The state's policy toward economic development has engendered political controversy since the 1830s. Before the Civil War, the Democrats in power usually tried to slow, though not reverse, the tide of rapid industrial and commercial growth. The Republican ascendancy between the 1850s and the 1930s (with a few brief interruptions) produced a generally favorable business climate, which in turn fostered rapid economic growth. The manufacturing sector eroded slowly in the 1960s and 1970s, as incentives and tax credits for new industry were kept at a modest level. In 1989, however, the state began to aggressively encourage companies undergoing modernization or commercializing new technologies by enacting the Technology Advancement and Development Act, which invests in companies developing advanced technologies for commercial purposes.
In 2003, the lead government agency coordinating economic development programs was the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), previously called the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs. The name change indicated a shift in emphasis towards inclusion ("no community left behind") in the economic downturn that followed the prosperous 1990s; a shift, for instance, from primary emphasis on keeping up with the latest digital technology (as in the government's Science and Technology Initiative of 2000 that included "technology challenge" business and educational grants, and research funding) to a concern, also, with bridging the "digital divide." The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) was given managerial control of the Team Illinois initiative announced in July 2003, which featured the pooling of resources of virtually every state agency, including the DCEO, to address the needs of the state's poorest communities. The goal of Team Illinois was to work with residents, elected officials, local business leaders, and community stakeholders to help build needed infrastructure. The creation of public-private partnerships and the empowerment of community stakeholders were to be central parts of the approach. Hopkins Park in Pembroke Township, a rural community in Kankakee County, was the first of four communities scheduled to receive Team Illinois assistance. Infrastructural improvements underway included road repair, a new Technology Learning Center, public-private partnerships to build affordable housing; the removal and clean-up of tire dumps (by the Illinois EPA), and health screenings and immunizations (by the Department of Public Health). The DCEO role was to work with the Kankakee Community College and the local Workforce Investment Board to form a consortium of employers to develop customized training to meet their hiring needs. Employers who had joined the consortium included Aventis, Armstrong, Bunge, Momence Packaging/Johnsville Sausage, Rohm & Haas, Micro Links, Roehl Transportation Falcon Transportation, Kmart, and Reynolds Food Packaging. Internationally, the DCEO's role is that of the "sales department for Illinois." It maintains trade and investment offices in Washington (DC), Toronto, Budapest, Mexico City, Tokyo, Warsaw, Johannesburg, Brussels, and Hong Kong. The promotion of jobs, tourism, minority-owned enterprises, and foreign markets for Illinois products is the department's major responsibility. The assistance by the DCEO includes equity capital and low interest loans for small businesses; low-interest financing to communities undergoing infrastructure improvements which help create or retain jobs; tax-exempt bonds for companies expanding or renovating their physical plant; and grants for employee training and retraining. The