The economic potential of the tri-state region won’t be unlocked until the political leaders in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana have a better understanding of each state’s assets and problems.
That was the consensus of the executive directors from the three regional planning agencies of those states during a session on the importance of metropolitan planning and economic development at the third annual Summit on Regional Competitiveness Friday at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
“We need to do a better job of explaining why it’s important to do a better job knitting together this multi-state region,” said Kenneth Yunker, executive director, Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. “We should be identifying a few key projects that are essential to getting that done and then try to get action (from elected officials) on those key projects.”
Fresh water is one of those key projects.
Throughout the summit, the Milwaukee Water Council was praised for its innovation by leaders from Illinois and Indiana who said they would like to mimic the success the Water Council has experienced in their own states.
Tyson Warner, executive director, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, said the need to draw water from Lake Michigan will force all three states to work together on several issues, including rail and roads.
Yunker agreed, saying there is no question the safe water supply the three states enjoy because of their proximity to Lake Michigan is an asset that provides great potential for the future.
“I hate to say it, but I was pleased when Washington DC said they couldn’t drink their water,” Yunker said. “(Safe water) is something the Milwaukee 7 is clearly emphasizing. Clusters of the industry dominate across the nation, we have a water cluster in our region and we need to focus on that.”