Chicago Southland EDC News

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Sears' future could include consuming fiber

posted Jun 7, 2013, 8:53 AM by Linda Pendleton

Michael ScholefieldBy Michael Scholefield, published in the Times

"Shop at Sears and save" was Sears' slogan in its early days. Today, that includes

George Grenchik's May 16 column brought attention to the recent Sears announcement that its Calumet City store in River Oaks Mall would close.

Now tie that to the announcement at the April 26 Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp. quarterly forum in Homewood of that town's Kmart Supercenter (part of Sears Holdings), and the impact on a number of levels hits our area very hard.

This, however, probably comes as no surprise to many of you.

For 90 years, Sears was America's largest retailer, but in 1991 it was passed by Walmart. Today, Walmart outsells Sears almost 10-to-1, and that includes Sears plus Kmart. Furthermore, the Sears-Kmart combo is making very little money.

The situation is made worse with Internet sales continuing their geometric growth. As much as we bemoan current conditions and yearn for “life as we knew it,” we continue to buy online in this cost-driven environment.

But rather than get all melancholy, where do we go from here?

Sears has a new strategy to convert some shuttered underperforming stores into data centers.

The prospects for adaptive reuse warrants further investigation in the south suburbs.

In the case of Sears in Calumet City or Kmart in Homewood, it could mean transitioning from retail to data storage facilities.

The Southland is positioning itself with a proactive joint venture involving Illinois, Cook County, South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association and its client communities. Together, they have formed the Chicago Southland Fiber Network, using a state Jobs First grant building about 70 miles of fiber optic infrastructure along the Interstate 57 corridor to serve Chicago Southland communities.

According to project coordinator, Rusty Winchell, SSMMA has placed more than 27 miles of 144 strand fiber, duct and supporting structures parallel to I-57 between 95th Street in Chicago and Offner Road, south of Monee, since receiving the grand in February 2012. That required right of way access and construction authorization from 15 different municipal, county and federal agencies and approval from five separate railroad entities.

Engineering and permitting is underway, and actual construction started in April.

With the completion of fiber and systems testing in preparation, the next steps include:

• Providing network services for the CSFN fiber network and linkage to Chicago.

• Providing commercial Internet to support economic development and private-sector requirements.

• Securing Illinois Century Network connectivity to support public education, municipal government, libraries, museums and other public sector bandwidth needs.

Additionally, SSMMA's commitment to Cook County will include providing connectivity between the Markham Courthouse, Oak Forest Hospital and the Cook County network fiber in downtown Chicago. Internet 2 connectivity in support of Governors State University and South Suburban College connectivity needs also will be undertaken.

Fiber construction is planned for completion by the end of August, with electronic installation and final testing and acceptance of the entire system being done in parallel.

What I see is the formation of an irresistible redevelopment force for transitioning from a 19th century retail development model to a 21st century communications platform for not only public applications but Southland commercial opportunity as well.

Michael Scholefield is chairman of the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp. The opinions are the writer's.

Knocking it Out of the Green Zone!

posted May 10, 2013, 8:24 AM by Linda Pendleton

by Holly Campbell

Commentary from CSEDC
Exciting events stream out of the office’s of Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation (CSEDC). If you were not at the Ravilsoe Country Club on Friday April 26th, you were missed!

Economic Development is the focus at CSEDC. Staying on the cutting edge is Reggie Greenwood, Executive Director of CSEDC, vision of showcasing the robust activity happening in the Southland region. 

Mayor Hofeld informed the 200 attendee’s about the latest restaurant attractions happening in Homewood, from a new fine dining establishment, The Cottage to Chipolte, featuring authentic Mexican cuisine. And Claude Gendreau, President and owner of Ravisloe Country Club gave us a warm welcome.  Claude revealed his new venture, LaBanque Hotel that is opening soon in Homewood, IL. Many of us were unaware that a new hotel would be coming to our area in a few months. This was exciting news.

Randy Blakenhorn, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) was our featured speaker. Blakenhorn discussed findings from the recent manufacturing cluster drill down report. Blakenhorn explained how this report offers positive information that increases public awareness regarding the manufacturing community. The report details there are high paying jobs available and these employment opportunities are raising the qualities and standards of life for many people in our region. Here are a few unknown facts about Chicago’s Manufacturing Cluster:
Employs 580,000 workers
Provides wages more than 27 percent higher than the regional average
Generates over $65 billion annually, second largest segment of the regional economy
Produces two-thirds of the region exports

The above facts are just a sample of what you can find in the report. Download a copy of it by visiting CMAP’s website:   
Randy Blakenhorn gave us incredible information about our hidden treasure; high paying jobs in the manufacturing community. Several leaders in the manufacturing community stayed after our presentation to personally introduce themselves and just chat with Randy.

A special message was given by Audra Wilson, Esq. district chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly. Audra let us know that Congresswoman Kelly is quite busy fulfilling many of our expectations and anticipates being involved in many of the various interesting economic projects that are happening in our region.

Finally, Steve Buchtel executive director of Trails for Illinois gave a dynamic presentation about the 100-mile loop that many cyclist are talking about. Steve told us about the benefits of the loop and how bike trails have brought economic growth in other cities and the same is expected to happen right here in the south suburbs.

Every quarter CSEDC gives our community leaders insightful information about Economic development in our region. Become involved. Email news and information directly to us or recommend a speaker. We are always looking for innovative ways to create engagement and build awareness around “why” the southland region is important to us all. Send your email to:
Thanks for being part of the solution.  

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Chicago Southland EDC adding value in 2013

posted Mar 25, 2013, 8:49 AM by Linda Pendleton

By Michael Scholefield, published 3-24-13 in the Times

The Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp. is entering its 10th year of service.

As a spin-off of the former Chicago Southland Alliance, CSEDC has provided economic support services in the areas of infrastructure improvements and expansion, planning assistance, grant preparation, management, and reporting, private sector retention and attraction.

More than $25 million in regional, state, federal and foundation funding has been secured to move an inclusive approach to regional economic development well into the 21st century.

The Southland service area has provided opportunities and challenges relative to market changes, technological advances, environmental impacts, employment shifts under hyper-competitive conditions, while capitalizing on regional strengths and addressing identified system weaknesses.
Please click here to read the full editorial.

South Holland to undergo major road repairs in 2014

posted Mar 25, 2013, 8:02 AM by Linda Pendleton

The Village Board has authorized $74,000 in engineering studies to be conducted this year for three major road repairs expected in 2014 that will be funded in part by a federal grant.

Village Engineer Pat Barker, of Robinson Engineering, presented three road repair projects to the board Monday. Each project requires an engineering study this year in order to be under construction in 2014.

The board authorized the use of state-provided motor fuel tax funds to pay for the engineering studies to be conducted this spring and summer.

“These projects will go through the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association,” Barker told the board. “They will be part of the work done by a federal grant that the SSMMA controls.” Please click here to read Bob Moulesong's story in the Times. 

March 21st: Logistics Unchained Event!

posted Feb 22, 2013, 7:15 AM by Linda Pendleton   [ updated Mar 11, 2013, 12:40 PM ]

The Calumet Green Logistics Partnership, a subsidiary of the Calumet Green Manufacturing Partnership (CGMP), is a collaborative initiative of business, education, government and community based organizations to develop the skills of the local workforce to meet the labor needs of the Calumet region in order to retain existing employers in the region and attract new and relocating companies.

Logistics Unchained:  What Links Are Missing in Your Supply Chain?

Moraine Valley Community College, Prairie State College & South Suburban College

invite you to a complimentary supply chain breakfast program!


Who should attend:  Supply Chain Managers; Distribution, Transportation, Warehousing, Shipping/Receiving, Dispatching Professionals; Business Owners; Educators; and Economic Developers


Date: Thursday March 21, 2013

Time:  7:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Location: Moraine Valley Community College

Business & Conference Center M Building, Room 2

9000 West College Parkway, Palos Hills, IL 60465


Moderator:  Mike Johl, President & CEO of Michael A. Johl, LLC; formerly 37 years with UPS, senior management


Panel Members:

Direction of the Industry- Andre Ashmore, Deputy Director, IDOT

Supply chain challenges – William Miller Past Board President for WERC; current director of business development, Faure Brothers Corporation

Innovative trends – Don Delash, Sales Director, Transportation and Logistics, Datalogic Automation

Metrics of the career path –Rebekah Hutton, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC) 


Questions: Contact Eda Schrimple, 708-974-5714 or
Nancy Burrows, 708-596-2000, ext. 2556


Register today to learn about trends in the logistics industry, challenges the industry faces, career path metrics and more….

To register, please visit

Please click below to download the flyer.


SSMMA Meetup Opens the Illinois Open Technology Challenge

posted Feb 15, 2013, 12:07 PM by Linda Pendleton

SSMMA Meetup will Open the 
Illinois Open Technology Challenge
Thursday, February  21, 2013
6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Governors State University
Hall of Honors
1 University Pkwy, University Park, IL 
RSVP here
Please join us for the second South Suburban Mayors and Managers meeting of the Illinois Open Technology Challenge (ILOpenTech).

At this meetup, we will discuss the launch of the contest. Recently we published the rules, gave information on judging, and announced the prizes. We'll field any questions and be available to give advice on submissions. We'll also talk more about the data, facilitate team discussions and formation, and hear from the community about their technology needs. Be sure to review this blog post to get up to date on what we're up to in South Suburbs of Chicago:

Develop your idea, form your team, and submit your app by March 15, 2013.
You can review the IL Open Tech Challengrules and review the submission form here.

Submissions will be accepted until 11:59PM on Friday, March 15, 2013. 

There are five $15,000 prizes, for a total of $75,000. There will be winners from each of the four pilot communities (Champaign, Rockford, Belleville, and the south suburbs of Chicago) as well as one prize for the use of statewide data.

The spirit of this competition is to encourage government, developers, and community members to work together to solve common issues within communities.

Judges for each community will be announced at the close of submissions. Judges will be based in each community, judging entries from the community.

Our suggestion is that you take the time to solidify your idea, form a team, build your technology, and test it with friends, family, and community members.

Click here to read about the first SSMMA Meetup.

Area high school students learning about manufacturing

posted Feb 11, 2013, 7:51 AM by Linda Pendleton   [ updated Feb 11, 2013, 8:02 AM ]

By John A. Ostenburg

Mayor, Park Forest

Students from Rich East High School in Park Forest recently visited the local manufacturing plant of Kay Manufacturing Inc. in an effort to become better acquainted with the career opportunities available to them after they graduate. They were hosted by Kay President Brian Pelke.

The visit was an outgrowth of a meeting arranged by CSEDC Deputy Executive Director Reggie Greenwood between faculty and administrators from Rich East High School (REHS), Crete-Monee High School, and Homewood-Flossmoor High School, and representatives of south suburban manufacturing concerns including OAI, Inc. a local nonprofit workforce development organization. Brian was one of those representatives.

In the weeks ahead, REHS students will visit other area manufacturing firms, according to Principal Mark Kramer. He is eager to establish courses at the school that will lead to NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills) and MSSC (Manufacturing Skills Standards Council) credentialing for his students. The REHS administration is seeking to obtain grant funding to cover the costs of implementing NIMS and MSSC credentialing curriculum.

Bruce Braker, NIMS treasurer and national executive board member, who also is the director of the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council, was another of the persons present for the meeting facilitated by Reggie and also is assisting in the effort that’s being undertaken by Principal Kramer.

 For approximately two years now, south suburban leaders in education, manufacturing, labor, and government have been meeting to find avenues for better preparing local secondary-level students for careers in the world of manufacturing. Area community colleges already have put in place such programs, aimed primarily at retraining for adults who have been displaced from the workforce. One initiative, called the Calumet Green Manufacturing Partnership ( has gained significant respect amongst regional manufacturers as a viable and effective training program that utilizes NIMS and MSSC credentialing. Reggie was among those who were key players in gaining grant funding for that work.

Increasingly, however, it is becoming obvious that modern manufacturing requires specialized educational training early on. Emphasis on math skills is especially important. The NIMS and MSSC credentialing coursework that REHS is looking to implement is one of several steps being taken by educational leaders in our region to assure that students graduating from high school have the wherewithal to gain rewarding employment.

Already some high schools in Chicago, in the north and west suburbs, and in the Rockford area, have curricula in place to provide preparation for NIMS, MSSC and other manufacturing-related credentials. To better envision what may be required to meet their goals, south suburban representatives interested in this work have visited a number of those schools.

For more information regarding the thinking behind efforts to establish secondary school educational opportunities in the south suburbs related to manufacturing, see my article on “Chicago school offers good model for workforce training” at

$4.7 Million for Southland Trails

posted Feb 4, 2013, 7:30 AM by Linda Pendleton   [ updated Feb 5, 2013, 7:32 AM ]

By Steve Buchtel, Executive Director of Trails for Illinois 

The Governor's Illinois Transportation Enhancements Program (ITEP) awards on January 30 put two regional trail projects on track for a Spring 2013 construction letting. The Cal-Sag Trail and the Thorn Creek Trail, both Forest Preserve District of Cook County Projects, received $3.6 million and $1.1 million from the federally funded program.

The Cal-Sag Trail is a 30-mile paved, multi-use trail that will connect the Village of Burnham to the Village of Lemont along its namesake waterway. The recent funding award pays for construction of the trail between Rte. 83 near Lemont to 86th Ave. in Palos Park. A section of trail between 86th Ave. and Cicero Ave. in Alsip received funding from ITEP last year. The two sections will be constructed together, with a ribbon cutting planned in late fall 2013.

The Thorn Creek Trail project connects an existing forest preserve trail loop in Brownwell Woods between Glenwood and Lansing with the trail loop in Sauk Trail Woods, south of 26th St., and the Old Plank Road Trail. It's also on track for a Spring 2013 letting and ribbon cutting in late Fall 2013.

Both projects are important connections for what some are calling the "Southland Century," a nearly 100-mile loop of trails ringing much of the Southland. When the Cal-Sag Trail, Thorn Creek Trail, and some remaining minor connections are completed, residents and visitors will be able to ride or hike from Lansing to Chicago Heights on the Thorn Creek Trail; Chicago Heights to Joliet on the Old Plank Road Trail; Joliet to Lemont on the I&M Canal and Centennial Trails, and the Cal-Sag Trail from Lemont back to Burnham - almost completely on non-motorized trail. Throw in local motels at key points, camping opportunities, numerous outdoor recreation opportunities, our historic downtowns, bars and restaurants - the Southland Century could rev local economies while making the Southland a more desirable place to live, play and work.

The largest remaining gap in the Southland Century loop is the Cal-Sag Trail from Cicero Ave. in Alsip to the Burnham Greenway. That segment is nearing "shovel ready" status, with design engineering wrapping up this Spring. Alsip Park District and the City of Blue Island are applying for $4.1 million in Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funding through the Southwest Council of Mayors to complete the trail from Cicero Ave. to Halsted Ave. And the Dolton Park District is applying to CMAQ for $2.5 million to finish the trail between Halsted and the Burnham Greenway. These applications could be awarded this fall, with construction bids being let in Spring 2014.

We thank Governor Quinn and both Senator Dick Durbin and Representative Dan Lipinski for supporting trails for the Chicago Southland! And we applaud the cooperation and hard work of the communities and agencies making the Chicago Southland a better place to live, work and play!

President Preckwinkle Speaks at the Chicago Southland Economic Development (CSEDC) Quarterly Forum

posted Jan 25, 2013, 1:50 PM by Linda Pendleton   [ updated Feb 5, 2013, 2:06 PM ]


Speaking to a packed auditorium of elected officials, business owners and planning officials, President Toni Preckwinkle  spoke about economic development in Cook County and some of the milestones of her administration at the January 25th  Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation(CSEDC) Quarterly Forum.  The Forum was hosted by the Village of Flossmoor.
Highlights of her speech included he final rollback of the sales tax which is critical to support retail development such as the new Meijer Project in Flossmoor.  She also spoke about overhauling the County procurement system in order to avoid unnecessary delays, provide clarity, eliminate redundancies and inconsistences.  The recent approval of the Cook County Land Bank Authority was also discussed in light of the great need.  She also acknowledged the fact that there are only two land banks now in Illinois – the Cook County Land Bank Authority and the South Suburb’s Land Bank and her urged that both land banks coordinate their work. 

Other remarks focused on tax incentives, transportation and infrastructure improvements of great interest to  the south suburbs.  Specifically, she talked about the $8 to $10 Million of Motor Fuel Tax funds to reconstruct and widen Center Street from 159th Street to 171st Street—a crucial truck route in Harvey.  She stated the County needs to make it easier for companies like UPS in Harvey, the ArcelorMittal plant in Riverdale and Funk Linko in Chicago Heights to do business and create jobs.  President Preckwinkle concluded her remarks by talking about the Cook Chicago Workforce Partnership, then opened the time up for questions.

Also speaking at the forum were:  Flossmoor Mayor Paul S. Braun, Vicky Linko, Funk Linko, Inc. President & CEO,  and Nancy Williamson, Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
To see additional photos, click here.

CSEDC Fall Quarterly Forum

posted Nov 20, 2012, 12:27 PM by Linda Pendleton   [ updated Nov 30, 2012, 9:59 AM ]

PicasaWeb Slideshow

Nearly 230 business leaders, elected officials, strategists, media representatives and local residents  met at University Park’s University Golf Club and Conference Center on Nov. 16, 2012 to brainstorm about land banking, a financial instrument called the Development Fund, and assorted industrial and manufacturing economic issues at the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation’s quarterly forum.
University Park Mayor Vivian Covington hosted the event and shared news about some of the town’s economic development projects. One is new university housing projects for  Governors State University 2014 transition into a four year institution (click here to read a related story).  Others are the economic growth potential of the I-57/-Stuenkel Road Interchange and the University Park Transportation Program.

The new Southland Community Loan Fund and the South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority were other topics discussed.  Oak Forest Community Development Director Adam Dotson provided a definition of land banks:
They can acquire property through purchase or it can receive property.
They can hold property and manage it.
They can sell for profit so other properties can be acquired and managed with the returns.

Land banks exist to administer a regional economic development tool for municipalities with limited manpower and financial resources to manage and rehabilitate abandoned, vacant or foreclosed properties.   Thus far, the bank’s charter communities include Oak Forest, Park Forest and Blue Island, and they invite other towns to participate. 

The new  Southland Community Loan Fund is positioning itself to offer low-interest loans to help support development or redevelopment projects from the land bank and  other housing inventory, as well as  mixed-use, industrial or manufacturing projects, particularly those along transit hubs, said Andy Geer at the forum. He is the vice president and market leader of Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.  

The $6 million loan fund that Geer hopes to grow to $15 million provides low-cost, flexible loans and hands-on technical assistance to community development organizations for affordable housing and economic/ commercial development.  In addition, the fund supports challenging projects that help revitalize low- and moderate-income neighborhoods and suburban communities throughout metropolitan Chicago, aiding families and communities along the path toward economic stability, prosperity and sustainability.

Also speaking at the forum was Rubin Kuznitsky. The vice president of operations for Esmark Steel Group promoted manufacturing as a career choice to help fill a gaping skills gap in the industry where there are far more jobs than there are trained and capable workers. 

Edward Warbick of Paine/Wetzel World Wide Real Estate Services provided a verbal tour of the Southland industrial market, pointing out new developments such as Winpak packaging company in South Chicago Heights and Sauk Village, a Clorax bleach facility in University Park and the M. Block distribution facility in Tinley Park.   

Finally, SSMMA and CSEDC Director of Economic Development Reggie Greenwood wrapped up the forum with a request for participation and investment  in the CSEDC’s work to build upon the Southland.  

Click here to read a related story on

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