Cook County’s South Suburbs house more than 20% of the County’s suburban population and nearly 15% of suburban businesses and employment.

Prepared by:
Board of Commissioners of Cook County

June 2017

Summary/Report Overview

Cook County’s South Suburbs house more than 20% of the County’s suburban population and nearly 15% of suburban businesses and employment.1 This report examines the changing role of the South Suburbs in the region, their current market challenges and opportunities, and begins to specify preliminary strategies to reestablish the South Suburbs as thriving communities of opportunity and choice (see “Economic Framing” for more detail) that are participating and driving growth in the regional economy.

Phase 1 would not have been possible without the extensive expert advice, local insights and ongoing feedback of a wide array of local and regional stakeholders. These include key leaders from the public, private and civic sectors who contributed their time and talents via individual interviews, group working sessions and participation in the project’s Phase 1 Sounding Board. See Appendix A for a list of Phase 1 participants and members of the project team.

Section 1 provides an overview of the economic foundations of the initiative. It describes the changing dynamics of growth in the next economy and the two primary roles that sub-regions play in regional economic growth: as communities of opportunity connecting their residents, businesses and real estate to regional markets; and as communities of choice offering differentiated packages of housing and amenities to attract and serve different segments of the regional population. This economic framing translates into four topics that serve as the structure for the report’s market analysis in Section III:

(1) How the sub-region’s economic activities and assets participate in and drive the future regional economy;

(2) How its workforce participates in and drives the future regional economy;

(3) How its community characteristics are evolving and what residents they have the potential to retain and attract; and

(4) What institutional capacity – public, private and civic capabilities – is necessary for implementation of an integrated set of growth strategies?

Section 2 provides an overview of the historical roles the South Suburbs has played in the context of the region, as a place of both opportunity and choice: its long-held status as a hub of manufacturing and transportation, intermingled with a diverse set of middle- and workingclass bedroom communities. It also summarizes the economic and community conditions in the South Suburbs today, including the challenges and opportunities that its industries, workforce and residential communities face in transitioning to the next economy. Finally, it begins to articulate a very preliminary, high-level vision for the sub-region’s future, in which it more fully participates in and drives regional growth. Page 2 South Suburban Economic Growth Initiative Phase 1 Report Section 3 examines key market facts about the South Suburbs, framed by the four questions outlined in Section I, to surface a set of priority challenges and opportunities.