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Trade Show Firm Bolting Illinois For Wisconsin

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Catalyst Exhibits Inc. in Crystal Lake

Catalyst Exhibits Inc., a trade show exhibit firm located in Crystal Lake, is moving across the state line to Wisconsin after Illinois raised its income tax rates in January. (Credit: CBS)

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CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (CBS) – An Illinois trade show marketing firm is moving across the state line to Wisconsin in the wake of a major income tax hike.

Since raising Illinois income tax rates in January, Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton have insisted the state is still good for business.

But Tim Roberts, CEO of Crystal Lake-based Catalyst Exhibits, Inc., said “not anymore.”

As CBS 2′s Dana Kozlov reports, Roberts has decided to move his company to Pleasant Prairie, Wis., taking with him more than 85 jobs, after that state made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Roberts said that his decision to move Catalyst to an empty warehouse in Wisconsin was a tough one, but Wisconsin state officials made it easier.

“The incentives were actually quite good to move to Wisconsin,” Roberts said. “And the trending of where I think Wisconsin’s going versus Illinois, I think is a little more favorable to business. … Just tax increases alone, that was a big one.”

Quinn and Democratic lawmakers in Illinois have said the income tax hike passed in January was necessary to help balance the state budget. Quinn and other state leaders said repeatedly it wouldn’t hurt business.

But Roberts said the tax increase was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back in his decision to relocate.

A $1.2 million loan from Kenosha County and a $500,000 Wisconsin state grant – along with cheaper rent – didn’t hurt either.

“They are out there pursuing us and trying to make stuff happen,” Roberts said. “The same type of attitude just doesn’t really exist (in Illinois.) They’re too busy; I mean, they’ve got a lot of issues to worry about and they’re working on those, but they’re not being proactive in making sure businesses stay and grow in Illinois.”

Catalyst exhibits has 85 employees right now and is hiring.

In a statement, Quinn’s office said company officials never responded to the administration’s request for a meeting.

Roberts said that he was in preliminary discussions with the state about a grant to keep Catalyst here, but nothing formal was ever offered to him.

He also said Crystal Lake officials worked hard to keep them there.

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