It's a lot different than the generally self-defeating American penchant of defining development as poaching another guy's company. A perfect example has been how New Jersey and Wisconsin took out ads in Illinois to attract Illinois companies after the legislature passed a tax increase last year.
It's myopic thinking, which is why the first Emanuel effort is to be applauded. The 14-county Chicago metro area, after all, would be the 20th largest economy if it were a country and is essential to the nation's future.
It's an economy that has developed dramatically from the Rust Belt manufacturing icon of yesteryear and its strongest sectors are now finance and business services, wholesale and retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and transportation and logistics.
The region's inherent strengths are ample and include its central location, a world-class global logistics infrastructure, the ability to manufacture goods, a strong immigrant network and prominent universities.
The report lays out ten strategies, including becoming a leading hub of advanced manufacturing, further enhancing its position as a leading transportation and logistics hub, figuring out ways for employers to better articulate their employment needs, making Chicago a far more enviable tourist destination and making life far easier for entrepreneurs.
It concedes that certain sectors of the Chicago economy are underperforming, especially when it comes to small- and mid-sized firms. And while Chicago is third among U.S. metro regions in the total volume of exports, it lags behind peer cities in the percentage of goods exported, meaning, "We still serve too domestic a market." Further, it suffers from labor shortages when it comes to high-skilled workers, research and development spending and rates of productivity.
Interestingly, the study notes how educational levels in Chicago surpass the national average -- 34 percent of the local population holds a bachelor's degree or above, compared to 28 percent of the U.S. population -- and its has a bevy of great academic institutions, including two of the top five business schools, at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.
But the city of Chicago lags when it comes to the number of citizens holding a high school degree or above. That's a big problem as the skills levels needed for new jobs changes, with the biggest jobs losses of late laying out in construction and manufacturing, while the biggest gains were in educational services and healthcare.
There's not just a seeming skills mismatch, there is also a "spatial mismatch," meaning that "firms and workers struggle to find and evaluate each other because jobs are not located near or within easy access to areas where workers with relevant skills live."
A key question is whether Emanuel can help summon a regional political will to work together. After all, Illinois is notorious for an outrageous number of separate governmental units. Within the 14-county metro area alone, there are 1,723 separate units. It not only presents a regulatory nightmare but lots of inefficiency and an unwillingness of many units to seriously mull combining since so many individuals would lose their clouts, perks and, yes, jobs.