South Suburban Airport is the Economic Engine Illinois Really Needs – Chicago Tribune


Chicago and Illinois continue to suffer from a decades-long retirement crisis, one of the worst in the nation. Pension funds have long been mismanaged, driving the state deeper and deeper into debt. According to the rating agency Moody’s Investors Service, this figure could reach 317 billion dollars, and it is not over.

Illinois’ pension crisis is stifling our state’s economic growth, putting increasing pressure on taxpayers, and diverting money from programs that help support many Illinois. While the introduction of a casino in Chicago could help alleviate our retirement crisis, and the legalization of marijuana has the potential to create jobs and opportunities for people of color to build capital, these companies are not panaceas.

Illinois needs a sustainable economic engine that creates a stable base of jobs and generates long-term economic prosperity. Chicago’s South Side is one of the areas that desperately needs jobs, investment and growth. Cannabis and a casino alone do not meet Southland’s unmet needs. The creation of the airport in the southern suburbs could, however, be this economic engine for the region.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s selection of Bally’s $1.7 billion plan gave Chicago’s pursuit of a casino a clearer direction and shape. With the highest casino tax rate in the state, at approximately 40% of adjusted gross income, Bally’s, like the state legalization of cannabis, is a quick and attractive solution because it does not tax taxpayers an additional burden to shut down the city’s pension fund. Holes.

I see the value of a casino, but the hope with casinos in particular is that tourists will visit, spend lavishly, and contribute money from out of town into the city coffers. But relying on casinos and their customers to revive our pension funds would mean that many average citizens would bear the brunt of the solution.

To revitalize the Southside and all of Southland, we must seek economic development solutions that will not potentially burden low-income groups in Illinois. We must create quality, well-paying and mutually beneficial jobs for all residents and, in particular, for those who need them most.

There is no single solution to our economic problems, but the creation of a southern suburban airport is an excellent starting point. Illinois has been exploring the potential for a third airport for years – and has both the cash and nearly 6,000 acres of land in Will County set aside for one – but needs a champion to fight like others did for cannabis and casinos. I have spent my entire adult life finding solutions to the issues facing many of our communities, and I intend to be that champion.

The need for a southern suburban airport is dire. Illinois’ global ranking for freight capacity has steadily declined over the years, but the recent e-commerce boom has resulted in a wider-than-ever gap between freight demand and capacity in the state. to manage it. The region’s two airports – O’Hare and Midway – are landlocked, severely limiting their ability to grow and adapt to the trend. If Illinois is to maintain its reputation as the nation’s transportation hub, stay competitive with neighboring states, and secure business in an area of ​​Illinois that desperately needs it, it will have to look elsewhere and look to the Southland. .

And this third airport will represent growth in more ways than one. In addition to business capacity, it will create tens of thousands of jobs in a long-neglected region of the state. Plans to date call for the creation of up to 11,000 jobs during the construction phase and 15,000 on opening day. The South Side of Chicago is known to have been systematically disadvantaged, and calls for major investment in the neighborhood are frequent. The South Suburban Airport would be an extremely effective way to deliver on those promises to the South Side and bridge the gap between all of Southland and the rest of Illinois.

The South Commuter Airport is the economic engine that Illinois and all of Southland needs to enrich our revenues, our reputation and our residents. Combining marijuana legalization and a new casino with a third airport will generate a steady stream of well-paying jobs for a region in need.

Going forward, the South Suburb Airport must be an integral part of all conversations around creating sustainable opportunities for jobs and growth. Our financial future depends on it.

Jonathan Swain is a community leader, small business owner, and candidate for Illinois’ 1st Congressional District.

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