Illinois` tipping point: Highest unemployment rate in Midwest

Illinois` tipping point: Highest unemployment rate in Midwest

Posted: Updated:
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

It may be the most painful symptom of the economic illness that has put Chicago at a tipping point: our unemployment rate is the highest in the Midwest.

It's almost two percentage points higher than the national average. More than 600,000 are looking for jobs, but can't find any. Hundreds of thousands more want to work, but have given up hope. Many local companies have also given up on Illinois and its fussing, feuding politicians.

One such company that has given up hope ironically has booming sales. It had three shifts working around the clock, needed a lot more room and the owner started looking. From Illinois' point of view, that's when things started to go south.

19 remotely-controlled cameras allow Deron Lichte to inspect every part of his new factory in Portland, Tennessee, even when he's in Crystal Lake preparing to move or sell the last remnants of the former factory of Food Warming Equipment Company, based in Illinois since its founding 60 years ago.

"I loved Illinois. It's where I grew up. It's where I raised my family," Lichte says. "I didn't want to move. It's sad to move. You know you're disrupting and changing people's lives."

The empty factory floor is a heartbreaking sight for Joe Alger. Alger is losing not only dozens of friends and neighbors to Tennessee, but a major client of his own warehousing and logistics support firm. Alger said that, in just the past year, three other local clients moved to Wisconsin, taking more than 700 jobs with them. It's a little-noticed, slow motion exodus. It's also a big reason Illinois's unemployment rate is now worst in the Midwest.

"I'm happy to be taxed. I want a strong defense," Alger says. "I want nice roads. And I'm willing to pay for it. But I'm not willing to pay for a bunch of people who just don't have a clue."

That would be politicians in Springfield who've driven Illinois's once-Triple-A-rated credit nearly to junk-borrower status. And then there's the terrifying specter of hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities for the pensions of state and local public employees. Alger said one out-of-state client said he's nervous doing business with an Illinois-based company.

"He called me up, said, ‘Joe, can you move out of Illinois, ‘cause I'm worried about the state? Can you guarantee me that they're not gonna go bankrupt?'" Alger explains. "I can't tell you if they're gonna go bankrupt. I mean, quite frankly, I don't know what keeps us afloat now."

Deron Lichte said officials in Tennessee last year showed him a list of 26 Illinois companies that have agreed to move or expand in that state.

Follow Us!

Share Your Photos & Video

Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices