EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Chicago Southland is prepping for businesses

2013-12-08T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Chicago Southland is prepping for businessesBy Ed Paesel nwitimes.com
December 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

For the past several years, the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, in cooperation with the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp., has placed a heavy emphasis on the Calumet manufacturing and logistics nexus. Our purpose has been to turn brownfields into jobs in the greater south suburban region.

This region is again recognizing and taking advantage of the many core assets that set us apart with extraordinary advantages for industrial business development. Its central location in the Chicago metropolitan area, coupled with unparalleled freight transportation access that includes service from five Class 1 and 4 short line railroads, makes access quick and easy.

In addition, our area is blessed with proximity to two existing major intermodal freight terminals, the Port of Chicago, Midway Airport, as well as the developing South Suburban Airport. We have more than 3,000 acres of vacant, industrially zoned properties.

We clearly understand our region must provide support for site pre-development and business financing to make these sites even more attractive. To that end, we have developed the South Suburban Atlas, which has mapped dozens of sites and provides comprehensive data for those sites.

SSMMA and the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp. have a long-standing brownfield site assessment and cleanup program through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, the South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority has been formed to aid in clearing back taxes and liens and will hold property on a tax-exempt basis during the land assembly process.

Furthermore, our organizations have assisted in forming the Southland Community Development Fund, which provides loans at below market rates for land acquisition and pre-development work, as well as forming the Brownfield Remediation and Intermodal Promotion Act through the Illinois General Assembly.

These new programs are in addition to long-standing programs such as TIF, enterprise zones and Cook County property tax incentive programs.

Another major initiative is workforce development support. Some of these efforts include the Calumet Green Manufacturing Partnership, which addresses the labor/skills mismatch and offers access to a pool of local workers trained and certified in advanced manufacturing technology for a range of manufacturing positions.

In addition, logistics ladder worker training programs supply local workers trained and licensed as commercial truck drivers, certified warehouse workers and logistics professionals. Our consortium of community colleges provides this training and more.

We have made great progress in these programs, but clearly there is much more to do and we are committed to these efforts.

For additional information on any of these programs and activities, contact Reggie Greenwood at (708) 922-4671 or reggie.greenwood@ssmma.org.

Ed Paesel is the executive director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association. The opinions are the writer's.

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