Chairing the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp. has afforded me access to a series of issues, any of which could propel Northeast Illinois/Northwest Indiana into new and re-energized technologies, positions of increased influence relative to the national economy and a seat at the international market table.
But to bring much of this to reality, whether in 2013 or the remainder of the decade, starts, as some wise pre-Facebook visionary once said, with the first step.
I recently read an article detailing the year-end announcement by a prominent European technology company of its decision to move its international headquarters to the Chicago metropolitan area. Even more intriguing is its business – water.
As fascinating as the prospect of this company is for the region were remarks from a reader regarding attracting out-of-town investment to the region:
"I hope the suburbs learn how to keep and attract companies to their towns.
"The infrastructure is certainly critical with good road access and high speed Internet connections. High up on the list is a town that welcomes new business by making the move into town easier than the city of Chicago.
"In other words, do not hold an occupancy certificate as a weapon to be used against the company. Make it a pleasant experience dealing with your municipality, not the standard 'I am doing you a favor answering a question for you or getting up from my desk' that is encountered at many suburban city halls."
For Hoosiers, this seems to focus on the Illinois condition. Nonetheless, there is a message for both sides of the state line when it comes to cultivating public/private relationships. Take stock of one's own house in hopes it attracts others to locate theirs nearby.
And as a New Year's resolution, I think the concept works at all levels, in attracting and retaining business -- from the perspective of a homeowner, a landlord, a renter or a store owner. It is reflected in providing not only dollar-saving incentives offered to a business to locate or expand here, but in the visible attributes of a community -- infrastructure, property maintenance, civic pride and responsibility, not to mention personal pride and responsibility.
It is reflected in the cleanliness and upkeep of public places, the civility with which we treat one another, as well as those we hope to attract to our communities.
Pay it Forward has become a popular and commendable movement in many quarters with frequent examples that inspire us all. The 2013 version, Pay it Now, calls for investments of all types to secure redevelopment, growth and to coin the word of the moment – sustainability – for the region's economy.
Resolve, therefore, to take stock of your own environment and how you are viewed by others -- as an ambassador for your property, block, neighborhood and town.
Like it or not, we are all in the economic development business. Consequently, we all have a stake in the future of our region. That's how we need to move forward in 2013.