Texas Governor Rick Perry’s brief but boisterous visit to Illinois has certainly made an impact on both a state and national level. The Governor’s modest $80,000 dollar radio ad budget and two-day sojourn through Illinois has already paid major dividends in terms of widespread media coverage and aggressive responses from Illinois’ top two politicians, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the state’s Governor Pat Quinn.
Emanuel sought to pre-empt Perry’s visit to his city with petty mockery, sarcastically commenting, “I hope when he comes he remembers all three of his reasons. Because it will be a real test for him,” a play on Perry’s gaffe during the 2012 Presidential campaign trail in a critical debate when he forgot three key cuts he’d make to the Federal government if elected President. Similarly, Governor Pat Quinn weighed in, stating that “the Land of Lincoln doesn’t need advice from Perry,” attempting to defend the state’s business climate, even with financial problems that include the highest pension debt of any state nationwide. He also added: “I think his efforts in Illinois will be as successful as his presidential campaign.”
(Again with the 2012 campaign quips!)
Words, however, gave way to what looked to be more like political flailing this week from Emanuel and Quinn, particularly in terms of keeping biotech businesses from fleeing Illinois to Texas in the wake of Perry’s appearance at the BIO conference. Bizjournals reports that, in an effort to head Perry’s biotech business prospecting off at the pass, the Chicago Mayor is proposing a biotechnology startup hub in downtown Chicago for early next year:
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Emanuel made his announcement at the BIO International Convention, at McCormick Place, saying he wants to model it on the 1871 technology incubator housed at the Merchandise Mart. The downtown hub would hold corporate offices for use by both startups and established biotech companies, the Sun-Times said.
Until Emanuel comes up with more than just a vague proposal, his move here smacks of a desperation attempt to damage control Perry’s play into the Chicago biotech sector. Governor Quinn made similar moves to bolster efforts to keep biotech businesses from fleeing the state as well. According to the Examiner: “Governor Pat Quinn yesterday announced that a new independent study has ranked Illinois at the top of the nation’s biotechnology industry, and the state is at the core of the most vibrant bioscience hub in the United States.”
Of course, it is precisely the fact that Illinois has a strong biotech sector that prompted Governor Perry to visit it.
The Dallas Morning News points out that:
Perry hit on sore points that haunt Illinois’ business climate — the nation’s worst pension problem, lowered credit ratings and high taxes. His visit coincided with a poll released Monday by Morgan Stanley Wealth Management that found the Chicago area’s wealthiest investors are more nervous about their state’s economy than counterparts elsewhere in the nation, including the Houston area, which is the fourth largest U.S. city behind Chicago.
This combination of a robust biotech sector and a growing concern among biotech stakeholders in Illinois is precisely why Perry is investing his time and political capital there — which apparently seems to be working, based on Emanuel and Quinn’s vitriol.
Perry, however, is also using the confrontation to push a national debate over stark differences between a limited government, GOP-led Texas approach, versus the predominant Democrat-led governance in both California and Illinois: “’This is a good red state blue state conversation we’re having,’ Perry said. ‘The idea that we shouldn’t be competing against or with each other is really counter to our founding fathers.’”
For all the trash talk and political posturing on both sides, a quick look at the scoreboard in terms of the success of Texas’ economy versus Illinois weighs heavily in Perry’s favor. Texas continues to drag an otherwise flagging U.S. economy along, and sectors like biotech and the life sciences continue to make major in-roads by attracting talent and resources from states like California and Illinois. For as much as Emanuel and Quinn can point to the past and present in terms of their state’s success in biotech, it is Perry who can point to the future as looking bright for Texas.