Illinois third-worst state to do business in since Great Recession

It’s been a decade since the financial crisis. Since then, Illinois has garnered a name for itself as one of the worst locations to do business in the country among American CEOs.

Development Counsellors International asks hundreds of corporate executives every three years what they think of each of the 50 states. The three surveys since 2008 have seen Illinois’ standing fall to nearly the bottom of their rankings in places they would choose to expand their business.

DCI President Andy Levine says the state was once much better regarded but no more. Illinois had only shown up once among the worst states before the recession. In the three reports since – 2011, 2014, and 2017 – the state placed firmly in third. 

At most, 34 percent of the executives asked said Illinois was worse than California and New York. The two coastal states have traded first and second place for two decades, largely due to their high costs of living and tax burdens. In 2011, nearly a quarter of those asked thought Illinois was the worst state in the country to do business. The next two surveys saw 34 and 20 percent of CEOs of the same opinion. 

DCI President Andy Levine said the last three surveys show executives’ opinions of Illinois have soured.

“Perceptions of Illinois have gone down rapidly in the last 10 years,” he said. “Twenty-nine percent rank Illinois the worst state, only better than California and New York.”

Levine said a unique problem that harmed Illinois’ standing with job creators was political dysfunction.

“Perceptions of Illinois’ public sector is completely in the toilet right now,” he said. “And the negative perceptions of the public sector are very strong.”

Illinois’ politicians haven’t helped to ingratiate themselves with these executives in recent years. Corporate and personal income tax hikes in 2011, billions of dollars of overspending in the years lawmakers failed to pass a budget, and the continuing pattern of unbalanced budgets that have been decades in the making all give credence to their opinions of the state’s public sector dysfunction. In that time, little to no pro-growth reforms have become law, which was a central tenet of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign. 

Respondents to the most recent survey reacted positively to the creation of Intersect Illinois, a state-affiliated group helping to negotiate business incentives with the state. The state’s workforce, Levine said, is still highly regarded amongst the C-suite, just not enough to get past their opinions of the public sector.


Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for Illinois News Network and He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.



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