Illinois needs to revitalize its existing industries and develop new ones to remain an economic competitor, according to a recent report by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs.

The department, charged with ensuring the state's economic health, said Illinois lagged the nation from 1970 to 1990 in growth in nonagricultural employment and in per capita income.

Norm Sims, manager of policy development, planning, and research for the department, said the lag steemed from productivity gains, particularly during the 1980s, and from the "huge growth" in lower-paying service and retail industry jobs.

"Unless these weaknesses are remedied, Illinois' economy is projected to experience decreasing employment and wage growth in the future," the report concludes.

To increase the state's economic competitiveness, the report recommends measures such as job training, assistance for small businesses, the promotion of linkages among industries, and a coordinated effort throughout Illinois.

The study will serve as a blue-print for the department's programs in the future, said spokesman Marshall Rosenthal.

The Chicago-Calumet Skyway's $90.2 million of outstanding debt continues to carry the D rating it received in 1963 from Standard & Poor's Corp. when the tollroad defaulted on its sinking-fund payments, the agency reported late last month.

Barbara Bych, an associate director at Standard & Poor's, said the agency decided to update information on the rating after receiving phone calls about a possible toll increase that may help pay off the bonds.

In September, bondholders petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to require Chicago to raise the toll to $2 per trip from $1.75.

Ken Purcell, an attorney with Winston & Strawn, the law firm representing bondholders, said Chicago recently filed a brief opposing the toll increase. He added that Judge James Moran could make a decision on the petition late in December.

Bondholders argue that a toll increase could raise $1.2 million more in revenues each year. The tollroad, which connects the southeast side of Chicago with northwest Indiania, defaulted on $101 million of revenue bonds in 1963.

While the city has paid all past due interest on the bonds since 1989, a recent audit found it was $64.6 million behind in sinking fund contributions. A total of $90.2 million of bonds, payable from the sinking fund, are scheduled to mature in 1995.

Standard & Poor's has pointed out in the past that various proposals have been put forward for the skyway's problems without bearing fruit.

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