Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner held a lengthy news conference Tuesday to explain a new program meant to connect minority entrepreneurs with successful mentors in business. But details of the program took a back seat as reporters pushed Rauner on what’s driving the need for the program in the first place.
Speaking at a U.S. Bank branch on Chicago’s far South Side, Rauner was asked why venture capitalists like him haven’t put more resources into African-American communities.
“It’s higher risk,” Rauner said. “The risk-return tradeoff isn’t as favorable as going right back to Silicon Valley again. That’s why. That’s a fact.” Rauner said money follows opportunity.
“Here’s what’s happening: African-Americans are in Chicago in massive numbers,” Rauner said. “They didn’t come here because we had a great welfare system or a great minimum wage. That’s not why they’re here. That’s not why the people of Illinois are here. We’re here for opportunity…That opportunity is being bled away. It’s not about a government program. It’s not about more government money. We are not competitive in Chicago. We are not competitive in the State of Illinois.”
Rauner then related that lack of opportunity in Chicago’s minority neighborhoods to how the state lost its bid to attract General Electric to move its corporate headquarters to Chicago. GE announced earlier this month that it was moving its headquarters to Boston.
“My perception is, if we weren’t number one, we were right there,” Rauner said. “They wanted to be here.”
Rauner said Tuesday the company held off on making its announcement to see if he would be successful in passing the policy changes he’d been advocating for, which have included limits to collective bargaining and term limits for state lawmakers.
Democrats have rejected many of those policy changes, saying they would harm the middle class.
“I had to be able to look ‘em in the eye and say, ‘There’s gonna be a balance of power between the insiders and government and taxpayers here.’ I couldn’t say that and they ran out of time waiting,” Rauner said. He would not say which of Rauner’s policies GE supported. A company spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.