Illinois company relocating to Wisconsin

March 17, 2011 2:54:06 PM PDT
A border war has broken out as an Illinois company decides to take its business to Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker made the announcement Thursday morning.

It seems Wisconsin is aggressively trolling for new businesses and new jobs. A cold call from Wisconsin's lieutenant governor started a dialogue. And, from a business perspective, the company's owner says it was an offer too good to pass up.

Catalyst Exhibits in Crystal Lake is a global exhibit business. They've expanded three times and now they're taking their booming business across state lines to Wisconsin.

"I don't want to feel like we're abandoning the state," said Tim Roberts, Catalyst Exhibits. "We need to protect ourselves and position ourselves for success."

Thursday morning, Wisconsin's governor held a press conference announcing the company's move to Pleasant Prairie.

"We are really as place that is open for business," said Gov. Walker. "Contrast that to Illinois, where they're not only raising taxes, but where they've got a pension system that's less than half-funded. We've got a fully funded pension system. We've got long-term stability."

In Wisconsin, Catalyst Exhibits is getting a grant, a low-interest loan and the landlord is giving them a better deal, including six months' rent free.

With the financial perks in Wisconsin, the company plans to take its more than 80 employees and add 20 more over the next three years.

"The 80 people that work for Catalyst Exhibits who are coming from Crystal Lake up to Pleasant Prairie are new jobs for us in the State of Wisconsin," said Gov. Walker. "But the other part of this about why it's so important is that Catalyst Exhibits are growing. They are catalysts for growth."

"I need to go to a place that is trending in the right direction," said Roberts. "This decision is about tomorrow, Where are we going to be in two years? Four years? Six years? And is Catalyst going to be in the right position to succeed in the future?"

Most of the current employees are expected to move to the new location.

For some it will be an easier commute. Cory Trost has been commuting an hour each way from Wisconsin. The irony for him: He was doing carpentry for a company in Pleasant Prairie, but it closed. Trost was glad to find and stay with Catalyst Exhibits.

"We're just lucky to be working, for one," said Trost. "Haven't had to worry about a job for nine years. That's nice."

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn was in Washington Thursday, but the governor's office issued a statement: "The state's economic development team reached out to Catalyst Exhibits but ultimately the company didn't respond to requests for a meeting."

Catalyst Exhibits expects to move in July or August.