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Use collaborative leadership to address regional challenges

Use collaborative leadership to address regional challenges

Northeastern Illinois is a global center of commerce with many powerful assets, but our region must find solutions for numerous challenges to ensure sustainable prosperity and quality of life. The region’s recovery from the previous economic recession has been lackluster.[1]  In addition, federal and state sources of funding for infrastructure and services have diminished. These trends have resulted in resource constraints for governments across metropolitan Chicago. This unstable and unsustainable fiscal situation led to inadequate support for services and infrastructure and created obstacles to long-term planning and implementation activities.[2] 


As stated elsewhere in this chapter, overcoming constrained resources and stagnant growth will require innovative, collaborative action from the entire region.  When the region’s communities, leaders, local governments, infrastructure providers, civic groups, residents, and businesses come together, they can meet these challenges and achieve beneficial outcomes. As the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), CMAP can collaborate with and convene partners to better coordinate investments in the region and promote economic growth and opportunities for all residents. Past collaboration among regional leaders has yielded better strategies for economic growth. For example, the newly created CRGC is an independent nonprofit entity formed by Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties and the City of Chicago as an important step to improve coordination of their respective economic development organizations.[3]  Collaboration on infrastructure funding has attracted federal investment in projects like the Riverwalk in downtown Chicago and some elements of CREATE.[4]


Collaborative endeavors also require funding that can be spent to support comprehensive goals. CMAP can directly implement ON TO 2050 goals by convening partners to collaboratively administer UWP, CMAQ, TAP, STP-L, and other federal transportation funding programs for which the agency is responsible.[5]  CMAP also provides technical assistance to local governments as well as ongoing research and new practices relevant to plan priorities, helping advance the principles of GO TO 2040 and ON TO 2050.[6]  Yet CMAP’s ability to fulfill its comprehensive planning mandate is limited because most of the agency's funding cannot be used for activities beyond transportation and certain land use issues.[7]  Similarly, public entities addressing a range of issues, such as economic development, public health, stormwater management, or housing choice may find implementation stymied by lack of funds or restrictions on using those dollars to support comprehensive priorities.


The following describes strategies and associated actions to implement this recommendation.

Take a leadership role in implementing federal and state investments

CMAP has a unique role in convening the region’s governments, civic institutions, and nonprofit organizations. Submitting regional responses to funding opportunities, such as the Chicago Metro Metals Consortium application for TIGER funds,[8] can leverage regional assets, combine contributions from stakeholders, collaborate on shared challenges, and produce more competitive applications. In addition, CMAP has been a leader in guiding implementation of federal and state funding programs and regionally significant projects, as with recent enhancement of STP-L. A recent agreement between the councils of mayors, the City of Chicago, and CMAP has yielded important changes to STP-L, establishing performance-based outcomes to program the local dollars and a new shared fund for accomplishing transformational local projects that implement regional priorities like an enhanced freight network or improved transportation for economically disconnected residents.[9] 


CMAP should continue to lead in pursuing federal and state investments where appropriate.


CMAP should collaborate with regional partners for more efficient, effective, and cooperative programming decisions.


CMAP and partners should develop a process to develop coordinate and prioritize responses to federal funding opportunities such as INFRA and TIGER/BUILD.

Support development of an entity with the mandate and resources to implement a regional economic growth strategy

Overcoming metropolitan Chicago’s prolonged slow growth and uneven access to opportunity will require a shared vision for the regional economy. Initial success under the CRGC can help demonstrate the benefits of collaboration among the region’s political and economic development leaders. With sustained private sector engagement and institutional support, CRGC can play a critical role in focusing economic development activities and marshaling resources to address issues that cut across the region’s diverse industries and communities. Such initiatives include improving freight movement in the region, integrating data and information systems for rigorous market analysis, and assembling support for prioritized, multijurisdictional infrastructure investments. Regional coordination among economic development organizations (EDOs) should especially emphasize cluster-oriented strategies by convening business leaders and partners like anchor institutions to address shared, sector-specific challenges. This strategy also appears in the Prosperity chapter, under the recommendation to Pursue regional economic development.


CMAP and partners should continue to support CRGC’s initial endeavors by assisting in convening regional stakeholders, providing research and data, and securing financial support, as appropriate.


County and municipal EDOs should develop a shared vision for the regional economy that articulates our strongest economic assets and competitive advantages in support of regional marketing and branding. CRGC or similar entity can help to facilitate related analysis and strategy development.


CRGC or a similar entity should help county and municipal officials pursue shared goals across jurisdictional boundaries that complement their respective strengths and competitive advantages.

CMAP should continue to research and articulate the benefits of intergovernmental collaboration through responsive data and analysis on the regional economy’s performance.

Collaborate for inclusive growth

Data on economic outcomes reveals stark disparities in how low income and minority populations share in regional progress. These outcomes are particularly negative for the region’s black residents, who face lower incomes, higher unemployment, and longer commutes.[10] Yet, regions that have stronger potential for upward economic mobility -- for all residents -- are more economically successful. To meet its potential, the region's economy requires opportunities for all residents to contribute to and benefit from its growth.[11]  By creating new pathways and systems that challenge existing inequalities, the region can place itself on a path to higher, more durable growth. Because the causes of inequality are myriad and no single solution exists, the region needs multiple, sustained initiatives to tackle the many issues that perpetuate economic inequality and impair regional prosperity.


Regional partnerships and shared goals are critical to implementing ON TO 2050's many strategies for inclusive growth. Existing initiatives such as Partnering for Prosperity show the potential for regional collaboration to decrease economic inequality.[12] Yet the region’s inclusive growth goals will also require some actions targeted to particular communities' needs and others designed to reform and integrate activities across public and private institutions. While this strategy includes new and existing activities for CMAP, it will also require additional partners to take the lead and foster regional collaboration. For example, political, civic, and business leaders should continue developing a regional career pathway system, increase investment in disinvested areas, and ensure that emergent transportation technologies support inclusive growth.  


Government, business and civic leaders, and other regional actors should develop and implement a shared vision for inclusive growth in northeastern Illinois, as well as define key metrics to track regional progress toward inclusive growth goals.


CMAP should establish or enhance partnerships with local, regional, and state entities across sectors in developing and implementing inclusive growth strategies for the Chicago region.

CMAP should continue to share its expertise and knowledge of the region and its communities within larger efforts to decrease economic inequality and promote inclusive growth.

Secure funding to pursue all ON TO 2050 goals

CMAP is mandated by the Regional Planning Act to comprehensively plan for the Chicago region, incorporating land use and transportation planning with work on housing, regional economic growth, water resource management, community development, and environmental issues. In addition, the state legislation that created CMAP included language pledging to fund the agency’s operations and to match federal formula funds with state funding, which would broadly support all of CMAP’s state-mandated planning activities. The goals of ON TO 2050 also will not be achieved without the work of the State of Illinois, local governments, transit agencies, civic organizations, and academic institutions. These entities also may require additional funding and new partnerships to help implement the plan.


CMAP should seek funding opportunities to plan for water resource management, climate resilience, economic development, local capacity, and other ON TO 2050 priorities.


CMAP should pursue reliable access to state funds that support all of its planning work.


The State of Illinois, local governments, transit agencies, civic organizations, and academic institutions should pursue funding to implement ON TO 2050 goals in their work.


[1] Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Regional Economy and Clusters, January 2017,

[2] Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, “Alternative Futures: Constrained Resources,” May 8, 2017,

[3] Cook County, “Chicago Regional Growth Initiatives,” 2013,

[4] For more information, see Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, “Chicago Region to Receive Two TIGER IV Grants,” June 22, 2012,; and U.S. Department of Transportation, “Riverwalk Expansion,”

[6] For more information, see

[7] Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Budget and Work Plan,

[8] Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Chicago Metro Metal Consortium,

[9] Memorandum of agreement between The City of Chicago and the CMAP Council of Mayors regarding the distribution and active program management of locally programmed Surface Transportation Block Grant funds under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, October 11, 2017,

[10] Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, “Economically Disconnected Area clusters in the CMAP region,” January 23, 2018,

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