Pritzker announces milestones for preschool program, industry development

Pritzker announces milestones for preschool program, industry development

By COLE LONGCOR
Capitol News Illinois
[email protected]

The state on Wednesday announced it inked another tax incentive deal aimed at boosting manufacturing while Gov. JB Pritzker said his plan to add more preschool seats in early childhood “deserts” is ahead of schedule.

The deal was completed between Wieland Rolled Products North America under the state’s Reimagining Energy and Vehicles Act, a law that passed in 2021 to incentivize electrical vehicle manufacturing in Illinois that has since been expanded to include other related components of EVs.

Wieland – a subsidiary of the Germany-based Wieland Group – will receive an estimated total REV Act tax incentive of $122 million over 30 years, according to the governor’s office. Including other tax incentives and infrastructure support, the total value of the state’s contribution grows to $231 million, according to the governor’s office.

In exchange, the company announced it will invest $500 million to modernize its East Alton facility that produces copper and copper alloy components found in electric vehicles and other products. The investment will expand Wieland’s capacity as demands for copper products increase and will retain 800 jobs.

“The world needs copper today more than ever. Copper is an integral part of the energy transition,” said Wieland CEO Erwin Mayr. “This investment represents a significant leap forward in our manufacturing capabilities here in the United States by enhancing our efficiency and precision and adding significant capacity output potential.”

Pritzker visited Wieland’s plant in Vöhringen, Germany, last January as part of his overseas trip to the World Economic Forum. He said at the time he was looking to convince the company to increase its presence in Illinois.

“We want Wieland to grow in Illinois as we want our state and its economy to grow,” Pritzker said Wednesday.

At a separate event, Pritzker also announced that his Smart Start initiative had exceeded its goal for new seats added this year.

The Smart Start program was included in Pritzker’s budget proposal for the current fiscal year and approved by lawmakers last May. It includes $250 million for early childhood programs, including expanded access to preschool, wage support for child care workers, early intervention programs, and home visiting programs.

The program set a goal of adding 5,000 new pre-k spots in the current fiscal year, and Pritzker announced Wednesday it has exceeded that by more than 800 spots. Pritzker said that with the additions, the state publicly funds over 82,000 preschool seats.

“Smart Start is about all of our futures, not just the littlest kiddos in the state, but all of us. It’s about where Illinois is going,” Pritzker said. “And I want to make sure that everyone understands why this is the right kind of investment and the best return on investment that we can make.”

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

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