On the Ground in Southland - Metropolitan Planning Council

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On the Ground in Southland

Groups such as the Economic Development Roundtable and Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation are working together to bolster economic growth in southern Cook and Will counties. From MPC's Winter 2004 Regional Connection.

Custom Steel Buildings in south suburban Lynwood, Ill. may not seem like a high tech business — it designs and builds prefabricated steel buildings. But it, along with more and more “old line” companies, has high tech needs. Because Custom Steel communicates customer requests to a plant in Wisconsin, staff transmit designs, specifications, and floor plans — large electronic files — via dial-up Internet access. It can take an hour or more to send just one. Custom Steel’s president, Larry Lyman wants DSL service, but it is not available in Lynwood.

Larry Lyman, president of Custom Steel, needs broadband to send orders to plants in Wisconsin. 

Small businesses like Custom Steel are the economic engines of northeastern Illinois, but lack of access to modern telecommunications infrastructure hurts efficiency and productivity. In the south suburbs, improving the technology infrastructure is one of the ways that MPC is working to help build a stronger local economy, and in turn, create jobs.

MPC research shows how communities not able to participate in a digital economy are too often left behind. Custom Steel is featured alongside the Ford Motor Company’s Chicago Supplier Park in MPC’s forthcoming digital video From Broad Shoulders to Broadband, which sheds light on the challenge that many entrepreneurs face.

In 2003, MPC helped convene the Economic Development Roundtable (EDR), which created a shared agenda among organizations working on redevelopment issues. South suburban and regional groups representing business, labor, nonprofit, economic development, and education organizations joined forces with local government agencies to strategize on how to attract and retain businesses and address issues that affect quality of life for local residents. MPC and the Campaign for Sensible Growth created an online resource of planning, government, and economic development organizations at work in the south and southwest Cook County suburbs and Will County. MPC and EDR members also prepared a report, Supporting Community Economic Development in Chicago’s Southland, for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity that makes the case for targeting State reinvestment to south suburban communities in need.

These collaborations and others have led to the creation of the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation (CSEDC). As an ex-officio member, MPC joins others in this new public/private sector, nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote and cultivate a positive business environment in the Southland. CSEDC focuses on how improvements to the transportation network, for example, would increase investment in the south suburbs and stimulate job creation.

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