Chicago Infrastructure Bank To Launch

Mayor Rahm Emanuel this week could see his proposed Chicago Infrastructure Trust approved by the City Council which would provide as much as seven billion dollars in funding for city projects.  The Mayor has been ambitious in tackling the needs of the city to upgrade roads, bridges, tunnels and rail lines which are needed to not only attract businesses and private individuals to live and work in the city, but also to restore Chicago to a place among the top cities in the world for commerce.

An extremely comprehensive report put forth last month by World Business Chicago highlights Chicago’s place in the global strata and keys on things such as tourism, city streets and utilities.  Of interest to companies doing business internationally are pages 21 through 23 which highlight several key assets that Chicago has as a world-class transportation hub, including:

  • Chicago has the most highways entering the region of any U.S. city.
  • More than 74 million tons of rail freight originate or terminate in Chicago, compared to 34 million tons in Kansas City, the nation’s second largest hub.
  • Chicago is the only city in the nation where six out of the seven major Class-one North American Railroads intersect. Roughly 25% of all domestic rail freight originates in, terminates at or passes through the region.

The report also highlights Chicago’s role as an exporter in the overall US economy:

Chicago ranks third among U.S. metropolitan areas in total export volume ($53.9 billion in 2010).  While Chicago exports roughly the same as the national average (10.9% of GRP; US average is 10.7%), this is disproportionately low given the products and services Chicago produces.  Chicago specializes (LQ>1) in several industry sectors that are high growth, differentiated, and tradable, and for which demand is projected to be among the top 10 most-demanded imports by the world’s three largest emerging economies – Brazil, India, and China – over the next 10 years.  Additionally, business services will remain in demand from developing and developed economies alike, especially in fields such as engineering consulting and architectural design.

The goal behind the seven billion dollar fund is to allow private companies and funds to invest and receive a return on their investment.  It is ambitious, it is a way to jump-start an ailing and aging city and one that can pay dividends over the long term.  We’ll also just need to remember to keep the cursing to a minimum while  coping with the short term delays associated with the massive undertaking.

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