art system that will provide better travel conditions, relieve congestion and accommodate the needs of the traveling public well into the 21st century.
Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) Reconstruction
o Will save drivers 25 minutes traveling between Elgin and the Kennedy Expressway
o Will accommodate up to 30,000 more vehicles per day
o Will save drivers $440 million annually in fuel and productivity costs
Tri-State Tollway (I-294)/I-57 Interchange
o Will accommodate 76,000 vehicles per day
o Will save drivers $4 million annually in fuel consumption
o Tri-State Tollway commuters using I-80 to I-57 will save 25 hours per year
Elgin O’Hare West Bypass
o Reduce traffic volume on local roads by 17 percent during rush hour – about 10 minutes per one hour trip
o Will accommodate three times as many vehicles per day as local roads carry now
o Will save drivers 13 minutes on a five-mile trip from I-290 to York Road
A series of public hearings have been schedule for the area and include:
Thursday, August 18
Kane County: Government Center, 719 S. Batavia Ave., Bldg A, Geneva, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
DuPage County: Government Center, 421 N. County Farm Rd., Wheaton, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Will County: Village of New Lenox, 1 Veterans Parkway, New Lenox, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Friday, August 19:
DeKalb County: NIU Convocation Center, 1525 W. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
What are your thoughts on the proposal?
***Update: Monday, August 22***
The Tollway has added another opportunity tomorrow for Kane County businesses and residents to speak on the proposed plan.
Tuesday, August 23
7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Montgomery Village Hall
200 N. River Road
The Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce is partnering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to encourage and support passage of the Korea Free Trade Agreement. According to the U.S.-Korea agreement can create more than 280,000 American jobs.
We don’t have to go on about the need for creating more jobs with the current situation concerning America’s unemployment rate. Recent paltry reports have done that for us.
The good news is that there are a number of steps our policymakers in Washington can take right now to help American businesses get on track and start hiring again. One of those steps is swift passage of three pending free trade agreements: Korea, Panama and Colombia. It has been estimated that failure to pass these agreements could cost another 380,000 American jobs.
As U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue said earlier this week at the Chamber’s Jobs Summit, “We’ve waited for years to get these free trade agreements done. If we don’t do that, it’s criminal.”
This week, the Chamber launched a campaign to send 20,000 letters on the U.S. Korea free trade agreement in the next 20 days. With your help, we can send a message to Congree that they can’t ignore: action is needed now.
The U.S.-Korea trade deal has languished for four years, while our competitors have raced to pass their own agreements — leaving American companies and competitiveness behind.
A report published in 2009 showed that failure to implement the U.S.-Korea trade agreement would lead to a $35 million decline in exports of U.S. goods and services to the world.
Fewer exports mean lost jobs in America. Right now, that’s the last thing we need.
E-mail your members of Congress now and join the campaign to send 20,000 letters in the next 20 days before August recess. Click here to take action. In less than five minutes, you can send your support to Washington.
America needs more jobs. This free trade agreement is one major step toward creating them.
Thursday, March 18, at 11:30 a.m.
Piper’s Banquets, 1295 Butterfield Road, Aurora
The Honorable Thomas J. Weisner, Mayor, City of Aurora, will present his state of the city to business members and the community. Topics of interest to our business community would include budgets, taxes, economic development and quality of life improvements. Join us to get Mayor Weisner’s perspective. Member downtown businesses will be on hand to showcase downtown Aurora’s recent developments.
Presented in collaboration with Aurora Economic Development Commission and Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
Sponsored in part by
Lunch registrations are $25 (members) before March 11 and $35 after; non-members are $40 for the event.