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Aided By $29M Tax Break, Illinois Mitsubishi Plant To Make SUV

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (STMW) - Gov. Pat Quinn and a top Mitsubishi Motors executive announced Friday that the Japanese automaker will begin producing a new Outlander Sport Crossover SUV at its Normal plant beginning in 2012.

The state is offering the company $29 million in tax incentives over 10 years, an investment Quinn's office credits for "helping save at least 1,200 jobs." The value of the company's investment is $45 million, Quinn's office said.

"We would not be here today without the continued support of the state of Illinois," said Shinichi Kurihara, Mitsubishi Motors North America president.

Quinn recently has faced sniping from out-of-state Republican governors like Chris Christie of New Jersey and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who are trying to poach state businesses after the governor signed off on raising corporate income taxes last month.

"New Jersey, I think the last auto production was about 2005 in that state. The lights have been turned out over there," Quinn said in a direct shot at Christie, who was visiting Chicago Friday to make a sales pitch for his state with Illinois business leaders.

"We're doing very well in Illinois. Here with Mitsubishi, with Ford, with Chrysler and with Navistar that makes trucks. Vehicle manufacturing, that's something we know how to do here in our state," the governor said, referring to a string of auto- and truck-plant expansions his administration helped foster.

"The faith each of those four companies has placed in Illinois and they're investing millions of dollars in the future, I think, is the best way to answer political actors who just want to play politics," Quinn said.

The announcement was made on the home turf of Quinn's failed Republican gubernatorial rival, state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), who has been a critic of Quinn's business-retention strategies since narrowly losing the governor's race in November.

Brady skipped the announcement because he was "out of town," an aide said. Brady's wife, Nancy, represented him at the auto plant announcement but did not speak.

Mitsubishi workers had accepted a wage cut tied to a company promise to bring in a new model for assembly at the plant. Plant and union officials Friday would not divulge the nature of those concessions.

Cars began rolling off the Mitsubishi plant's assembly line in 1988, but it has faced difficulties in the past decade. In 2004, Mitsubishi pared a third of its workforce at its downstate plant by laying off more than 1,000 employees.

The plant now employs 1,300 workers and last year produced 30,000 vehicles, including Mitsubishi's Galant, Eclipse, Eclipse Spyder convertible and Endeavor sports utility vehicle.

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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