Local leaders worry Illinois' business climate may deter business growth

By WEEK Reporter

June 13, 2014 Updated Jun 16, 2014 at 10:08 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Caterpillar has been studying its current downtown space for two years, assessing the size, scope and functionality.

It is also looking to modernize and expand other spaces in the Peoria area. However, the company did express concerns over the state's financial health and how that might impact the study.

"Caterpillar sets the standard in Peoria to make us think about international issues, makes us think about the things we can actually accomplish--the greatness that comes from a quality organization and that's what we have here in Peoria," said Greater Peoria Business Alliance CEO Cal McKay.

That's where Peoria leaders want it to stay. Caterpillar says its study is currently focused on downtown Peoria.

As stated in a news release, Caterpillar is also exploring its options to modernize and expand office space in East Peoria, Morton and Mossville.

"Our headquarters study remains focused on downtown Peoria...In addition to studying headquarter options, we have also expanded the scope of our study to encompass non-manufacturing office space requirements for Caterpillar in the Peoria area- specifically East Peoria, Morton, and Mossville," read the statement. "We are looking at a long-term, strategic plan for Peoria-area office space, which includes studying the correct size, scope and functionality of those facilities to better utilize the space we have. the study team continues to work on this expanded scope of work with our outside partners."

Local leaders are fighting to make Illinois a more business-friendly environment so that Caterpillar can flourish in Peoria. The company expressed concerns over the financial health of Illinois.

"A great deal of uncertainty still exists that could impact the outcome of the study. Current global economic and geopolitical risks could negatively impact Caterpillar's business...There is also continued concern about the long-term financial health of the state of Illinois and the impact the state's poor financial health may have on local city and county governments, including communities in the Peoria area," read the release. "When we are ready to announce the study results...we will share the information with out employees and outside partners."

Local leaders say Illinois debt does not make it easy for cities to attract large businesses or developing ones.

"Our business climate in a lot of ways depends on Springfield, and that is something that we need to make sure our legislators know," said Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich. "When a company like Caterpillar has concerns about our business climate in the state--it's something to pay attention to."

Caterpillar employs 3,500 people in Peoria alone. 2,500 of those people work at headquarters.

"They're the ones that are in our neighborhoods and in our schools so without them we'd be in some big trouble," said Peoria City Councilman Jim Montelongo.

Area leaders saying they are working with Caterpillar to find some feasible solutions to its business climate concerns.