Officials speaking at a Chamber of Commerce event in Evanston this morning challenged the claim that businesses are fleeing Illinois.

County Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston) said that while there have been some high-visibility departures, Illinois is more than holding its own in the competition for business.

“And our taxes are lower than in Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa or Minnesota,” Suffedin added. “It’s a fallacy that they do better.”

But he said there is a need to work together to improve the business climate.

State Rep. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) said that “while we’re hearing a lot of negative rhetoric because it’s an election year, things are actually getting better in the state of Illinois.”

State Rep. Laura Fine.

She said the state legislature “has done a lot to put us back on the right track in the last year.”

And she referred to a report from Site Selection Magazine that ranked Illinois 3rd in the nation for new corporate facility investments in 2013, up from 5th place in 2012.

Site Selection also ranked Chicago first in the nation among major metros on the same measure last year.

However, Fine didn’t mention that Illinois ranked last in the five-state region in economic development success and 19th on a ranking of state business climates by the same magazine.

State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) said that while the state’s financial climate, and thus its attractiveness to business, is improving, the problems were built up “over decades of very deeply irresponsible behavior” and will take time to work through.

But if the number one goal is improving the state’s fiscal stability and bond rating, it’s impossible to cut taxes at the same time, Biss said.

“We have to be prepared to absorb those painful things to get the state on track over time,” he added.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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