When the cities of Chicago and Milwaukee make, or fail to make, decisions on regional planning, the suburbs in between them are affected.
Chicago's Mayor Rahn Emanuel and Milwaukee's Mayor Tom Barrett, along with Gary's Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson were scheduled to all speak about region-level planning at a Metropolitan Planning Council luncheon Wednesday, though Emanuel didn't make it due to a city council meeting running overtime, the MPC said.
The Milwaukee and Gary mayors, according to the MPC, named several areas where the three Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana cities could cooperate:
- support the region’s existing and emerging industry clusters
- protect Lake Michigan
- preserve the region’s position as the nation’s transportation hub
"We have allowed outsiders to define us as the Rust Belt, and all of the negative connotations that come along with that," said Mayor Barrett of Milwaukee. "I think it is time that we as a region promote America's Fresh Coast."
Gary's mayor echoed that.
"We recognize that Chicago is the anchor, but we also know Gary has a lot to offer, from our lakefront, to industry, to the Gary-Chicago International Airport," said Mayor Freeman-Wilson. "If all three cities commit to work together, there's a real competitive advantage there."
Mayor Emanuel sent a statement saying, "I am committed to embracing opportunities for regional collaboration, and I will continue to work with fellow mayors from the Midwest to foster economic opportunity and job growth throughout the region."
In this global economy, Milwaukee's Mayor Barrett said, "Chicago, Gary, Milwaukee and their suburbs comprise one mega-region. To remain relevant and competitive, our tri-state region needs leaders from all three metros working together to support the assets we share, address the threats we face, and pursue the opportunities we can all benefit from – while continuing to celebrate the unique character of the places we call home.”
MPC held a similar conference July 17 in Milwaukee at Marquette University.
Two studies recently found the region has lagged in economic development because development efforts were so fragmented, according to the Chicago Tribune.
MPC said an independent, competitive analysis of the tri-state region released in March helped set the stage for the event. Also, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce is creating the Tri-State Alliance for Regional Development.
Prior to the luncheon, MPC asked civic and business leaders from across the mega-region to identify opportunities for the mayors to coordinate more closely on critical tri-state priorities. Their ideas are featured in The Cities That Work blog series on MPC’s blog, The Connector.