Kevin Artl, President and CEO of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois speaking alongside Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker
Illinois is the center of the nation’s transportation grid with its staggering infrastructure network of more than 147,000 miles of roadways, 7,800 bridges, nearly 10,000 miles of railroad track, 107 public and private airports, 1,095 miles of navigable waterways and a public transit system that supports 450 million trips annually. Maintaining, repairing and modernizing this network is an immense task that created challenges and called for a huge infusion of both capital resources and human capital investments.
After decades of neglect, Governor Pritzker and bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate made a promise to Illinois citizens — they were going to Rebuild Illinois. The $45 billion Rebuild Illinois infrastructure program was a historic capital investment focused on repairing and modernizing the state’s infrastructure network, while the bipartisan federal Infrastructure Investment in Jobs Act (IIJA) is a $1.2 trillion investment in the nation’s infrastructure that further fulfilled the need for funding. With many counties and municipalities also approving their own capital programs, the good news is that Illinois is considered one of the best-positioned states to take full advantage of the funding offered by the IIJA.
But now, Illinois must take the next critical step — make the investment in human capital so we can get the job done!
The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Research Institute estimated that the nation needs an additional 82,000 engineers to fully deliver all the projects to be funded under the IIJA. Much like Illinois is at the center of the nation’s transportation network, we should also be at the center of the engineering industry’s growth to meet the demands of these historic investments.
As every other state in the nation faces these same challenges, Illinois needs a competitive edge to recruit and retain engineering talent and make the state the top destination for engineers. Our goal is to recruit talent from across the nation and make sure those graduating from our own engineering schools, such as the University of Illinois, University of Illinois-Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology and others across the state stay here in Illinois to work for Illinois firms or agencies on critical projects.
This is why we are supporting legislation such as (HB 2424) and (SB 2190), which would enable the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to provide student loan repayment assistance to qualifying employees, incentivizing educated professionals to remain in-state to work on the state’s highest priority infrastructure projects. We are also supporting (HB 2425) and (SB 2282), which provide for a tax credit of 10 percent of the salary paid to recent graduates of Illinois’ engineering schools and 5 percent of the salary paid to recent graduates of engineering schools outside of Illinois.
We are also supporting the passage of a State Innovation Tax Credit (HB2423) (SB 2084). The proposed legislation creates a tax credit that would be administered by the Department of Revenue, rather than the IRS, to aid the state’s goal of attracting more research and development programs.
This package of bills would give Illinois a competitive edge against every other state in the nation when it comes to retaining and recruiting engineering talent. The package will grow Illinois’ engineering industry sector and help deliver key projects on time and on budget, help resolve engineering workforce shortages, improve the state’s bottom line and be a huge boost to the economy.
The Rebuild Illinois program along with the IIJA has given Illinois a capital infusion to dramatically repair and modernize our state’s infrastructure network. Illinois should also use this opportunity to make a similar investment in our human capital and be bold and audacious about growing our state’s engineering industry for years to come.
Kevin Artl is the President and CEO of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois.
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