Gov. Quinn: Why Illinois is the top state for business

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn
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Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn

Illinois is at the crossroads of America.

Our economic might begins with the competitive advantages of our location. Illinois offers easy access to the rest of the world with three international airports, the largest railroad hub in the nation and the largest inland port. From air to rail to waterways, Illinois is one of the busiest container hubs in the world, allowing businesses to move products throughout the U.S. quickly and efficiently.

We are a state of talented, creative, highly skilled workers with a strong Midwestern work ethic. One-third of the population has a bachelor's degree or higher and almost half of Illinois residents between the ages of 25 and 34 have an associate degree or better. Our 48 community colleges provide training for more than 250 different high-demand jobs.

We have a rich history of invention. We are home to the first cell phone, the first Web browser, the first open heart surgery and the inventor of LED lighting technology. And Illinois continues to rank among the most innovative states.

The number of jobs in Illinois' technology industry grew 1.6 percent in 2012, faster than the technology sector nationwide. We are investing in a string of new research hubs to help the next generations of scientists and researchers succeed and build new businesses that fuel our economy.

In the past year alone, we opened 1871, a center for digital start-ups at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago; launched the Illinois Manufacturing Lab, a one-stop-shop for keeping manufacturing on the cutting edge; and announced the debut of the Health, Technology and Innovation Center with the University of Illinois to broaden our entrepreneurial community's work in biotechnology commercialization.

Our colleges and universities, including the University of Illinois, University of Chicago and Northwestern University, provide business partnership opportunities and a steady stream of highly qualified graduates in nearly every field. World-renowned research facilities Argonne National Lab and Fermilab conduct cutting-edge research into nanotechnology, clean energy and the frontier of particle physics.

We excel at manufacturing and finance. But we are also a state that is leading the way to a sustainable future, making Illinois a healthier place to live, play, work and grow. Illinois is a pioneer in green building, ranking fourth out of 50 states in new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications. And we are poised to become one of the world's biggest water industry hubs with more than 100 water technology companies in Illinois.

(Read More: Top US States for New Manufacturing Jobs)

Our high quality of life attracts businesses from around the nation and around the world. Nearly three dozen Fortune 500 companies call us home, including Boeing, McDonald's, Caterpillar and Abbott Labs. And 124 major corporations have located their global headquarters in Illinois.

Illinois is welcoming to small businesses as well. Small- and medium-sized companies are driving economic growth in our state, and we are committed to helping these vital businesses gain access to capital to expand to markets inside and outside the U.S. Through the federally funded Advantage Illinois program, we have worked with 80 banks across the state to help provide businesses and entrepreneurs the loans they need to start new companies and expand existing businesses.

Businesses are also attracted to Illinois' low business taxes, among the lowest in the country. When all state and local taxes are considered, Illinois has the fifth-lowest effective tax rate on new investment in the country at 4.6 percent, according to a 2011 study by Ernst & Young. As for the total tax burden, business taxes in Illinois rank below the national average at 9.6 percent.

(Read More: States Battle for Business)

At the heart of Illinois is Chicago, the nation's third-largest metropolitan area and home of a broad swath of world-class cultural institutions from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to the Art Institute of Chicago to Millennium Park.

Last month, Chicago grabbed headlines when it was named one of 10 global hot spots by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Chicago is on track to rank among the Top 10 cities worldwide by 2025 in terms of attracting capital, talent, businesses and people, the London-based research group said, based on a Citigroup report.

Our 11 foreign trade offices in key overseas markets help Illinois businesses market their goods and services to a world audience. These trade offices also encourage investment in Illinois, and nearly 1,600 foreign firms have located in the state, employing more than 323,000 people.

I am committed to making Illinois one of the top states for business. I invite you to join us.

By Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn

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