Can IL, WI, and IN work together to promote the region?

Efforts to cross state lines to promote the Chicago region have not produced much:

With Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner threatening to “rip the economic guts out of Indiana” and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence admitting to “a playful penchant to poach business from Illinois,” efforts to forge alliances within the tri-state metro area have been consigned to scholarly conferences and countless committee meetings, with scant tangible results…

In the global competition to attract business and talent, regions that collaborate to establish a brand, develop industry hubs, streamline transportation, foster a cultural scene and revitalize neighborhoods have a competitive edge, experts say…

Formalized regional collaboration is paying off for a number of major metropolitan regions, helping to stoke their economies and lure new residents. Denver-area taxpayers have anted up repeatedly for cultural and transit projects that have revitalized the city. Portland and its suburbs worked together to rev up exports. Metro Minneapolis’ tax-sharing strategy has helped reduce the gap between rich and poor communities. The communities lining the southern coast of Lake Michigan comprise the nation’s third largest economy. They are home to a rich assortment of businesses, an educated workforce, respected universities and a massive, if overloaded, transportation system.

But greater Chicago’s tepid growth rate is outpaced by a number of metropolitan areas with cohesive regional strategies. Denver, for instance, ranked No. 6 in economic performance among the nation’s 100 largest metros since its pre-recession peak, while Chicago was No. 77, according to Brookings Institution data.

This is a good example of how relatively arbitrary political boundaries limit the ability to operate within day-to-day social boundaries. The Chicago region exists as an interdependent whole and it cross state lines into Wisconsin and Indiana as well as includes hundreds of Illinois municipalities. Yet, politicians are elected to represent their particular geographic area and don’t get much credit if nearby areas also do well. Voters don’t have broad views of regions – efforts to support metropolitan institutions and bodies are often voted down across the United States – and prefer to exercise local control. Thus, politicians hunker down and do what they can to boost their particular chances even if what they can do is affected by what these nearby leaders do. For example, see Indiana’s ongoing effort to attract Illinois businesses. In contrast, see what a 2012 OECD report said could be done across the Chicago region.

Given the issues facing the region (from mass transit to stormwater management to poverty to affordable housing to jobs to population decreases and more), one would hope that the various leaders and governmental bodies will start working together before it might be too late to do anything productive.

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