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Texas Gov. Rick Perry continues baiting Illinois and city officials

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Updated: May 25, 2013 6:30AM

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday wrapped up his two-day visit here on his quest to lure Illinois businesses to Texas — but not before continued baiting of state and city officials with his dissing of Illinois.

“I think it’s fairly inarguable that Texas is the number one state in which to do business, although Gov. [Pat] Quinn and [Mayor] Rahm Emanuel might argue it,” the former Republican presidential candidate said, as he joined two other governors on a panel at the Bio International Convention running through Thursday at McCormick Place. “And it’s not just Texas saying it.”

Perry, who drew the ire of Quinn and Emanuel with an aggressive ad campaign here preceding his visit — urging Illinois companies via print and broadcast to “Get out while there’s still time” — insisted his barbs represented only friendly competition that naturally exists between all states for corporate relocations that equal economic stimulus.

“These guys are great and good competitors. But we’re competitors. And our competitiveness is how America will continue to lead the world in biotech sciences,” Perry said, speaking on a Bioscience Economic Development panel with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

Quinn, who was to round out the panel of four governors, bowed out after attending the conference’s lunchtime keynote, where Emanuel also spoke. Quinn said he was called away to Peoria to survey and address flooding.

Quinn, who’d bristled at Perry’s attack of the serious budget deficit, pension mess, low credit ratings and high taxes hurting Illinois’ business climate — Texas boasts billions of dollars in budget surplus — had dismissed Perry as a “big talker,” who bombed in the presidential campaign.

Corbett and Nixon, however, agreed with Perry Tuesday that all states engage in such competition, albeit some less aggressively. All pointed out many governors are expected to visit the conference throughout the week, vying for a bioscience industry that has become one of the nation’s most innovative and growing economic sectors, accounting for over 1.6 million jobs, with an additional 5 million jobs from a multiplier effect.

“Obviously, this is a growing industry in the U.S. It’s 30-years-old in Pennsylvania,” said Corbett. “What it means is a great deal to health care, and jobs ­— high-paying jobs. So we’re all here on a jobs search.”

“For me, this isn’t about between states. This is about the United States,” said Nixon. “Gov. Perry makes you compete. He makes you ready to compete, and that’s fine by us in the ‘Show me,’ state. The bottom line is that science education is where the jobs of the future lie, and every state wants to recruit companies to invest in their state. Our responsibility here is to grow our state, and we’re focused on the tools we can provide to large companies, small companies, and start-ups locating to Missouri.”

Convention CEO James Greenwood said all four states are leaders in state-sponsored programs encouraging investment in the bioscience industry, where jobs require a highly skilled workforce and pay, on average, 79 percent more than the private sector.

Perry, in his media campaign which cost some $80,000, said, “I have a word of advice for employers frustrated by Illinois’ short-sighted approach to business: you need to get out while there’s still time. The escape route leads straight to Texas, where limited government, low taxes and a pro-business environment are creating more jobs than any other state.”

Quinn had argued Texas has its own challenges, from a historic drought water issues to ranking near the bottom on SAT scores and a large percentage of workers without health insurance, stating, “We don’t need any advice from Gov. Perry.”

Both Quinn and Emanuel, who announced at the convention Tuesday the city’s plans for a Bioscience & Pharmaceutical Industry Commercialization & Innovation Center that would host start-ups here, had scoffed at criticism from the man whom both pointed out had during one presidential debate been unable to remember the third federal department he’d eliminate, if elected president.

The new center, which will host corporate offices for both start-ups and large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies downtown, mimics the technology incubator — 1871 — launched last year at Merchandise Mart, the mayor said.

“Let me say this to Gov. Perry: I hope when he comes he remembers all three of his reasons…because it will be a real test for him,” Emanuel had said.

After the panel, Perry laughed off the ire he’d left in his wake.

“It was a successful trip in that we’re getting the message across. The media helped us, and we met with 55 individuals at lunch just to talk about opportunities in Texas. I thought it was a very thoughtful, straightforward conversation with people from Illinois, business men and women,” he said. “Listen, we compete with each other. All businesses have to look at their bottom line, the legal system, taxes, regulations. And the beauty of America is that you have choices. We didn’t [pick on] Illinois. We did the same thing with California, and the folks there weren’t too happy either. But the truth is, I didn’t tell anyone anything they didn’t already know.”

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