How Illinois is building unique regional collaborations that drive economic growth
Illinois is made up of a diverse network of communities, each with their own assets that attract businesses and drive growth. Throughout the state, these communities are embracing collaboration, finding that working together to promote their regions can significantly boost economic development. Companies making location decisions do not see boundaries between jurisdictions. When a business locates in one community, it positively impacts the entire surrounding region. Recent examples of Illinois’ unique regional collaborations include the new Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership and Southern Illinois Now.
Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership
Regional leaders recently announced the formation of the Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership, an effort uniting the City of Chicago and seven counties across the metropolitan area to drive a regional economic strategy and strengthen Chicagoland’s economic force in the global market.
With financial commitment from the partners totaling $1 million for the first year in a three-year pilot, World Business Chicago will manage the new Chicagoland Partnership and expand its services region-wide, complementing existing municipal and county programs.
The Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership will focus on promoting the region’s many assets, including extensive freight infrastructure, diverse talent, strong exporting industries, and world-class institutions of innovation, research, and culture. International engagement will be coordinated among the partners, and they will share and optimize resources including market research and asset mapping to achieve greater efficiency and scale.
Partners include Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties, and the City of Chicago, along with private and civic sector partners. The group is united around shared principles for regional cooperation and will pursue joint economic activities that benefit everyone, while developing a competitive global identity.
“I just couldn’t understand why the passion of our region stopped at the borders of Chicago,” said Loop Capital President and CEO (and Intersect Illinois board chairman) Jim Reynolds, who represented the business community and celebrated the effort at the press conference announcing the collaboration. “I think, from a business perspective, and many others, what we did today is going to unleash a significant amount of global investment activity in this state that we’ve been striving for.”
Visit the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s (CMAP) website for more information.
Southern Illinois Now
A second example of regional collaboration aims to promote the many advantages of downstate Illinois. Southern Illinois Now (SI Now) was founded in 2020 to serve as a regional hub for economic development in the state’s southern 17 counties. It focuses on supporting existing businesses, attracting and expanding businesses, developing the local workforce, and promoting the business opportunities both within the region and beyond.
The organization recently named Deborah Barnett, Ph.D., a lifelong resident of Southern Illinois who has long been dedicated to the region’s advancement, as executive director.
“This important work is a marathon not a sprint, but we can accelerate our first few laps by learning from others, further aligning our partners, and putting strategic, systematic plans and processes in place to get the work done,” said Dr. Barnett. “A regionalist at heart, I regularly promote and advocate for all of Southern Illinois and it is a privilege to lead SI Now into its next stage of growth and impact.”
SI Now also recently filed articles of incorporation to become a standalone not-for-profit corporation and continues to accept investments from local businesses. The organization aims to support Southern Illinois’ role as a thriving, economically diverse environment for business and industry with a growing population, labor force, per-capita income and tax base, while elevating an already high quality of life and place.
Current work focuses on supporting business retention and attraction, workforce development and training, employment growth in high-wage sectors, and elevating perceptions both within the region and beyond.
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