The Employ Illinois Business Program, which offers low-interest loans to both start-up and existing businesses, has been successful by most accounts. Since it was launched in 1998, the state treasurer's office reports (PDF) that $175 million has been deposited, helping jumpstart 200 projects and create 13,000 new jobs in Illinois. Robin Kelly, the Democratic nominee for State Treasurer, wants to ramp it up.
Her proposal would allow the state to guarantee 10 percent of any loan to small businesses that pledge to create jobs within one year. That means if the company defaults on a loan, Illinois would assume some of the debt obligation. By loosening the local credit markets, Kelly says her office can create 1,000 jobs in the first year. Watch her explain the idea at a recent press conference:
Republican nominee Dan Rutherford isn't a fan of this approach. "I'm not looking to expand into brand-new programs," he told the Tribune. "We can't afford them." Like the race for comptroller, both treasurer candidates are offering divergent visions for how Illinois can improve its economy. They are contests worth following.