By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — Gov. Pat Quinn joined local and company officials on Tuesday to open a new railroad spur at Continental Tire of the Americas, a state-funded infrastructure improvement that will aid in the company's expansion.
"This is one of the biggest sites of employment in our whole state," Gov. Quinn. "And we have done a number of things to work together with the company. We passed an incentive package a couple of years ago and then we came upon this opportunity here today."
The new $1.1 million railroad spur, funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation, will help the company bring more resources in and ship out more finished goods to national and international markets. The recently completed truck access route near the plant has already helped improve the flow of products in and out of the facility.
"The best way to fight poverty is to have a job. The best way to fight crime is a job. The best way to keep families together is a J-O-B. That's what we believe in, and that's what our country believes in," Quinn told the audience of spectators and workers. "That's why it's important for our government at the federal, state and local level to work together, and that's what we've done here," he added.
Quinn said it's also important to provide transportation to spur economic growth, noting expansion of I-57 between Johnston City and Marion, the Illinois Highway 13 expansion from Marion to Carbondale, and grade separations, where the railroad and highway intersect.
"Most people don't like waiting on trains. They would rather go over an interchange or highway over it. So it's important we find these specific concrete things that we the people can do together with our government in order to help jobs. That is the number one issue in our state," the governor said.
He also noted passage of the Illinois JOBS Now incentive has resulted in employment opportunities for state residents.
"Today demonstrates the continued support and trust that Continental has in our facility here in Mt. Vernon. It also ensures that Mt. Vernon has a bright future," said CT Plant Manager Benny Harmse. "We're proud of our employees, their dedication and work ethic. They're the ones who earn the investments and the continuing support to make us globally competitive in this environment." He added, "The new rail spur will allow Continental to reduce logistics costs. This spur is a key component in supplying raw materials required to ensure continued growth."
Mayor Mary Jane Chesley noted this was Quinn's sixth visit to Mt. Vernon — the fourth involving economic development and/or job growth.
"Some people have told me we're lucky to have Continental Tire here in Mt. Vernon. To them I reply: It isn't luck that we got Continental Tire here and kept it here. It involves hours of hard work and planning by a lot of people and organizations for the retention and expansion of an important quality industry with good paying job opportunities," she said. Chesley not CT represents 3,000 employees from over 100 zip code locations.
"This 40-year partnership has withstood the test of time," Chesley said. "Forty years signifies the confidence of Continental Tire and the state of Illinois to invest in numerous expansions."
Continental Tire is in the process of investing $129 million in its Mt. Vernon facility to expand operations and will add 100 new full-time jobs over the next three years. The expansion is expected to be complete by mid-2015.