Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Building on the Basics

"In 2000, Chicago had developed an extensive, homegrown industrial policy...Economic development planning in the city had moved beyond the ad hoc efforts of the 1970s and the mostly defensive recommendations of the industry task forces to create a sophisticated and comprehensive industrial policy."

D. Bradford Hunt and Jon B. DeVries, Planning Chicago, Chapter 13, "Defending the Industrial Base: Sector and District Strategies."

I'm very impressed by this effort and proud of my contribution. A few additional antecedents for industrial protection planning are worth noting.  The fight to preserve the 16th and Canal industrial district (the Schoenhofen Brewery) started in the mid 1970s and engaged both Giloth and Mier. It involved 5-7 businesses, several hundred employees (many from the Pilsen neighborhood), urban renewal designation, an historic district, and artist-led gentrification. A central lesson was the invisibility and low priority of small business for city government. A planning studio course at the University of Illinois at Chicago added fuel to the fire.

There were a handful of zoning fights at the same time studies were being done to justify district industrial protection  in the mid 1980s. These fights pitted the Department of Economic Development against the Planning Department in several instances along with favored real estate lawyers known for getting things done. Of course, everyone was declaring another death of manufacturing.

One of the successful strands of the industry sector work of the time was supporting workforce efforts that addressed the employment needs of clusters of similar firms. This started with the work of Ric Gudel on screw machine businesses. One of my first grants with the City in 1984-5 was to the Jane Addams Resource Center for a feasibility study about a partnership with auto-industry suppliers in the Ravenswood neighborhood. JARC is still going strong and was recently mentioned by the President as an exemplar of a sector-based partnership that created access to skilled jobs.

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