Illinois to see job growth with the help of Magic Johnson - FOX 10 News |

Illinois to see job growth with the help of Magic Johnson

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Earvin 'Magic' Johnson (Photo via Wikicommons) Earvin 'Magic' Johnson (Photo via Wikicommons)
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Illinois continues to suffer one of America's worst unemployment rates.

A problem that has Chicago and the state at the tipping point.

Gov. Quinn and Mayor Emanuel, though, celebrated some good news Tuesday. An Iowa-based insurance company said it would bring 200 jobs to downtown Chicago with a little bit of magic.

That would be Magic Johnson, the former NBA superstar-turned-businessman. He's a new owner of EquiTrust Life Insurance. The company's CEO said EquiTrust is coming to Chicago to grow.

The insurer's not getting any of the usual tax breaks that are part of such deals.

Nonetheless, a celebrity investor who's now the company's controlling shareholder had lavish praise for Gov. Quinn and Mayor Emanuel.

"Illinois is the insurance state. Most people might think Connecticut or something like that. But between Zurich, CNA and Allstate, this is the place where insurance gets done," CEO of EquiTrust Insurance Co., Jeff Lange, said.

Former NBA superstar Magic Johnson, the new controlling shareholder of Iowa-based EquiTrust, said the company would have 200 workers in downtown Chicago by the end of this year, and planned eventually to have 1,000 here.

"You can't do that in Iowa. If you're gonna be the kind of insurance company that wants to draw the talent, you gotta look at a state that has 1,200 insurance companies, 28,000 people, a depth of professional capacity and skills that only a city like Chicago has," Mayor Rahm Emanuel commented.

Johnson, who already operates several charities and businesses here, including nine Starbucks franchises, had warm words for the mayor and governor.

"If the leadership is strong and they're recruiting investors like myself to come here and create jobs and opportunity, then it makes it easier for us to do that," Johnson said.

Gov. Quinn appeared to bask in Johnson's praise. While Illinois's unemployment rate, 4th worst in America, remains perhaps the biggest obstacle to Quinn's bid for re-election, when FOX 32 asked him about it, he had a different take on the job numbers.

"Well, we have the best job creation in the Midwest, Mike. Since the great recession ended, we've created more jobs than other Midwestern states," Quinn said.

The governor's referring there to the last three months, when Illinois finally has been some job growth.

His press secretary, Brooke Anderson, said he was referring to the last six months.

However, Illinois would still be behind Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri in the rate of job growth, as Indiana's added jobs at triple the rate Illinois has in that same period, with Iowa and Missouri more than doubling Illinois's job growth.

All of which started out with far lower unemployment as well.

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