STERLING, Illinois -- After Illinois lost nearly 295,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, local leaders are issuing the state a wake-up call to reverse the trend.
"We passed crisis a while ago," said Paul Sandefer, president of ComplianceSigns.com, said on Tuesday, May 2 .
During that same time frame, the Quad Cities lost nearly 6,000 manufacturing jobs. That's a 20% drop since 2000.
"The legislators and the governor need to understand the level of crisis that we have and fix it," he continued.
The numbers are prompting a warning from the Illinois Manufacturers' Association: this crisis will keep eroding the middle class.
"What is Illinois not doing that other states are doing?" asked Greg Baise, IMA president, during a presentation in Sterling.
It's no secret that manufacturing continues to suffer in a state without a budget.
While neighboring states bounced back from the recession, Illinois continues to lose jobs.
"You see growth across the river in Iowa, but not over in Illinois," Baise continued. "Somebody's got to be asking those questions. Why is that happening?"
With budget hopes dwindling, companies and communities are trying to reverse the trend by offering more partnerships and workplace training. It's designed to wipe out the skills gap and encourage young people to keep living and working in the area.
"The vocational center, community college and public schools all work together to develop these kids," Sandefer said. "I think they come here, and they enjoy coming back to work."
It won't be easy. Illinois will have a tough time repairing its economy during a dysfunctional time. Still, there's no time to wait.
"We're beyond arguing," Sandefer said. "This ship is sinking. Instead of rearranging the deck chairs, let's start plugging some holes and fix it."