As the president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to strengthen Illinois’ workforce and economy. I have tried to understand what makes our state attractive to businesses and how to ensure that workers get a fair shake.
It’s no secret that we need jobs and economic growth. We need to expand our workforce’s competitive edge in some of the state’s core industries. To accomplish this goal, we need to be sure that our economic policies attract businesses and investment to Illinois – rather than creating burdensome regulations just as we are starting to see sustainable growth in key industries.
In Springfield, bills like the Geolocation Privacy Act (HB 3449) are at the heart of what is challenging our state’s economy. Such bills create solutions to problems that don’t exist, then pass along the costs to consumers. Although it was recently vetoed, this bill would have required tech businesses of all sizes to comply with redundant privacy regulations and reporting services, benefitting Illinois’ legal community at the expense of everyone else.
To be clear, regulations are important; they ensure a level playing field on which all businesses can thrive. However, sensible regulations for consumer safety differ significantly from those that can strangle our competitiveness to please special interests.
Now, more than ever, we need to be focusing on our competitiveness – to keep Illinois an attractive option for companies and industries who are looking to find a new place to call home.
Currently, we are a major force in this industry. In fact at this very moment, the tech industry in the state of Illinois employs around 250,000 workers.
Further, according to a 2017 KPMG report, global technology experts listed Chicago as one of the top six cities in the world most likely to become a leading innovation hub over the next four years. And Champaign-Urbana, where hundreds of engineering and computer scientists graduate each year, was cited as one of the most promising tech hubs.
With statistics like these, you would think that we would encourage this growth by avoiding unnecessary regulation. However, redundant regulations like the Geolocation Privacy Act are still surfacing and presenting a challenge to our growing tech industry. This is creating a major threat to our state’s business climate and our ability to attract new businesses and investment.
That’s because we would be the only state in the country to have to comply with these redundancies, making Illinois a less attractive place for business investment and hurting our ongoing ability to attract and keep a tech workforce.
We avoided a problem with HB 3449, but we must continue to push back against further attempts at over-regulation. Make no mistake, the tech industry is a case study for how we do business in our state. If we want to attract investment and jobs, we need to be on guard against measures that limit our potential and hurt our overall business climate.