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An op-ed from Intersect Illinois CEO Dan Seals

A corrected survey from the Census Bureau found that Illinois actually gained population over the last decade, rather than the initial reports of lost population. So, what does this mean? First of all, it justifies what we’ve been saying all along: Illinois is a place where people and businesses want to be. And it aligns with the fact that our state is number one in the Midwest for business startups.

According to the Census Bureau, Illinois was significantly undercounted in the initial report by 1.97%, so our population is, in fact, greater than ever before. Illinois ranked 3rd nationally for corporate relocations and expansions in 2021, so it makes perfect sense that we are gaining population, as well.

As our population is growing, our workforce and talent pool continue to do the same, a key factor for companies making location decisions. Ranked sixth nationally in total labor force, Illinois is building the workforce of the future through our 254 higher education institutions. We have the resources that are essential for companies making location decisions: talent, location and infrastructure.

There is a wide gap between Illinoisans’ perceptions and reality, due to a stubbornly false narrative that we often hear that people are “fleeing” the state.  As the corrected census confirms, the opposite is true. People are moving to Illinois because this is a good place to work, live, and play.  Does that mean everything here is perfect?  Of course not, Illinois can always improve.  The key is that our collective conversation about how best to improve needs to start with a true narrative—not a false one.

The census count is just one more example of how Illinois is—quite literally–underestimated.  Our state is home to the nation’s fifth largest and the world’s 18th largest economy. With 38 Fortune 500 headquarters, more than 2,000 foreign companies and a 200% increase in startups coming out of Illinois’ universities, we have a great story to tell. There are more people than ever in Illinois today. It’s time we start believing in our state, and ourselves.