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Regionalism & Public/Private Partnerships - Not a New Idea, But Still Underutilized

You?d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn?t support the idea of a regional approach to economic development. Most would agree that such an approach moves an area forward better than any one individual effort. Why then do we still have such a proliferation of independent organizations struggling to make an impact at a time when everyone seems to embrace the concept of ?Regionalism? and ?Public / Private Partnerships??

Unfortunately, it still boils down to attitudes of parochialism, selfishness, political agendas, empire building ?and the list goes on. As foolish as it sounds, the trend of going-it-alone in the economic development arena continues. By some estimates, there are more than 35,000 economic development groups in the US alone. Are there 35,000 regions, markets or even communities that truly require their own economic development effort?

When communities begin to think in terms of economic boundaries, rather than political or geographic ones, regions can be substantially more effective in attracting new investment. Let?s look at two Illinois regional economic development partnerships that seem to be working better than most.

In 1997, the Chicago Southland area suffered from a lack of regional thinking. New jobs, retained jobs, capital investment and the tax base all needed a boost. Growth in other Illinois regions was outpacing that of Chicago Southland significantly. Forward thinking area leaders knew things needed to change and fast. Three organizations, not known for working particularly well together, the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce, Chicago Southland Development, Inc. and...

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