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June 10, 2005

Also Highlights Central Region Opportunity Returns Strategy to Increase Economic Potential and Spur Job Growth Throughout the Region

DECATUR - Continuing to deliver on his Opportunity Returns pledge to spur economic development in Central Illinois, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced an almost $7.4 million investment package for Decatur-based Mueller Co. The investment will help retain 500 existing positions and support upgrades to and expansion of Mueller’s production facilities. The Governor also highlighted additional funding for a number of other Central region initiatives. Each of these projects were identified by local leaders as being critical to the region’s economic vitality and designed to produce significant returns over the near and long term.

"Mueller Co. has been producing quality products and providing good jobs in the Central region for nearly 150 years. It has given thousands of employees­­, most often union employees, the opportunity to earn a decent wage for a hard day’s work. It’s our obligation to support this company that has invested so much in this community and help it stay strong," Gov. Blagojevich said. "This is a perfect example of how Opportunity Returns is working to create a chance for businesses and residents to get ahead. We can use a full range of economic development tools to help our economy grow. The company benefits by improving employee efficiency and productivity, and employees learn skills for the jobs of the new century."

Founded in 1857, Decatur-based Mueller Co. is the world’s largest full-line supplier of flow control products used in distribution systems for municipal potable water and natural gas. Mueller Co. manufactures water meters, automatic meter reading systems and backflow prevention devices used for water distribution, fire sprinklers and plumbing. The company is also a significant supplier of valves for water and wastewater treatment plants, as well as the conventional and nuclear-fueled power generation industries.

"Since our founding, Mueller Co. has continued to adapt to our always changing and expanding markets. Our success in accomplishing this has made Mueller the largest full-line supplier of flow control products. It’s through Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns support that we are once again in a position to remain competitive, while increasing our capacity to meet our increasing market demands," said Dan Curry, Vice President of Finance, Mueller Co.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will administer this support, which will include Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credits and Enterprise Zone benefits. The company will start construction this summer, which will be completed in mid-to late 2006; a second phase is scheduled to begin in mid- to late 2006 or early 2007. As a result of the state’s investment, the company will invest approximately $16 million in the project.

Gov. Blagojevich also detailed the Central region Opportunity Returns strategy, his comprehensive, historic plan to spur job creation and economic development in Central Illinois. The approach represents a full range of economic development tools, including infrastructure investments and training for the local workforce. The Central region includes Cass, Christian, Greene, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan, Sangamon, Scott and Shelby counties

"Every resident in Illinois deserves a chance for a better future. And that’s why I launched Opportunity Returns: to unleash the untapped potential in our state, to help businesses to grow and create jobs. The Central region has a hard working, talented workforce, and it deserves a chance to succeed and get ahead," Gov. Blagojevich said. "Through Opportunity Returns, we can increase entrepreneurship, create new jobs and enhance regional tourism in Central Illinois. Things are looking up across the state - and the Central region is no exception. Opportunity Returns is putting people back to work."

"This much-needed funding highlights the importance of Central Illinois as a crucial partner in our goal of putting the economy of Illinois back on the right path." said State Rep. Bob Flider (D-Mount Zion). "I’m pleased to join with Gov. Blagojevich in making strategic investments that will create and retain jobs in Central Illinois. This kind of technical assistance is good news for our local economy and Downstate."

Tangible steps that Gov. Blagojevich laid out today as part of his Opportunity Returns strategy include: developing a world class health care system, strengthening education and job training, supporting business attraction and development, promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, capitalizing on the Lincoln legacy and other tourism opportunities and enhancing community infrastructure. Among the projects that Gov. Blagojevich presented in the Central Illinois Opportunity Returns strategy include:

Developing the Springfield Medical District and other health care-related investments. As a significant employer and driver of the local economy, the expansion of health care services in the region are crucial, and the Governor is providing $300,000 for the development of the Springfield Medical District, as well as financial support to train local health care professionals that are necessary to maintain top-notch services.

Strengthening education, training and development of the region’s workforce. Grants will be provided to ensure the local workforce has access to programs needed to advance skill sets to prepare for the jobs of the future. Regional companies like Garrett Aviation in Springfield is receiving $80,000 and Riba Fairfield in Decatur is getting $35,000 through the Employer Training Investment Program (ETIP) that has given more than $790,000 in grants to train 7,600 workers throughout the Central region.

Projecting worker shortages and training employees to meet expected needs. A $173,000 planning grant from Gov. Blagojevich’s Critical Skills Shortage Initiative is helping regional leaders identify current and projected shortages of skilled workers to ensure the workforce is trained to meet the employment demands both today and in the years to come. A training grant will be announced when those occupations have been identified.

Supporting DemirCo and other regional corporations to grow the regional economy and create jobs. Gov. Blagojevich is investing nearly $2.5 million to assist with DemirCo’s plant expansion that is creating at least 90

technology-based jobs and retaining 134 jobs in Decatur. Various other companies throughout the region are also

receiving Opportunity Returns support, including nearly $800,000 for AGI Media in Jacksonville that is helping to retain 100 jobs and a $500,000 revolving line of credit for NewLine Hardwoods in Beardstown that is creating 40 new jobs and retaining 10 more. Also, Worksaver in Litchfield is getting more than $110,000 in grants which is creating 20 new jobs, 65 jobs are being created and retained at Madison Communications in Staunton through more than $580,000 in grants, and Omnicare in Decatur is receiving more than $640,000 in support that is creating and retaining more than 100 jobs. Finally, Robert’s Sysco Food Service, Inc. is building a new 190,000 square-foot facility in Lincoln that is anticipated to create more than 170 new jobs.

Investing in and promoting Illinois coal. Gov. Blagojevich is also maintaining the viability of Illinois coal by investing more than $1 million in the Monterey Coal Company in Macoupin County that will increase productivity, improve reliability and reduce the costs of the mining operation, preserving approximately 350 jobs.

Promoting business growth and entrepreneurship. Local businesses will have increased access to resources to get ahead through the establishment of the Central Illinois Entrepreneurship Center Network. Financial resources, including challenge grants and other tools, will help spark growth throughout the region. Recent announcements of $100,000 in funding have highlighted the formation of the network and the launch and expansion of Entrepreneurship Centers at both the University of Illinois at Springfield and Millikin University.

Building a stronger tourism base for the region. The opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield presented an opportunity to highlight the phenomenal new facilities, as well as the many other Lincoln sites in the region and countless other tourist attractions, including the Looking for Lincoln initiative and promoting school educational tours about the Lincoln legacy. Gov. Blagojevich is providing more than $1.1 million in grants for these programs and many other projects that will spur tourism and create jobs.

Investing in community infrastructure. The economic vitality, health and safety of Central region residents is paramount, and Gov. Blagojevich is providing grants and loans region-wide to maintain and improve the quality of life in local communities. $11.7 million is being invested in Central region communities by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and DCEO. Gov. Blagojevich will continue to provide these critical investments.

Meeting educational needs. To have the workforce needed for tomorrow, Gov. Blagojevich believes we must invest in education today to meet the changing needs of struggling high school students through a pilot e-Learning initiative in Decatur. The state will provide $60,000 as it attempts to better reach at-risk youth.

"We are able to effectively monitor economic activity in the Central region, and every other region of the state, through our teams that live and work in the communities that we are building and developing. I believe this is one of the most important components of Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns strategy because these teams are on the ground, engaging business and creating a stronger business climate throughout the state. Our Central team talks to business owners and local community leaders each and every day, and is on the front lines of bringing new jobs to Central Illinois," said DCEO Director Jack Lavin.

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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