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Imagine if all communities had the capacity to address their economic and community development challenges and plan for the future efficiently and effectively. Instead of being trapped by “either-or” budget decisions, such as whether to maintain core services for residents or update their business attraction and retention strategy, what if local leaders combined resources with their neighbors so that they could connect struggling families to resources and secure new job opportunities? Rather than duplicating efforts, what if communities worked across municipal borders to take full advantage of shared assets, such as rail lines, and to revitalize their interdependent housing and job markets? Imagine the efficiencies this could create, not only for the communities themselves, but also for private sector developers, area employers, and financial institutions, as well as policymakers and county, regional, state and federal governments.
In metropolitan Chicago, through a groundbreaking collaborative approach to planning and community development, three clusters of suburbs are starting to see that all of this is possible. These three clusters – in Cook County’s south, west and northwest suburbs – have been implementing a unified strategy for attracting and investing resources for nearly three years, demonstrating the promise of this burgeoning model known as interjurisdictional collaboration.
Significant work remains to ensure these clusters are on strong footing. This paper points to policy reforms and best practices needed to support the success of these pioneers, and to make it easier for this model to be replicated across metropolitan Chicago and other U.S. regions.