Economic cooperation in the Chicago region; Why now? Can residents be convinced of its need?

Skeptical that regional economic cooperation will succeed given the history of such projects in the Chicago region, the Chicago Tribune nonetheless touts its potential:

Photo by Savvas Stavrinos on Pexels.com

A dynamic, cooperative region that thinks and behaves collectively has a better chance at prosperity than one that functions as an amalgam of fiefdoms.

We know that’s hard for politicians to grasp. They want to be able to tout in news releases that they’ve persuaded a mega-firm to relocate its headquarters to their turf, and it doesn’t matter that those jobs and tax revenue have been lured away from a nearby community.

But it does matter, because it’s not a win for the region. Municipalities that compete among themselves may win some skirmishes, but they’ll win the war if they band together and compete as a region — against other regions in the country and globally…

What’s missing is the will to capitalize on those assets collectively, rather than selfishly.

Perhaps this latest attempt at regional cooperation will gain the traction that previous tries could not. For the sake of Chicagoland’s short-term and long-term outlook, we hope so.

I wonder if this renewed interest has anything to do with concerns about population in the region and companies headed elsewhere. It is one thing to compete when the region compares favorably to many other places in the country. In this situation, there might be plenty of companies, residents, and growth to go around. But, in a region that is struggling or the perception is that it is struggling, can the different communities afford to compete with each other?

While the editorial mentions the need for politicians to change their approach, the public might need some time or convincing to get there as well. One way to define a community is in opposition to or as different from another community. How many suburbanites define their neighborhoods and communities in comparison Chicago and the troubles it faces? Might this also happen for some who live in Chicago and view the suburbs as problematic? (This does not even get to how Chicago area residents might view further-flung locations such as Indiana, Wisconsin, or downstate Illinois.) A robust regional partnership could help residents see the advantages to cooperating and recognizing the advantages numerous communities bring.

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