Gov. Bruce Rauner apologized Tuesday for comments he made about Champaign-Urbana last month and called for investment in the area.
Rauner said on Chicago radio station WGN that major technology companies have been created by University of Illinois students, but that it’s hard to keep companies “of more than six people” there because it has “no convenient transportation (and) not much of a workforce.”
Rauner faces Democrat challenger J.B. Pritzker in the November election.
Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin said Rauner’s visit Tuesday to several companies in the area was an important showcase of what the area has to offer.
“To have an environment that fosters that innovation and supports those companies through decades is a real testament to the quality of our community and to the systems that we have in place,” Marlin said.
Rauner toured Wolfram Research, Granular and A&R Mechanical Contractors. At A&R he said he was asked about his comments on WGN.
“This doesn’t make up for it,” Rauner said. “I apologize because I didn’t choose my words well. I was talking very inartfully about the challenges that smaller communities have sometimes relative to large.”
Rauner said smaller communities have advantages like affordable cost of living and “reasonable taxes.”
On the Chicago interview last month he also said Champaign has “no convenient transportation.” On Tuesday, Rauner said he's fighting to get high speed rail in Champaign.
“We could transform the integration of transportation from Champaign-Urbana to the rest of Illinois and around the midwest with high speed rail,” Rauner said, “and I am very excited about that prospect.”
The governor urged for investment in the Champaign-Urbana community, saying he personally plans millions and is drumming up support for billions.
Rauner said that Illinois exports a lot of talent to other states.
“We in Illinois need to make sure that if Champaign-Urbana is exporting, that the exports are to other Illinois communities, not to the coasts,” Rauner said.
Rauner said the planned Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), with all the state’s public universities collaborating together for more economic development, will bring investments in Champaign, Urbana and all of the state's education hubs.
“It’s the University of Illinois’ decision,” Rauner said. “What I know is there’s going to be a significant amount of that initial capital that will be invested in Champaign-Urbana, it will also be invested in other communities around the state. That was the whole point and the goal.”
DPI will cost $500 million.