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Contact: John Atwood, 202-482-4085
Friday, March 9, 2012

U.S. Department of Commerce Report Provides First Look at Tri-State Regional Economy of Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois

Study by Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Foundation indicates tremendous opportunity for innovation-driven growth in the region

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration, in collaboration with the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) today released the first ever snapshot of the regional economy of Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois, specifically looking at Chicago, Milwaukee, and northwest Indiana. The OECD Territorial Review of the tri-state metropolitan area indicates tremendous innovation-driven growth potential.

"This initial analysis of the Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois regional economy is an important first step toward increasing the global competitiveness of America's regions and creating an economy built to last," said Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Development. "Leveraging opportunities to promote American innovation in the tri-state area, the recommendations and assessments outlined in the study can be a good blueprint to help small to medium-sized American businesses looking to build it here and sell it everywhere."

"The OECD initiative is aimed at connecting the region's assets in a new and strategic way, in a broader geographic arena, and in a more collaborative way to bring about collective success and prosperity and, ultimately, an enhanced standard of living for all of the residents of the tri-state area. This initiative is about redefining economic opportunity and strategically leveraging and harmonizing assets in different ways," said Lance Pressl, President of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The region-the Gary, Chicago, Milwaukee corridor-is home to approximately 9.9 million people and is the third most populous metropolitan area in the country. The study looked at the area's strengths, capacities, effectiveness of policies, and opportunities for long-term sustainable economic growth.

"In order to reach our greatest potential as a city, it is imperative to form the strongest partnerships as a region. Today we are demonstrating that long range planning, along with cooperation is how you achieve growth and bring new job opportunities to your community," said Racine, WI Mayor John Dickert.

"It is a privilege for our region to be the first in the U.S. to undergo a Territorial Review by the OECD. This is a welcomed roadmap on how to better collaborate with our neighboring states," said Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Director Warren Ribley. "As we continue to recover from the national recession, it is so important that we collaborate across our traditional geographical and political boundaries, especially at the state level, to further our state, regional and national economies. This review will help us focus on what we're doing right, and what still needs to be done. I think Illinois is very well-positioned to take the recommendations provided here and move forward with Wisconsin and Indiana."

"The OECD Territorial Review not only confirmed the power and importance of our regional economy, but it also identified a number of opportunities to make it much stronger. To accomplish that we need to find ways to set aside such barriers as state lines and capitalize on the combined strengths in our region, and the OECD study identified a number of them. Rather than lagging behind many other Metro regions, we can lead the pack! There is clearly economic interdependence between SE Wisconsin, Chicago and NW Indiana," said Leigh Morris, Senior Vice President, Northwest Region Development Indiana Economic Development Corporation and Chairman of the Board, Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

Despite recent economic challenges, the region has strong research assets and world-class universities that will help drive the innovation economy. These institutions work on licensing issues, fund start-ups, and work directly with firms that contribute to research and development spending. There appears to also be opportunity for the region to attract businesses-such as banks, venture capitalists, and angel financers-to foster growth in emerging industry clusters.

Key recommendations include:

  • The region has generated important technology-based innovation assets; indicators for volume of research and development (R&D) investment and patenting point to its large size. But the region needs to use these assets more efficiently to improve productivity growth and meet its aspirations of being a global knowledge and technology hub.

  • Innovation support in the region should recognize that innovation goes beyond fundamental scientific R&D. Policy support should also focus on other aspects of value creation-such as those in business and financial services, architectural design, or the improved delivery of public services to address social challenges. Innovation in these areas can sometimes lead to the successful pursuit of extra-regional or export-oriented market opportunities.

  • The economic development approaches at the state and municipal level in the region, focused on tax breaks for large firms, are ill-adapted to a knowledge economy. Different factors to support entrepreneurship-especially those related to start-ups, financing (including venture capital), and the expansion of existing small firms-are integral to the ecosystem and could be more systematically tracked with data and performance indicators that would facilitate enhanced policy support.

Click here to access the regional economic review.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (www.eda.gov):
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.