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“Illinois has what it takes to attract overseas investors, Gov. Bruce Rauner said Tuesday, while repeating his contention an anti-business climate continues to hold the state back.
Rauner said he and University of Illinois officials held a series of meetings with government, technology, university and business groups during a just-completed trade mission to Israel. The trip followed a September trade mission to Japan and China, the first such overseas trip for Rauner since he became governor. Rauner said he expects new research and technology partnerships between U of I and Israeli universities as a result of the trip.
He added that talks continue with Israeli companies interested in expansion to Illinois.
“Their focus has been on California and New York,” said Rauner. “Many of them weren’t aware of Illinois. I spent a great deal of time educating them on the attractiveness of Illinois.”
The governor has remained a persistent critic of an Illinois tax and regulatory structure he contends hold the state back in competition for jobs. Even as Rauner toured Israel, his re-election campaign aired an ad featuring governors of surrounding states thanking Illinois for driving jobs across the border.
“We have the people, we have the workforce, the location, the transportation network and the education system. On fundamentals, we should be the fastest growing state in America,” said Rauner. “We have a very hostile regulatory environment in Illinois. Many companies are leaving because of our regulations and our taxes.”
Rauner said he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed pro-business reforms won by Netanyahu, including reducing regulations, cutting taxes and balancing the budget. The Israeli economy is booming as a result, said Rauner.
“He made Israel much more pro-growth and pro-free enterprise,” said Rauner. “He understands what we’re dealing with here in Illinois.”
The governor said he is hopeful Trump administration efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico will result in expanded Illinois exports. Canada and Mexico are the top export markets for Illinois products. He declined to speculate on specific changes to the deal.
“I believe we can expand trade, not restrict it or reduce it. I believe that the federal government is trying to do that,” said Rauner.”
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