Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, who led a delegation of mostly women to the Midwest-U.S. Japan Association Conference in Tokyo, called the trip a huge success, especially Illinois’ building a workforce for tomorrow and bilateral trade with Japan of more than $11 billion as of 2022.
Stratton said her nearly all-female delegation attended the Illinois Council on Women and Girls, which she said was “an interesting and historic aspect of this delegation.”
Stratton said her administration has made Illinois more business friendly and attractive to foreign investments. “Illinois is open to business, and Japanese businesses are interested in coming to Illinois,” she said during a Zoom press conference held on Thursday, September 14.
With businesses interested in coming to Illinois, Stratton said, “They are interested in the fact that we are on the path of a 100-percent clean energy future,” especially since her administration has passed the Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, ensuring there will be a clear path to 100-percent carbon-free power by 2045.
The Act also includes more than $80 million each year for solar and energy efficiency workforce development, especially in Black and brown communities, which Governor JB Pritzker said, “have been historically shut out of the clean energy economy.”
The Act also ensures an end to automatic, rubber-stamped utility rate hikes for consumers, and there will be electric vehicle and transportation incentives included. This, Stratton said, is key to these “old companies who are on the front lines of manufacturing or electrical vehicles and other forms of clean energy.”
Stratton boasted about the business attractiveness of Illinois, especially the job qualifications. “We have the most highly- or expanded-skilled, highly-qualified, highly-educated workforce, as these companies who are looking at where to launch their businesses.”
Japanese businesses consider such factors as climate change, or whether the east or west coast may not be more suitable, and they don’t want to put their businesses in areas where the population is sparse.
“People are important, and we have the best job force for the jobs of tomorrow,” Stratton said, especially she noted, since the governor has invested $1 billion into educating Illinois’ workforce, including those in early education, to making community colleges free so people can gain needed schooling.
“All of that makes this a good ecosystem, not just for launching a business in Illinois but also making sure they can grow the businesses that already exist,” said Stratton.
She said relationships are important in attracting businesses to Illinois. “When we think about Japan, they are the largest foreign direct investment partner.”
She said there are more than one thousand Japanese businesses in Illinois alone. “We have over 42,000 Japanese employees,” coupled with the state’s clean energy future, which she said is a priority to them as well.
“There is a real opportunity to attract or grow those businesses in Illinois,” she said.
Stratton said the Tokyo conference also showed Japanese businessmen that Illinois is not only interested in acquiring their business but also let them know the state is interested in learning what their businesses’ needs are.
She said they also talked about the workforce shortage, both in the U.S. and in Japan. Stratton said she informed them that Illinois “is tackling this issue head on under Governor Pritzker’s leadership.” Stratton told them Illinois wants to grow jobs and that will happen thanks to the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act.
Stratton explained that Illinois government is partnering with a number of universities, creating high school technical education opportunities, apprenticeships and engineering programs in colleges. “We are literally building the workforce of tomorrow, and that was attractive to all of them,” Stratton stated.
Asked by the Chicago Crusader what were her conference goals and whether they were met, Stratton said, “I do believe we did achieve the goals. The goal was to go to Japan to get positive relationships, and to make sure on a very clear level what Illinois has to offer their businesses and why we are ripe for continued investment.”