Kristi DeLaurentiis and 15 other members set to catalyze growth in the south suburbs
information provided by South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association
EAST HAZEL CREST, Ill. (November 12, 2019) – The Southland Development Authority, a new vehicle designed to grow the economy in the south suburbs, will launch Wednesday, November 13. The Authority will promote the large-scale investments needed to propel the southland forward. The launch event will be held at Thornton Distilling Co., 400 East Margaret Street in Thornton, Illinois, from 5:00-7:00pm.
The Board of Directors of the Authority consists of 16 business and community leaders, including Lansing’s Kristi DeLaurentiis, who is executive director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association. Named director in early 2017, DeLaurentiis leads a team delivering technical assistance and joint services to 45 municipalities representing a population of nearly 700,000 in southern Cook and eastern Will Counties. DeLaurentiis and her fellow Authority Board members will be introduced at Wednesday’s launch event.
Overcoming strong headwinds
The Southland Development Authority (SDA) is a next-generation economic development initiative. It is the result of work done by the South Suburban Economic Growth Initiative (SSEGI), a community-based group of leaders who have been supported by Cook County, the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA), and other civic and philanthropic partners.
“Chicago’s Southland is an area rich with many positive assets but needs the energy and long-term commitment of a Development Authority to overcome many strong headwinds,” stated Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle. “We have worked closely with the business and philanthropic communities, residents, and elected officials to create this innovative approach to growing the economy.”
The launch of this new Development Authority is big news not just for the south suburbs, but for all of Chicagoland—the Southland is an undiscovered market with enormous assets and development investment opportunities. The SDA will be a lead partner with other developers, investors, and stakeholders in jumpstarting economic growth for the entire region.
A new approach
The SDA is modeled after several new organizations that have emerged across the country over the past few years. It will be the first of its kind in Illinois. This new approach to economic development provides new sources of capital and financial tools needed to support effective management and implementation of new property investments in the region. These new models are broader in scope, more comprehensive, and built on cross sector partnerships.
Three examples of highly successful development authorities are: Brooklyn Navy Yards, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, and the Menomonee Valley Partnership (Wisconsin).
The SDA itself is a nonprofit organization. Its strength, however, will be based on its formal working relationships with the South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority (SSLBDA) and with a financial entity. The SSLBDA is an intergovernmental entity created by local governments in the Southland. It has been successful in addressing abandoned property among its 26 member suburbs. It can assemble vacant properties, abate back taxes, and partner with the SDA to serve as a predevelopment for the regions. The finance entity will assemble finance tools that have gone underused in the Southland due to fragmentation, capacity constraints and complexity of the instruments. These include bonding authority, tax-advantaged investments, enterprise zones and other forms of place-based incentives.
Like other Development Authorities around the country, the SDA is designed to be financially self supporting within a few years. Startup financial support has been contributed by Cook County, the MacArthur Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, and the Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust.
“We needed to do something different,” stated Carter Sterling, President of Sterling Lumber and one of the founding co-chairs of the leadership group that created the Development Authority. “Old methods of dealing with economic growth in the South Suburbs were not working anymore.”
“As an elected official, I have seen, first-hand, the enormous challenges facing businesses and residents of the Chicago Southland,” stated Vernard Alsberry Jr., Mayor of the Village of Hazel Crest. “We need an approach that allows us to cross historical fragmentation and local competition then move forward, together, through coordinated, well managed investments.”