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The Cities That Work Series: Economic opportunity transcends regional, state boundaries

As northeastern Illinois' state- and federally-designated comprehensive planning agency, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) exists to promote regional points of view. The CMAP Board, staff, and our many partners are committed to the concept that the seven counties and 284 municipalities of metropolitan Chicago work best in cooperation, not in competition. With GO TO 2040, this area's first-ever comprehensive plan, adopted in 2010, our region has a roadmap for planning collaboratively to achieve sustainable prosperity that transcends geographic and political boundaries.

So it is quite appropriate that MPC has chosen to highlight state collaboration at its annual luncheon on July 25, 2012. The economies of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin are deeply entwined, and rhetoric frequently overstates the degree of competition while understating the extent — and certainly the opportunities — for economic cooperation between our adjoining states and metropolitan regions. It was encouraging to see recent public comments by Indiana's secretary of commerce and Wisconsin's governor that sought to downplay media reports of "poaching" their neighbors' companies, by pointing out how much their business communities and residents depend on a vibrant economy in northeast Illinois. 

Likewise, metropolitan Chicago's economy relies on northwest Indiana and southeast Wisconsin for crucial resources, including our three states' shared workforce. Our transportation system is truly multi-state and is a linchpin of our tri-state economy. With the first in a series of "drill-down reports" by CMAP and its partners, we have just published a new assessment of the freight system that significantly shapes the Midwest and U.S. economy.  Together, our states and regions should be discussing how to support freight and other important industry "clusters" — groups of interdependent firms and related institutions that draw a productive advantage from their geographic concentration and interactions, which are our regional competitive advantage in this increasingly global economy.

We must support our businesses' efforts to innovate, which often emerge out of industry clusters where dense interactions between symbiotic companies create new processes and technologies that result in jobs and wealth.  Our three states contain unparalleled university and research institutions that are leaders in R&D and innovation.  We must create new partnerships between government, business and research institutions to maximize our opportunities for innovation that result in jobs and economic growth.

There is much that binds southeast Wisconsin, northwest Indiana, and northeastern Illinois together.  Our natural resources, our transportation systems, and our economic opportunities don’t recognize state or regional boundaries. Our leaders must work together to create the economic growth and strong communities that our residents require.


Randy Blankenhorn is executive director of CMAP, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Under his leadership, CMAP developed and is now guiding the implementation of GO TO 2040, metropolitan Chicago's first comprehensive regional plan in more than 100 years. CMAP is dedicated to strengthening the region's communities and ensuring economic prosperity. 


On Wednesday, July 25, MPC hosted our 2012 Annual Luncheon: The Cities That Work, featuring an insightful dialogue between the mayors of Gary and Milwaukee, about opportunities to strengthen the tri-state region. Leading up to the event, we featured a series of posts from guest authors and members of our staff on issues that unite the tri-state region. Read the whole series at www.metroplanning.org/citiesthatworkseries. 


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For 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area’s toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

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