EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Cook County's economic development challenges, opportunities

2013-05-26T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Cook County's economic development challenges, opportunitiesBy Kristi DeLaurentiis nwitimes.com
May 26, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Last month, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and her Council of Economic Advisers released the “Partnering for Prosperity” report, which lays out a clear economic growth action agenda for Cook County.

The report identifies nine key strategies for improving the business environment and vitality of the region, and highlights the importance of collaborative approaches with local governments.

At the core is the principle that county government can, and should, be an effective partner that helps the economy grow through strategic investment and advancement of high-potential strategies.

Within the report were nine regional strategies and summaries of their impact:

Increase county government’s transparency, efficiency, and accountability.

Bureaucratic red tape and waste escalate costs. Government that is open, efficient and responsive to business is attractive to investors.

Increase suburban government efficiency through shared services and centralized capacities.

With some 543 units of local government in Cook County, it’s easy to see how duplication of services can cost businesses and residents. Alignment of strategic programs and centralizing some services will save taxpayer dollars. Joint procurement, data sharing and other streamlined processes are already being explored.

Increase the region’s strategic, coordinated economic growth initiatives.

Expanded collaboration across the county’s elected offices and with municipalities is a priority if we’re to harness the potential of the region and compete in a global arena. Our rivals are other metropolitan regions — not neighboring communities.

Increase productivity of Cook County’s manufacturing clusters.

Cook County has a strong manufacturing base, but there is great potential to grow this sector and other related industries, including trucking, rail, intermodal and logistics.

Increase competitiveness of anchor institution suppliers.

With more than $1 billion a year spent on goods and services, Cook County is supporting many local suppliers. Efforts that increase innovation, efficiency and productivity among suppliers will create jobs and improve our overall economic climate.

Increase productivity of Cook County’s transportation and logistics cluster.

Transportation and logistics employ more than 140,000 people in the region. Partnering with local communities, the county can support intermodal redevelopment and expansion of training programs.

Improve the quality and efficiency of the region’s transportation infrastructure.

The Chicago region’s transportation system is known as the nation’s hub — and one of the worst congested. Reducing congestion, providing better public transportation access, promoting improved freight movement and addressing the backlog of projects will spur economic activity.

Support the emergence of dense, mixed-use, well-connected communities.

Targeted county programs can address the mismatch between jobs and affordable housing within communities and spur greater economic activity.

Improve the alignment of Cook County residents’ skills with employer demand.

Higher educational levels and skills are needed for the jobs of tomorrow. Workforce training programs and other initiatives are critical if we’re to attract and retain high-paying jobs.

In sum, the “Partnering for Prosperity” report outlines steps that enable county government to be an effective partner in regional economic growth. Collaboration and implementation are keys to our collective success.

Kristi DeLaurentiis is director of planning and development for the Village of Lansing. The opinions are the writer's.

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