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City Hall Unveils Plan for Economic Growth

By Chris Bentley in News on Mar 1, 2012 5:40PM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a man with many plans. This one aims to reclaim Chicago’s economic might from a “lost decade” of slumping growth and aging infrastructure, the mayor said Wednesday.

Chicago’s Plan for Economic Growth was developed by the city’s non-profit economic development agency, World Business Chicago. The 60-page report identifies the metropolitan area’s economic pros and cons, offering 10 strategies to “guide the development of specific initiatives,” to restore economic productivity. The Plan itself stops short of specific recommendations.

One hardly needs to argue for economic re-invigoration in Chicago. The Second City has long wrestled with rust belt-style aspersions that would cast doubt on its self-proclaimed status as a “world class city.” That refrain may be hard to define (or unappealing in the first place), but Chicago’s economic shortcomings are more starkly apparent.

Greater Chicago’s gross regional product grew at just half the national GDP rate during the last decade, the report said, lagging behind per capita growth seen in New York in Los Angeles. A “highly fragmented system of government” and economic development diffuses $2 billion in spending and tax incentives annually throughout more than 100 organizations, many of whom don’t communicate with one another.

And Chicago suffers acutely from sour economic trends at large. Manufacturing productivity is behind the national average, with Chicago exporting a smaller portion of its goods than its peer cities in that market. Outdated infrastructure and a faltering education system are also named in the report.

The Plan calls for “innovative, merit-based systems to finance infrastructure” and “transformative investments,” while noting — perhaps understating —┬áthe city’s lack of capital. Ten strategic goals outlined in the report call on the city to boost entrepreneurship, exports and advanced manufacturing by investing in neighborhood assets and modern infrastructure.

“A global city like Chicago needs a clear set of goals, a clear framework for analysis and clear strategies for economic growth and the creation of jobs,” Emanuel said in a statement. What specific steps the city will take based on this framework for analysis remains to be seen.

Information on the World Business Chicago plan is available at and by email at