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    According to a recent study, the total economic impact of manufacturing in Illinois is estimated to be $580 billion every year – the largest share of any industry to the state’s Gross Domestic Product.

    Manufacturing has always been the backbone of Illinois. From food and electronics to pharmaceuticals and everyday essential goods, our state’s manufacturing industry has global reach, powering our economy and providing robust job opportunities for our state’s residents. In fact, according to a new economic impact report, manufacturers directly and indirectly employ nearly 30% of Illinoisans, providing real living wages that total $142 billion in annual wages and benefits.

    The impact of manufacturing in Illinois cannot be understated. In addition to our broad economic footprint, our industry is also pushing toward the future, making investments in research, development, and innovations that are changing the world for the best. Our state’s manufacturers are producing electric vehicles, capturing carbon and safely storing it, and leading the way for a diverse electric grid.

    These investments in our state and our future are impossible without a strong business climate, stewarded by government policies that create certainty, consistency and stability for businesses. Regulatory certainty helps businesses invest and grow confidently, spurring job creation and economic expansion. Unfortunately, a new proposal put forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is threatening to upend the certainty that businesses desperately need.

    The Agency is considering tightening the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) under the Clean Air Act on particulate matter, often referred to by its designation of PM 2.5. In doing so, the EPA would impose stricter, top-down air regulations on businesses across the U.S.

    While the intent to continue improving air quality is admirable, it is crucial that any decision to change air standards takes into consideration the impact on our economy and our businesses, especially as our economy remains in a state of recovery and teeters on a possible recession.

    By imposing significant and burdensome restrictions on manufacturing operations in the U.S., the EPA would force manufacturers to abruptly alter their facilities. And rather than investing in communities, jobs, or cleaner, more efficient operations, manufacturers would be spending important capital to comply with these new restrictions. Many manufacturers, particularly small and mid-sized, are still trying to adhere to the tightened standards set in 2012, particularly in non-attainment areas, creating an even bigger disadvantage by potentially pushing smaller manufacturing operations to close, and larger operations to focus on manufacturing outside of the U.S.

    The increased NAAQS standards also come at a time when manufacturers in Illinois and across the nation are more sustainable than ever before in history. In fact, since the U.S. implemented NAAQS in the 1970’s, pollutants have been reduced by 78%. Manufacturers are committed to using modern technology to continue making their own operations more sustainable and energy efficient—without compromising jobs or our economic impact.

    Like the rest of the business community, manufacturers have been strained over the last few years and continue to face economic uncertainty with a global pandemic and supply chain disruptions still plaguing our industry. However, manufacturers continue to boldly move forward, looking to the future to strengthen our economy and help communities become more resilient. Excessive, unnecessary regulation by the EPA, like the recent NAAQS proposal, would jeopardize this crucial industry, the jobs it creates, and the measures manufacturers are taking to fight climate change.

    Donovan Griffith is the Senior Director of Government Affairs for the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

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