Chicago's Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs a proactive strategy - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Chicago's Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs a proactive strategy

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, GoTo 2040

As the presidential debates mark the last stretch of the election season, the slow path of economic growth and job creation is weighing heavily in the minds of voters. The candidates have presented vastly differing plans for the best way to create more jobs and a stronger economy. We here in Chicagoland know that our city and region can’t rely on the federal government when it comes to economic growth. Smart cities and regions must also plan proactively to build on existing assets and pursue nontraditional resources. It’s what I call the era of metro self-help.  

I am fortunate to live and work in one of those places which are constantly striving to get ahead of the pack. The World Business Chicago Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs, unveiled by Mayor Emanuel earlier this year, is proactively pursuing strategic steps forward on transformative economic development initiatives for Chicago and the metropolitan region. I encourage you to visit WBC’s website, www.ChicagoGrowthAndJobs.com, where you can keep informed of the Plan and provide input.

Each of the Plan’s ten core strategies for economic development will be led by newly formed Strategy Leadership Teams. I have been tapped to co-lead, along with Civic Committee President Ty Fahner, the infrastructure investment team. Since both of us believe it is inefficient to spend too much time studying what we “should” do and is far more productive to push a few things to completion, I’m confident that we will embrace our assignment of growing the region’s economy through wise infrastructure investments.

Today, most of our region’s infrastructure is poorly maintained, and repairing it – much less expanding it to serve a growing population and new economic realities – will require significant resources. Financing infrastructure has become increasingly difficult as fewer federal dollars are generated to replenish the nation’s bankrupt Highway Trust Fund and state funding is highly unpredictable. Given these realities, MPC has been investigating a variety of emerging innovative finance tools, including congestion pricing, value capture, and TIFIA (a federal loan guarantee that was greatly expanded this past summer by Congress).

Our seven-county, eight million-person region is definitely “big enough” to be a fascinating laboratory for new ways to finance infrastructure. However, as MPC highlighted at its July 2012 Annual Luncheon featuring Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, the tri-state mega-region’s economic potential can only be reached through coordinated infrastructure investment. MPC is working with our counterparts in Northwest Indiana and Southeastern Wisconsin to find new ways to finance projects that cross state lines. For example, a thriving Gary Airport, better rail links between Chicago, Kenosha and Racine, and joint marketing of our Lake Michigan basin to water-intensive companies are all strong candidates for shared wins.

MPC is deeply committed to doing the heavy lifting necessary for lasting economic and job growth in metropolitan Chicago. World Business Chicago’s 10 strategies are thoughtful and provide a focused framework for coordinated action. Multiple voices are echoing the message that modern and efficient infrastructure is a necessary lever for growth. And there’s nothing like a hard-fought success to spark the next one. Let’s get to work on investing in our growth.

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