Chicago-area business and government leaders today launched what might be one of the most powerful economic development engines in Illinois history — an “unprecedented” consortium that draws on the best minds and vast resources of the city of Chicago and seven counties: Kane, Cook, DuPage Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will.
It’s called the Chicago Regional Growth Corporation, and its purpose is to drive collaboration among public and private partners, attract giant businesses from around the globe and generate jobs, jobs, jobs.
Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen represented the seven county leaders when he spoke during the press conference announcement today (Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018) at mHub Chicago, the city’s first innovation center focused on physical product development and manufacturing.
“Job creation and job retention are critical to the the well-being of our residents and our communities,” he said. “Many people don’t work in the same city or county in which they live. Because of this, it’s imperative that we work collaboratively to promote the region’s diverse employment and living opportunities.”
The CRGC launch comes on the same day Amazon announced that Chicago is among its top 20 finalists for its second corporate headquarters and a day after Apple announced plans to repatriate billions in overseas cash, saying it will contribute $350 billion to the U.S. economy over the next five years.
“Everyone here is familiar with the fierce, nationwide competition to attract Amazon’s HQ2 site,” Lauzen said during his remarks. “Amazon’s request for RFPs is just one example of why a coordinated approach to economic development is so essential.”
Kane County representatives on the CRGC include Lauzen, an ex-officio board member, Kane County Economic Development Director Mark VanKerkoff and Joe Slawek, chairman of Geneva-based FONA International.
Why CRCG Is Important
CRGC will provide a platform for collaboration and prioritize, align and manage the region’s economic development initiatives, unifying programming and the region’s identity and drawing on the expertise of industry leaders from manufacturing, food processing, finance, government and higher education.
“The economic growth of cities, from neighborhoods to suburbs is highly interdependent,” said CRGC founding Executive Director Tom Hulseman. “We have a huge opportunity to capitalize on our resources and bring all of the players to the table to set an economic development agenda that works for the entire region, with a strong emphasis on inclusive economic growth throughout all of CRGC’s programs and initiatives.”
CRGC will put the Chicago region at the forefront of the economic development field, connecting the region’s assets and building from within. The organization will add capacity to the economic development efforts of individual organizations with new programs and resources, which will make the region more efficient and reduce intra-regional competition.
“One big gap for Kane County, our communities and the region is the absence of regional marketing and promotion of the many assets that might be located in one county, but benefit all,” Lauzen said. “We believe that all 275 municipalities in our counties will benefit by being able to be found in the regional context that CRGC will provide.”
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle brought the seven county leaders together back in 2013, with a notion to explore how ways to better combine resources and collaborate to advance the Chicago region’s economy.
“This regional working group has developed programs and initiatives that have already benefited residents throughout the region,” she said. “By formally creating CRGC, we are providing a single voice for the region that will benefit businesses and residents and grow the economy throughout northeastern Illinois.”
Already, the working group that has become CRGC collaborated on initiatives including coordinating a regional response to Amazon’s search for an HQ2.
What Happens Next
Once work begins this month, CRGC will take on a variety of initiatives, facilitating regional collaboration including:
- Leading programs to increase exports, including the successful Metro Chicago Exports grant program, pitch competitions and ExporTech curriculum.
- Developing new programs to attract foreign investment to the region and build stronger relationships with existing foreign-owned enterprises in northeastern Illinois.
- Convening regionally important industry clusters to discuss common issues and identify new opportunities for growth, such as Chicago Metro Metals Consortium, which strengthens the fabricated metal and machinery sectors in the Chicago region.
- Coordinating regional networks to improve systems, such as the group’s effort to enhance the region’s freight transportation system by standardizing permitting and other initiatives.
- Growing small companies in the region’s economically distressed communities to create high-quality, wealth-building jobs for residents.
CRGC builds on the Global Cities Initiative, a joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase, that aims to strengthen the international economic connections and competitiveness of city-regions. GCI participants develop and implement strategies that boost global trade and investment, forge partnerships among U.S. and international metropolitan areas, share promising practices, jointly solve problems, and advance supportive public policy changes.
“CRGC puts Chicago at the vanguard of regional economic development, where regional collaboration to build on shared global assets will lead to growth and inclusion,” said Amy Liu, vice president and director, Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings.
JPMorgan Chase and CMAP are founding supporters of CRGC, along with each county and the city of Chicago.
CRGC will add value and complement the work of other economic development organizations, resulting in a cycle of investment, training, employment and wage growth and a strong, more prosperous economy. The founding board, announced today, includes:
Mark VanKerkhoff, Director, Kane County Development and Community Services
- Andrez Beltran, Economic Development Coordinator Kendall County
- John Carpenter, President & CEO, Choose DuPage
- Nim Chinniah, Executive Vice President, Northwestern University
- Nelda Connors, Chairman & CEO, Pine Grove Holdings
- Kevin Considine, President & CEO, Lake County Partners
- Steve Davis, President & Chairman, The Will Group
- John Greuling, President & CEO, Will County Center for Economic Development
- Mike Jasso, Chief, Cook County Bureau of Economic Development
- Michael Moskow, Vice Chairman & Distinguished Fellow, Chicago Council on Global Affairs
- Aneesa Muthana, President, Pioneer Services
- Alberto Paracchini, President & CEO, Byline Bank
- Ann Rondeau, President, College of DuPage
- Jim Roolf, President, Joliet Banking Center First Midwest Bank
- Michael Skala, County Board Member, McHenry County
- Joe Slawek, Chairman, FONA International
- Andrea Zopp, President, World Business Chicago
The executive leadership from the seven counties and City of Chicago will advise ex officio the board and executive director:
- Dan Cronin, Chairman, DuPage County
Rahm Emanuel, Mayor, City of Chicago
- Jack Franks, Chairman, McHenry County
- Scott Gryder, Chairman, Kendall County
- Chris Lauzen, Chairman, Kane County Board
- Aaron Lawlor, Chairman, Lake County
- Toni Preckwinkle, President, Cook County
- Larry Walsh, Executive, Will County
For more information visit ChicagoRegionalGrowth.com.
SOURCE: CRGC news release