Thirteen people joined us last week to learn more about and inform We Will Chicago, a three-year initiative that will produce the city’s first comprehensive plan since 1966.
Currently in the research phase, We Will Chicago will develop community-informed strategies across the following seven pillars:
- Arts & Culture
- Economic Development
- Environment, Climate, and Energy
- Housing and Neighborhoods
- Lifelong Learning
- Public Health and Safety
- Transportation and Infrastructure
North Branch Works hosted a virtual lunch event with a focus on identifying the most important economic development priorities in our service area.
Our participants represented a wide range of neighborhoods and organizations, including community-based organizations, chambers of commerce, and aldermanic staff.
Here are the major themes that emerged from our session:
- Workforce development programs must be linked to job opportunities.
- We must have a broad understanding of workforce development with many on-ramps for people who may not follow the K-12, college, and then a career pipeline.
- The City of Chicago’s TIF 50/50 Program was effective; it would be valuable to bring back, especially if it could return at a larger scale.
- The biggest growth in jobs has been in the service sector. We must work on figuring out how to make these jobs higher paying and more skilled.
- Industrial and manufacturing jobs pay head-of-household wages without requiring advanced degrees. It’s important to preserve land zoned for industry and manufacturing across the city so new firms can locate here.
- Flexible funding for workforce development from the City of Chicago would go a long way towards addressing the needs of job seekers with barriers to employment.
- The South Side of Chicago has many assets including easy access to railways, the Chicago River, Lake Michigan, and Midway Airport and a dedicated workforce. We’d like to encourage the city and World Business Chicago to encourage businesses to locate on the South Side.
- Investing in programs that promote home ownership could help South and West Side communities.
- We need to promote community wealth building strategies including worker owned cooperatives and land trusts; alternative forms of entrepreneurship working on supply and demand sides and encourage Chicago residents to buy local whenever possible.
We’d like to thank everyone who joined us for this informative discussion and Metropolitan Planning Council for supporting this work.
If you missed the meeting and would like to share input, you can do so by visiting We Will Chicago and sending an email to WeWillChicago@cityofchicago.org.
Image credit: Kevin Hartmann, Sterling Bay