COLONA -- Gov. Pat Quinn found some good economic news for Illinois Thursday at a Quad-Cities trucking company.
Speaking from atop a flatbed semi-trailer, Gov. Quinn called Colona-based Tennant Truck Lines an example of innovative investment from both public and private partnerships.
"We are really grateful to Tennant Truck Lines for creating jobs," he said. "There's no better way to help the community than to give employment to hard-working people who want to work hard.
"It's important we honor that," Gov. Quinn said. "The best way to keep families together is a job, and that's exactly what this family firm has done for years and years."
Tennant recently invested $2.1 million in its facility and created 30 jobs. It received state tax credits worth up to $1.1 million over the next 10 years through the Economic Development for a Growing Economy program by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
The tax credit required Tennant to meet its job creation commitments. The company has exceeded those goals
Founded in 1946, the third-generation family-owned firm is an open-deck carrier business with a 48-state customer base of manufacturing, agriculture and steel companies.
Recently, Tennant built a 20,000-square-foot facility at 20812 E. 55th St., Colona, to combine its three existing facilities. The $3.4 million headquarters, built with state assistance, opened in May 2012.
Tennant Truck Lines CEO Aaron Tennant said the company has grown from 75 employees in 2009 to more than 200 employees currently. The company plans to add 40 to 45 new jobs this year, according toTodd Stoner, Tennant vice president and chief financial officer.
"Without these (state) programs, we would not be standing here today," Mr. Stoner said.
"In 2009, Tennant Truck Lines began to experience some phenomenal growth," he said."At that time, we had approximately five acres of terminal space at three locations in the Quad-Cities' area.
"The main terminal location (in Orion) was an extremely cramped office space," Mr. Stoner said."We were in a 60-year-old farmhouse, for lack of a better word, and we had people in closets and living rooms. It was very interesting; let's just say that."
He said the company also had "an immediate need" to expand its repair operations.
At a Thursday news conference, Mr. Stoner discussed the difficulty small business owners face in determining where to locate.Tennant narrowed its options down to an eastern Iowa location and its existing site in Colona. Both sites provided terminal acreage close to major highways, he said.
"The decision was a difficult one," Mr. Stoner said. "Locating our facility to Iowa offered a significant reduction in our worker's comp rates. (On) the other side of that coin, we have done business in Illinois since 1946. Tennant Truck Lines developed a strong loyalty to the state as well as to the surrounding communities."
Along with the state tax credits, Tennant took advantage of the Henry County rural revolving loan fund and a tax increment finance district in Colona.
"So all of these programs meant so much to bringing this together and making what we see here today what it is," Mr. Stoner said.
Tennant currently owns 30 acres, Mr. Stoner said, providing room for even more growth. But he added it is difficult to find qualified truck drivers.
"The industry turnover rate is probably close to 100 percent," he said. "Ours is significantly lower."
Mr. Stoner on Thursday also said he would like to see the state move ahead with the new Interstate 74 bridge, while providing better upkeep of existing interstates and highways.
Gov. Quinn also said it's crucial to maintain the state's roads and bridges, but financial problems, such as Illinois' $100 billion pension shortfall -- the worst in the nation -- present major challenges.
"To keep building, we have to deal with this pension challenge, which is squeezing money for our schools, for our health care, for our public safety and for our programs of getting good credit ratings to build roads and bridges," Gov. Quinn said.
Gov. Quinn -- who also visited Vosges Haut-Chocolat in Chicago and Endotronix in East Peoria on Thursday to celebrate similar success -- noted small businesses employ three out offour workers in Illinois, or nearly 3.7 million workers at 271,000 small businesses.
But he acknowledged the state has major financial challenges.
"When I was sworn in four years ago, the state budget deficit was $10 billion," he said."We've whittled it down, but there is a long ways to go.
"The best way to do it is through economic growth," Gov. Quinn said."We'll use every tool in our tool box we have to work with Tennant to grow our economy."