Rauner welcomes new company to Illinois amid criticism

Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Rauner welcomes new food plant to Wheeling
As Gov. Rauner welcomed a new company to Illinois, a lawmaker questioned whether his turnaround agenda is helping or hurting.

WHEELING, Ill. (WLS) -- Gov. Bruce Rauner welcomed a new company to Illinois on Tuesday - something that doesn't happen enough in a state where the unemployment rate is above the national average.

But a lawmaker questioned whether the governor's rhetoric pushing his turnaround agenda is helping or hurting.

At the ribbon-cutting for the new Richelieu Foods plant in Wheeling, Gov. Bruce Rauner and Rep. Robert Dold scored political points with a new employer.

"Every day in our administration we're working hard to recruit great companies like Richelieu to grow and invest here," Rauner said.

"Our advantages in terms of top quality talent and a workforce was one of the big attractions to come to the 10th District," Dold said.

Richelieu - which makes frozen pizzas, salad dressings and sauces - gets a Cook County property tax break to repurpose the 115,000-square-foot building vacated in 2013 by the Orval Kent Food Company.

"When the Wheeling facility is fully operational by the end of the year we will have just north of a hundred employees at the facility," said Tim O'Connor, Richelieu Foods.

"I think we can do more of selling ourselves rather than selling ourselves short," said State Rep. Elaine Nekritz.

Nekritz - one of the Democrats at the ribbon-cutting - aimed her comment at Rauner, who has spent much of his first term criticizing the state's business climate. Nekritz said companies like Richelieu will respond if Illinois does a better job selling itself.

"A lot of states take advantage of the fact that they can point the finger at us and say 'see how bad they are'. Again, we need to do better but we also need to do better at promoting ourselves," Nekritz said.

But the governor warned that announcements like this do not happen often enough.

"We should have far more. Too often, when we have a good announcement we also have announcements of folks leaving or moving to another state," Rauner said.

Rauner has not relented on his remaining turnaround agenda points, which include property tax relief and workers compensation reform. By the way, there are big signs outside the Wheeling plants saying there are still jobs available.