The multi-community region incorporated into the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry stands to benefit considerably if their combined proposal to the Environmental Protection Agency for major grant funding is successful. Over the summer, the Chamber, based in Hodgkins, formed the West Suburban Economic Development Council. The council is comprised of its charter communities: La Grange, La Grange Park, Hodgkins, McCook, Western Springs and Willow Springs, and Cook County’s Bureau of Economic Development.
According to Council Chairman Marty Scott, Director of Community Development for Western Springs, “Its purpose is to create a powerful collaborative force for growth that would pursue primary attention from county, state and federal agencies for substantial economic assistance and other programs beneficial to our region.” Additionally, ECONDEV will be the platform for a proposed multimedia marketing campaign to promote the Chamber region as a highly attractive place to live, work and bring new businesses.
Steve Erickson, Executive Director of the Chamber, said, “Action started almost immediately after our inaugural Council meeting October 24. María Choca Urban called to alert us to the possibility of our region’s pursuing a new national EPA Grant focused on remediation of ‘brownfields’ and we assured her we were very interested.”
The Environmental Protection Agency defines brownfields as real property, the use of which is complicated by the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties protects the environment, reduces blight, and takes development pressures off greenspaces and working lands.
Scott noted, “There are several brownfields in our region, most notably in Willow Springs, McCook and Hodgkins. The challenge was this: If we could bring all of our communities together as a regional team in concert with Cook County, María felt we would have a very good chance of winning the grant, which is valued at $200,000, and that’s only for the ‘planning’ phase.” The actual remediation comes later on. Remediation of such sites is beneficial to all of our communities, not just those with so-called “catalyst sites” as defined by the EPA. Resurrecting those sites will result in significant economic development, jobs and new opportunities for growth.
The collaboration of our communities and Cook County on this proposal has been extraordinary. Erickson feels certain that all of the Chamber communities, several county agencies and even Congressman Lipinski will have provided strong letters of support, to be included in the proposal “package” that will go the US EPA.
“Whether we win or not,” Erickson said, “this has been tremendously gratifying to anyone who wants government leaders and organizations like the West Suburban Chamber to be at the forefront as a powerful, cooperative force for a very worthy cause.”
West Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry