The Quinn administration
is openly courting Talgo Inc., which is slated to build Wisconsin's
high-speed rail cars.
Illinois received $1.2 billion in federal stimulus dollars earlier
this year to install high-speed rail lines across the state. The
money is being used to improve the lines that run from Chicago to
St. Louis and Chicago to Madison, Wis.
Missouri and Wisconsin, who also received federal funding for
high-speed rail lines, were supposed to finish Illinois' projects
when they cross into their states.
But with the recent election of a Republican governor, Wisconsin's
commitment to the project has become unclear. Republican Scott
Walker will replace sitting Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, a
longtime supporter of the rail project, in January.
Walker campaigned against the high-speed rail project that would
improve the line between Milwaukee and Madison and has made clear
since his election that he intends to keep his promise. Construction
on the Wisconsin projects has temporarily ceased, pending discussion
between the governor-elect and the U.S. Department of
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on Tuesday warned Walker that
the $810 million allocated to the state could only be used for the
high-speed rail project. He said if the money is not used by
Wisconsin, it will be distributed to other states. Despite LaHood's
letter, Walker again asserted his intention to close the project.
Quinn on Tuesday said
that Illinois would be happy to take the extra federal money if
Wisconsin refuses it.
"I've already talked to the vice president about it, Vice President
Biden," Quinn said. "I told him that if some states, Ohio and
Wisconsin, turn back money on high-speed rail, we've got our hand up
right away. We want to make sure we use that money in Illinois."
Richard Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail
Association, said Illinois would be a logical place for the
"We have a lot of competitive projects that need to be done that
would benefit the entire Midwest," Harnish said. "And so it would
make sense for the money to move to Illinois."
Harnish said projects in Rockford and Chicago would benefit from the
Quinn also said that he is open to bringing new companies to
Illinois to help build the extra projects.
"We already have brought from Wisconsin a company that is making
railroad cars for high-speed rail -- 250 new jobs," Quinn said. "We
can bring other companies to Illinois. We've always been a railroad
center. We can create a lot of growth and economic development right
here in Illinois. We understand that rail is a very important
component of the 21st-century economy."
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On Wednesday, Quinn went a step further, officially urging train
maker Talgo to move its operation to Illinois.
Talgo had set up shop in Milwaukee after the announcement of the
federal funds to Wisconsin last winter. But since word of Gov.-elect
Walker's opposition to the project, the company has seemed to back
away from a commitment to staying in the state.
Talgo's relocation to Milwaukee cost the city $3 million and
was supposed to bring 125 jobs with it.
On Wednesday, Talgo employees in Milwaukee held a press conference
and expressed fear of losing their jobs if the state fails to keep
its high-speed rail commitments.
In a letter released Wednesday night, Quinn told Talgo CEO Antonio
Perez that he believes Illinois is the right place for the company.
"I can think of no finer location for Talgo's manufacturing
headquarters than in the state of Illinois. Illinois continues to
have overwhelming public support, enthusiasm and commitment for the
expansion of high-speed rail across the state," Quinn wrote.
Quinn also said Illinois will do whatever is necessary to bring
Talgo to Illinois.
Marcelyn Love, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Commerce
and Economic Opportunity, cited a recent $12 million business
investment package made to Nippon Sharyo to build a new rail car
manufacturing facility in Illinois as an example of what the
governor can use to lure Talgo to the state.
"Gov. Quinn is interested in bringing Talgo and many other companies
and jobs to Illinois," Love said. "He is committed to strengthening
the state's investment in high-speed rail as a way to create jobs
and continue our economic recovery."
Statehouse News; By JENNIFER WESSNER]