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Archive: MarySue Barrett

Emerging Alliance will Bolster Chicago, Milwaukee, Gary

MarySue Barrett / Aug 03 2012


For Release Friday, August 3, 2012

MarySue BarrettMandy BoothIf you want to understand the global economy, look at an aerial photo of the world at night. It is, quite literally, enlightening: Unlike typical maps, delineated by so many politically drawn boundaries and pastel tones, the world after dark sheds light on what unites us, beyond the city or suburb or state in which we live.

At night, the mega-regions of our global economy — areas like greater New York, Boston and Philadelphia in the U.S., or London, Paris and Lyon in Europe — are aglow, thanks to their interconnected cities and suburbs, highways and train lines, businesses and industries.

Along the western and southern shores of Lake Michigan, you’ll see a band of light connecting Milwaukee, Wis., Chicago, and Gary, Ind. In March 2012, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released a competitiveness analysis of the regional economy encompassing these three cities and their 21 surrounding counties, 470-plus suburbs and 11 million people. Their scope was informed by global investment decision-makers who view this mega-region — our region — as an economic whole.

Curiously, that’s not how we’ve traditionally seen ourselves. For many public and private sector leaders in the tri-state area this perspective — and OECD’s 300-page, tri-state review, the first analysis of its kind they’ve published on a U.S. mega-region — was a revelation, almost like seeing our region lit up, at 3,000-feet, for the first time.

Historically, we’ve bickered over stolen slices of the pie — a headquarters that moves from Milwaukee to Chicago for a tax break or a company wooed from Chicago to Indiana for similar reasons. What’s promising is that our mega-region’s leaders are starting to realize it’s not only counterproductive to snitch from a shared pie, but that we could be spending our economic development energy to bake a bigger pie to feed us all.
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Creative Partnerships Key to Strong Metropolitan Economies

MarySue Barrett / Mar 31 2012


For Release Saturday, March 31, 2012

MarySue BarrettMandy Booth“Lost decade.” When a politician utters a phrase so bleak about his or her own region, it’s a calculated risk: During the sharp intake of breath that inevitably follows, one wonders: Will the communities, residents and businesses he or she represents respond with innovative ideas and strong commitments to work together to avoid repeating past mistakes?

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took that chance in March with the release of World Business Chicago’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs, which soberly diagnoses the impact of what the mayor called the prior “lost decade.” The plan identifies 10 strategies for making the next decade a prosperous one, many requiring joint public and private sector action. Examples: enhancing the Chicago area’s competitive position as a leading transportation and logistics hub, making the region a premier tourist destination, and developing and deploying neighborhood assets to align with regional economic growth.
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Defying the Scarcity Mindset For Community-Building Results

MarySue Barrett / Jul 21 2011


For Release Friday, July 22, 2011

MarySue BarrettMandy BoothAt a time when all levels of government are looking to cut, cut, cut, the scarcity mindset is poisoning America. Far too many municipal, county, state and federal agencies have lost their way fighting over crumbs, wasting time, and distracting everyone from the ultimate goal: planning for the next economy.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of breeding competition, scarcity is the platform from which creativity is flourishing in several clusters of Chicago suburbs. Still reeling from the housing crisis, these groups of neighboring communities are demonstrating a more optimistic and effective approach to their problems by working together across borders to rehabilitate, revitalize and re-imagine the local housing stock. They are flipping the script on scarcity by collaborating, which is allowing them to do more with less — and, in so doing, provide greater opportunities to more people in their communities.

Their collaboration is paying off — literally and figuratively. On July 11, the state of Illinois awarded $6.6 million to the Chicago Southland Housing and Community Development Collaborative, some 20-plus suburbs working together to target limited foreclosure recovery funding to areas near job centers and rail lines. Read More »

Water, Water, Everywhere — But Enough? A Mega-Regional Challenge

MarySue Barrett / Feb 12 2011


For Release Sunday, February 13, 2011

MarySue BarrettWhen it comes to water policy, most cities and regions face one or more of four critical problems: scarcity, quality, flooding, and system performance.

For notoriously thirsty places such as Atlanta and Las Vegas, water is never too far from the front pages. In other regions, quality concerns rear their head when a surprise contaminant emerges, or when flooding rolls in and out with the weather.

And then there is the interminable drip, drip, drip of our nation’s massive and aging water infrastructure system. Perhaps because most of that system is underground and the repair costs are staggering, most people would prefer to put it off until tomorrow — or at least until the next catastrophic water main break.
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Chicagoland Case: A Region Learns to Help Itself

MarySue Barrett / Dec 17 2010

For Release Sunday, December 19, 2010

MarySue BarrettFor nearly 100 years, through the 1980s, Chicago’s south suburbs were rich with opportunity. Steel mills and rail yards powered metropolitan Chicago’s economy, putting the local workforce in high demand. As the nation transitioned to a service-based economy — decades before the current Great Recession — signs of economic struggle were everywhere in the Southland: pockmarked commercial strips, abandoned factories-turned-brownfields, whole neighborhoods decimated by foreclosures.

Times were bad — but today, the Southland’s future looks brighter.

How did things turn around? Dozens of communities put aside differences, came together around shared assets like criss-crossing freight lines, and got to work on an economic revitalization strategy with support from local, state and national public and private sector partners. Read More »

Federal and City-Metro Leaders: The Twain Finally Meet — And Act

MarySue Barrett / Oct 16 2009

For Release Friday, October 16, 2009

MarySue BarrettSandra Young, like so many public housing residents, long felt anonymous and warehoused. Yet last month, with tangible pride, she had the opportunity to show off Oakwood Shores, her new mixed income community, to high-ranking White House officials–Office of Urban Affairs Director Adolfo Carrion and Derek Douglas, special assistant to the President for Urban Affairs.

But Ms. Young, having learned a thing or two about community organizing, didn’t let the visit of the luminaries pass with mere pleasantries. She directed their eyes to the commuter rail tracks that pass by her attractive new home–but don’t stop anywhere near. She spoke passionately about her neighbors’ vision of a vibrant retail corridor, complete with a streetcar or trolley, along nearby Cottage Grove Avenue. Their vision is incorporated in a blueprint created by Reconnecting Neighborhoods, a community-led plan with a focus on connections between new homes, transportation, shopping, and jobs–a key point in federal officials’ discussions of their new urban approaches. Read More »