Before he celebrated his inauguration as Illinois’ first Republican governor in more than a decade with a Toby Keith concert, Gov. Bruce Rauner used his inauguration speech to tout small business—and the role they could play in helping the state make a comeback.
1. Rauner likes small biz—a lot—and visiting with them on the campaign trail will likely shape his approach to governing in the coming years.
On the campaign trail, Rauner said he
…visited one company called Keats Manufacturing in Wheeling. Back in 1958, Bert and Glenn Keats started a metal stamping company in a storefront on Cicero Avenue in Chicago. Their father had never made it past high school, but both of them made it through college and were eager to start out on their own. They had one employee and a couple machines. They worked long hours, a second job and sacrificed much, but they made it and their company took off.
Today, Keats Manufacturing employs 110 Illinois workers and has nearly 75 machines running 24 hours a day, 5 days per week. The story of Bert and Glenn Keats was not an uncommon path in our state. And it wasn’t just Chicago, and it wasn’t just manufacturing. It was Peoria, it was Rockford, it was Decatur. It was agriculture, it was transportation, it was technology. Illinois was a place where people like Bert and Glenn Keats from all over the country, indeed, from all over the world, wanted to come, because Illinois was a land of opportunity, almost without parallel in America.
2. He’s well aware of the business exodus the state is facing.
Rauner opened his speech by pointing to statistics that show the state has ranked near bottom over the last decade when it comes to out-migration.
Today’s Illinois is very different. The grandsons of Bert and Glenn Keats tell me they couldn’t have started their company in Illinois today. When their grandfathers started the company, all its customers were Illinois companies; they went door-to-door to find them. But today, none of their customers are Illinois companies – they have all left.
3. He will fashion himself along the lines of former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, his idol: As the fiscal governor.
As a turnaround veteran, Rauner faces a $2 billion revenue hole in 2015 alone. That will likely be the centerpiece of his efforts to reverse the state’s fortunes—or lack of them:
One of the main reasons companies have been leaving Illinois is that they don’t have confidence in the financial condition of our state. We are in the midst of a government financial crisis that has been building for decades. Its roots lie in bad decisions, bad practices and bad management by state government. It is not a partisan creation. It is a truly bipartisan one.
4. Rauner, in part, will judge his success on whether your business is better off four years from now.
One of his main target audiences were NFIB members—even if he didn’t say the acronym “NFIB.” He wants Illinois to become more friendly for small business owners. This passage toward the end alone mentioned five prototypical groups of NFIB members:
A state where not only manufacturing companies like the Keats’ want to be, but where the next big things happen.
A state where entrepreneurs want to be.
A state where technology companies want to start.
Where the next generation of manufacturing occurs.
Where family farms that have made us a breadbasket for the world can pass from one generation to the next.
Question: What did you think of Rauner’s speech? Are you optimistic about your Illinois small business’ prospects over the next four years? Why or why not?