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The 1970s saw a dramatic decline in manufacturing jobs in Chicago and other rust-belt cities. The accompanying loss in wages totaled hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars each week and threatened the economic base of each and every neighborhood. Something needed to be done to slow the hemorrhaging or the neighborhoods would bleed to death.

In Chicago, it was the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Planning Organizations (CANDO) that resuscitated the neighborhoods. For 20 years CANDO and its members have been the catalyst for industrial retention and attraction. One of the primary ways this has happened is through the Local Industrial Retention Initiative (LIRI), a one-on-one industrial outreach program developed and piloted by CANDO in association with the Chicago Department of Economic Development to bring additional industrial investment in Chicago's neighborhoods.

There are currently 16 LIRI organizations working throughout the city. They act as the city's eyes and ears in the community, serving as liaisons between city departments and local employers. This early warning network has retained thousands of industrial jobs and attracted hundreds more by marshalling resources and services on behalf of the communities in which they work.

Strong organizing is the key to the success of these organizations. For example, organizing efforts on Chicago's Near North Side have stabilized the economy and zoning integrity of the North River Industrial Corridor. In the face of speculative residential and retail development along the Clybourn corridor and Goose Island, CANDO members organized local firms and established the first ever Planned Manufacturing District (PMD) in Chicago. The PMD establishes a unified zoning designation and protects industrial areas from conversion to high-end residential development. There are now three PMDs in the North River Corridor and one in the Kinzie Corridor on the Near West Side.

Scott Sonoc
Scott Sonoc, AIA, of Sonoc Architects & Associates,
designed the Finkl Steel campus on Goose Island.
This industrial campus is an excellent benchmark for
industrial corridor planning and design.
  Carl Murrain and Mike Holzer
Carl Murrain, Executive Director, and Mike Holzer,
Director of Industrial Development, the New City
YMCA/LEED Council, in front of the Republic
Windows factory on Goose Island. LEED Council
led the policy fight for Goose Island's Planned
Manufacturing District status, and helped companies
like Republic Windows locate and expand here.

CANDO also recognized the need for geographically based redevelopment strategies, and partnered with the city to create the Model Industrial Corridor Initiative. Through this initiative, LIRI groups manage and conduct strategic planning for 12 of the 22 industrial corridors in Chicago. The groups address the corridor's safety concerns; accessibility by truck, rail and transit; functionality of site and buildings; overall attractiveness; and general manageability.

The success of Goose Island, with more than $110 million in investment and 1000 jobs created, proves that there is still plenty of opportunity for industrial development in Chicago and urban areas throughout the U.S. Creative partnerships like the one between CANDO and the City of Chicago are the very foundation of any successful urban industrial redevelopment strategy.

Chicago's experiences offers several lessons for other urban areas:

  • Community-based development organizations can play an important role in linking the public and private sectors.
  • Strategic planning is most effective when coordinated at a local level, organizing area businesses to develop creative solutions to local problems.
  • Partnerships are essential to promoting a competitive business environment and providing employment opportunities to community residents.

For more LIRI [Local Industrial Retention Initiative] information, go to:

General Information
Map of LIRI groups and LIRI Contact Information

For more on Chicago's Model Industrial Corridors:

General Information
Map of Model Corridors and Corridor Contact Information
Profiles of the Corridors

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