After Foxconn, Rockford, neighbors in the running for auto plant

A joint venture between Toyota and Mazda could see a $1.6 billion plant built in northern Illinois. The Register Star reports that Illinois is among 11 states in the running for the plant which could bring 4,000 jobs to Rockford, Rochelle or DeKalb.

Out of the Illinois sites, Rochelle is seen as the early favorite. Large tracts of land on I-39 and I-88 that have easy access to rail lines are available for the community. But Rockford’s not out of the running just yet, according to the Star’s report:

The Rockford region has a shot at the project, too, said Nate Bryant, director of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, which represents Winnebago and Boone counties. Bryant said he’s “in direct communication” with the broker/site selector representing the Toyota-Mazda project.

“This has not been limited to DeKalb and it has not been limited to Rochelle,” Bryant said. “I love our partners to the south, but Rockford is not out of contention at this point. We’re in the process of working directly with the broker.”

The plant could be seen as a consolation prize to the state losing out on the proposed Foxconn manufacturing facility in Wisconsin. But, as a Chicago Sun-Times editorial from Thursday points out, the real cost of Foxconn for Wisconsin is something Gov. Scott Walker and the legislature have yet to figure out:

Friends in the Wisconsin Legislature, we beg you: Sign that bad deal with Foxconn.

It’s the neighborly thing to do.

Best we can tell, it’s a crap shoot as to whether luring the giant electronics company to Wisconsin would work out well for you, given the billions of dollars in tax breaks your governor has promised, but it would be terrific for Illinois. It would cost our state nothing, yet up to half of the new jobs could go to our residents, while O’Hare Airport would get the new international travel business.

The rosier estimates (in Walker’s case) of the Foxconn deal say it could take 25 years for Wisconsin taxpayers to break even. The state will give up $3 billion in tax incentives and carve out a series of legal exemptions to lure the estimated $10 billion project.

Any incentives proposed by Illinois for the Toyota/Mazda plant have not been disclosed. R.

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