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March 14, 2005

Key Initiative from the Governor’s State of the State Address Moves Forward

CHICAGOGov. Rod Blagojevich and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce announced today a recently launched online Healthcare Survey for Small Business, a key component in an initiative to explore ways in which the Chicagoland Chamber and chambers across the state can serve as aggregators of health insurance for their members and affiliates.  Gov. Blagojevich recently highlighted skyrocketing health insurance costs in his State of the State address, and the launch of the survey comes on the heels of yet another year in which numerous Chicagoland Chamber members experienced double-digit health insurance premium hikes.  This innovative partnership is another important effort of Opportunity Returns, the Governor’s comprehensive economic development strategy to create jobs and promote economic growth throughout Illinois.  The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is providing the Chicagoland Chamber with a $75,000 Opportunity Returns grant to assist with the planning process.  
“In order to keep our economy growing, we must continue working closely and creatively with small businesses across Illinois to address one of their biggest issues – escalating health insurance costs.  Small businesses are the backbone of the Illinois economy, and we need to find ways to lower the costs of insuring thousands and thousands of hardworking men and women and their families.  This partnership with the Chicagoland Chamber is vital to helping us achieve this goal, which is an important step in helping Illinois reach its vast economic potential,” Gov. Blagojevich said. 
“Entrepreneurs and small businesses are the number one job creators in Illinois and across the country. Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges to their growth and success is the lack of access to affordable health insurance for their employees,” said Jerry Roper, president and CEO for the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.  “It is such a critical issue, we decided to take a proactive approach to finding solutions.  The Chamber is committed to improving the climate for small business in Illinois, and we thank Gov. Blagojevich for his leadership on this initiative.”
The Chicagoland Chamber’s Healthcare Survey for Small Business will help determine the insurance needs of small business and is one component of a process - working with underwriters, the insurance community, small business owners and other associations across the state - to investigate feasible ways to provide small businesses the same access to health insurance enjoyed by their counterparts in large corporations.  The goal is to create a suite of health insurance offerings for small businesses that would reduce health insurance costs while creating predictability to spur growth and success. 
“This is another good example of Gov. Blagojevich responding to the pressing needs of the small business community.  By working with the Chicagoland Chamber and other chambers across Illinois, we are aggressively attacking an issue that must be addressed as our economic recovery continues to move forward.  This will help small businesses reduce their costs, while helping more people get the health insurance they deserve,” DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.
Business owners and individuals making health insurance decisions for companies employing between two and 150 people are encouraged to take the Chicagoland Chamber’s Healthcare Survey for Small Business at www.chicagolandchamber.org/healthcare.
Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history.  Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges.  Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses.  It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs.  Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.


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