IMA leader calls on Springfield to help lure electric vehicle companies to Illinois

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(The Center Square) – The head of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association is calling on lawmakers to get serious about the electric vehicle business.

Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the IMA, says there’s a chance right now for the state to position itself to compete in a growth industry.

“Auto manufacturers are having those discussions today, and they were having them a month ago, about where to locate and what facilities to retool,” Denzler said. “We have the opportunity to invest in some of these facilities in Illinois and be part of that movement toward electric vehicles.”

Denzler says a major hurdle in the efforts to attract the attention of auto manufacturers is the lack of tools available in the recruitment effort.

“Illinois’ incentives oftentimes lack what neighboring states do,” Denzler said. “We have the EDGE credit, which can be effective, but a number of other states provide cash up front, or land, or other types of incentives that we don’t have available in Illinois.”

He’s calling on state lawmakers to take steps during the fall veto session to remain competitive with surrounding states that might also be interested in these facilities.

“The fact is that other states have moved ahead of us and Illinois has not been doing anything to really attract them or change any incentive packages,” Denzler said. “We’re working hopefully to enhance some of the incentives, but we also have to address some of the longstanding concerns that the business community has.”

According to the IMA, the auto industry directly supports more than 30,000 jobs in the state, including work at three assembly plants in Bloomington-Normal, Belvidere, and Chicago. Denzler says the possibility exists to recruit new facilities, given proper support from Springfield.

“I think there are great opportunities, especially with battery technology now,” Denzler said. “A lot of the electric car makers want to be near the battery production. There may be a case if we’re trying to attract a new facility, not only are we trying to attract that auto manufacturer, but also the battery facility that may supply it as well.”

Denzler says a recent Illinois law dealing with how automakers pay dealerships for warranty work was a step in the wrong direction.

“One of the things that really sent a negative message was the legislature passing and the governor signing this car warranty bill that’s going to add about $250 million in costs to auto manufacturers and make Illinois an outlier,” Denzler said. “We’re the only state in the nation now with a law like this.”

He said Illinois has many advantages when compared to other states, including transportation infrastructure, an educated workforce, and access to rail and water, but he’s worried a delay in action until 2022 could cost the state opportunities to expand in the auto sector.

“We would hate for manufacturers to make decisions and Illinois not be on the list because we’re not competitive with some of our neighboring Midwest states or other states where they have auto plants,” Denzler said.

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