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October 7, 2006

The Governor Continues to Implement Energy Independence Plan by Supporting Renewable Energy Resource Which Will Also Help Create 290 Jobs

McLEAN COUNTY – As he continues to roll out his comprehensive Energy Independence Plan, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced $2.2 million in funding to Horizon Wind Energy, LLC for the construction of a 198-megawatt wind project in eastern McLean County.  The facility is the first phase of a planned 400-megawatt wind farm, which, when complete, would be one of the largest land-based wind farms in the world.  The project will create an estimated 250 construction jobs and up to 40 permanent jobs.  The grant is being provided through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s (DCEO) Renewable Energy Resource Program. 
“If we invest now in wind power and other environmentally-friendly energy options, within ten years, we’ll be able to produce enough energy from our own natural resources to cut our dependence on foreign energy in half.  That means billions of our hard-earned dollars will stay here at home, in our economy creating more jobs, rather than leaving Illinois forever.  We have the resources.  We have the technology.  We have the expertise.  And if we start today, we can solve this problem in the next ten years.  No other state can say that.  But we can do it here in Illinois, and Horizon Wind Energy is going to help us do just that,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
Horizon Wind Energy, formerly Zilkha Renewable Energy, is a Houston-based developer of wind projects, which currently is operating and developing projects in more than a dozen states.  The company recently broke ground on phase one of the project in July and expects to start producing power and begin work on phase two by April 2007.  Once fully constructed, which is anticipated by the end of 2007, the facility will produce enough energy to meet the annual needs of approximately 120,000 residential homes using 240 wind turbines.  The projected total cost of the wind farm is estimated at $700 million, with projected annual county tax revenue estimated at $1.2 million and annual farmer income generated at $1.2 million as well.
This announcement follows the recent launch of Gov. Blagojevich’s comprehensive Energy Independence Plan.  One element of his plan involves support for a Renewable Portfolio Standard, requiring that 10 percent of the state electric supply come from renewable energy sources like wind energy by 2015.  Wind turbines bring a new income stream for farmers, provide valuable property tax benefits for local governments and create hundreds of construction jobs. 
“Horizon is delighted to work in partnership with the farmers and other residents of McLean County on a project which will make an important contribution to Illinois' energy supply and provide clean, renewable energy for many years to come.  Horizon appreciates the support from across the state for wind energy in Illinois and looks forward to a long and successful partnership,” Horizon Wind Energy Chief Development Officer Michael Skelly said.
“There is nothing more important than increasing our energy independence here at home, and wind power can and should play an expanding role in our energy portfolio.  We are happy to be working with Horizon Wind Energy and Gov. Blagojevich to build one of the world’s largest land-based wind farms right here in McLean County that will help us to do that and put more people to work,” Rick Terven, President, Livingston and McLean Counties Building and Construction Trades said.
“This grant from our Renewable Energy Resource Program to support this wind project in McLean County is a great example of how Gov. Blagojevich is using an innovative, highly-customized action plan to spur economic growth on a regional level.  Besides the clear environmental benefits of this project, the wind turbine offers a great economic development tool for farmers.  While the price of corn and beans fluctuates every year, the income from a wind farm is stable for 20 years and is something that they can count on,” DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.
Gov. Blagojevich recently announced that Illinois added 31,100 new jobs in July, which was the best in the nation that month.  This is the second time this year Illinois has created more new jobs than any other state, which has never happened before in recorded history.  Illinois also led the nation in job growth in April.  The total number of new jobs created this year is 75,200, which is the best start to a year since 1998 and more new jobs than any Midwest state.  Since January 2004, Illinois has gained more than 150,000 new jobs, which is also best in the Midwest.   The Illinois unemployment rate has been below or the same as the U.S. unemployment rate since May 2006, the first time this has happened in seven years.  The unemployment rate in McLean County has declined from 4.4 percent in January 2003 to 3.7 percent in August 2006.  The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Illinois Department of Employment Security compiled these statistics
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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