In an evolving global economy, metropolitan areas are the unmatched engines of economic growth. In 2016, metropolitan economies generated more than 80 percent of the world’s output and nearly 90 percent in the U.S. Yet the Chicago region’s performance -- across productivity, employment, wages, opportunity, innovation, and other indicators -- remains mixed and in some cases lackluster. Since 2001, the region has consistently lagged behind peers and the national average in overall economic and productivity growth, and its growth during 2009-16 ranked just 67th among the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan economies. While the region’s industries have made significant strides in responding to global competition, research provides new insights into the forces -- such as persistent economic inequality -- that are hampering metropolitan Chicago’s ability to start and sustain stronger growth. Catching up to the pack requires a coalition of political, civic, and business leaders to implement strategies that will raise the region’s global competitiveness and economic vitality.
Many factors contribute to a region’s success, like the quality of its infrastructure, workforce, diverse and advanced industries, civic leadership, and institutions of education and research. These assets are at the core of our competitive advantage as a global economic center and serve as the foundation of future economic opportunity and growth. Today, people, goods, services, knowledge, and capital move across borders with growing frequency. Increasingly complex supply chains extend globally, and some employers can more easily access a worldwide workforce. Strategies to achieve the region’s economic goals must be similarly nimble and responsive in a changing global economy.
Despite our economy’s metropolitan breadth, many approaches and tools to support economic development remain siloed to local jurisdictions, limiting the potential of strategies for broad economic growth. These tactics often neglect the position of individual communities in a larger economic landscape, with core assets flowing across state borders in a Midwestern megaregion. Coordination across jurisdictions can enhance traditional economic development services like business expansion, retention, and attraction. Improved analytical techniques and planning tools can supplement local knowledge, develop shared opportunities, and complement competitive interests among the region’s counties and municipalities. Ideally, these efforts would inform local and state policy reform. With sustained engagement, the State of Illinois could play a more effective role in leveraging its resources to support economic development that implements regional goals.