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Chicago Seeks to Nix Rust Belt Label With $1 Billion Climate Bid

(Bloomberg) —

Eager to scrap its Rust Belt reputation, a new US Midwest coalition is seeking $1 billion in federal funds to help transform the Chicago region into a hub for cutting-edge climate technology. 

A new Chicago-focused alliance, set to be unveiled Thursday by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, will seek to connect companies and nonprofits on initiatives to lower greenhouse gas emissions and get lucrative federal grants to fund their efforts. It’s part of Illinois’ bid to reinvent itself as a center for new technologies such as quantum computing, life sciences and electric vehicle manufacturing. 

Illinois has been laser-focused on luring federal dollars, including from the Inflation Reduction Act — a law, signed by President Joe Biden just over a year ago that provides generous tax credits to industries at the heart of the transition to a greener economy. The Chicagoland Climate Investment Alliance will also seek further funds beyond the $1 billion grant.

“There’s going to be a transformational opportunity for cities, and if we didn’t organize this effort, Chicago was going to be left with just table scraps,” said Kyle Schulz, chief growth officer for World Business Chicago, a private-public economic development agency for the third-largest US city. 

Read more: Chinese Battery Maker Picks Illinois for $2 Billion Factory

Founding members of the alliance, which have pledged $2 million to kick off the effort, includes World Business Chicago, the state of Illinois, the city of Chicago and P33, a nonprofit organization founded by former Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. Invenergy and Exelon Corp.’s power utility Commonwealth Edison also joined the efforts.  

The Chicago region’s “green economy” — a term referring to efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions and foster sustainable development — produced more than $18 billion last year, behind New York, Houston, Los Angeles and Dallas, according to a World Business Chicago research report also released Thursday. 

The city should perform better given its diverse economic foundation that includes agriculture, manufacturing and transportation, according to Robin Ficke, the group’s senior vice president of research. She said Chicago currently has about 65,000 jobs in the green economy, which is fifth place in the US. 

“There’s a lot of great things happening, but there should be and could be much, much more,” said Michael Fassnacht, the city’s chief marketing officer. 

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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