St. Louis Regional Chamber touts ‘regional unity’ with Metro East

By Bob Pieper for Chronicle Media


Illinois Chamber of Commerce’s Jay Shattuck spoke before the St. Louis Regional Chamber Jan. 24 about recreational marijuana workplace protections for employers. (Photo courtesy of SLRC)

The first year of the push for more regional unity across the  Metro East area has been a success, according to the St. Louis Regional Chamber (SLRC).

The SLRC, which represents businesses across a 15-county area in Missouri and Illinois, promised greater emphasis on Metro East last year in its annual State of St. Louis  report.

“… it can be easy to overlook the impact Illinois has on our region,” Chamber officials noted in their report last year.

“However, the Chamber recognizes that pitfall and plans to avoid making that mistake in the future. Moving forward the Chamber will be increasingly receptive to Illinois’ concerns and encourages the governments on both sides of the river to work together towards building one of the nation’s top economic regions,” the document continued.

The SLRC represents businesses across a 15-county area in Missouri and Illinois — including Bond, Clinton Calhoun, Jersey, Macoupin, Madison, Monroe, and St. Clair, counties in the Prairie State.

A new set of SLRC legislative and policy priorities for Illinois is due over the coming weeks, according to Chamber staff.

However, an initial round of Illinois-specific legislative objectives recently adopted by the Chamber last resulted in some successes, SLRC staff notes.

Chief among them is Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s $45 billion Rebuild Illinois program.

Enacted last year, Rebuild Illinois authorizes $13 to 15 billion in spending over the next 10 years for maintenance of state roads and bridges; with an additional $30 billion for upgrades and improvements to aviation, public transit, freight and passenger rail and new highways.

In addition to major regional projects like the renovation of I-255, the capital improvements program allocates a total of some $254,469,000 for projects in communities in Madison, Monroe, and St. Clair counties.

Included in the Rebuild Illinois program is  $592,000 for expansion of Broadway Street in Alton. (courtesy Mapquest)

Those local projects include a $592,000 expansion of Broadway Street in Alton, a new $105.3 million for health-sciences building at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), and the $96 million expansion of MetroLink to MidAmerica Airport and Scott Air Force Base.

Recognizing Scott AFB as a “critical economic driver for the St. Louis bi-state region,” the St. Louis Chamber made efforts to “support, preserve and enhance key military Installations” a priority last year.

The Chamber supported HB 1652, sponsored by State Rep. Latoya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis) and State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville), to reduce occupation licensing barriers for military members and their spouses. The legislation took effect Jan. 1.

Not everything on the Chamber’s wish list for Illinois came to fruition last year, SLRC staff admits.

Illinois House Bill 3823, sponsored by 32nd District Rep. André Thapedi (D-Springfield) to create a new statewide funding source for improvement and maintenance of local roadways, remains stalled in the Illinois House Rule Committee, as the state’s new legislative session begins.

Also, still pending before the State House Rules Committee Illinois is House Bill 2900, sponsored by State Rep. Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights) to provide “minimum wage increase relief” for businesses in targeted areas.

Enterprise zones

Legislation to “streamline” the Illinois Enterprise Zone selection process — and hopefully allow more of the targeted business development districts in Metro East — likewise remains stalled in committee.

Designed to stimulate economic growth and neighborhood revitalization in economically depressed areas, the Illinois Enterprise Zone Program provides state and local tax incentives, regulatory relief and improved governmental services in targeted areas.

Twelve have already been designated across Metro East. Proponents say the special incentive zones

have been instrumental in bringing new development to the Collinsville, O’Fallon and Pontoon Beach areas.

Retiring U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) 

Senate Bill 1613 – sponsored by 17th District State Sen. Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago) and currently pending before the State Senate’s Assignments Committee – would allow the Illinois Enterprise Zone Board to approve all enterprise zone applications that meet specified criteria rather than allot a limited number of zone designations competitively.

Several Illinois political office holders were honored during the SLRC’s Jan. 6 Chamber Champion Awards Dinner.

Retiring U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) and former U.S. Sen Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) received the Chamber’s top-level Legacy Awards.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), who is retiring from the legislature this month, was awarded the chamber’s Champion Award for his work in enacting the Illinois Capital Bill.

Rep. Hoffman was recognized for his work as Illinois House Assistant Majority Floor Leader.

The dinner is held annually to recognize lawmaker support for economic development in the St. Louis region. Madison County Employment and Training is named finalist in the St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce 2020 Arcus Awards.

The St. Louis Chamber, earlier this month, announced Madison County’s Employment and Training program is a finalist in the chamber’s 2020 Arcus Awards competition.

Winners in seven categories will be named during the seventh Arcus Awards Ceremony on Feb. 27 in St. Louis.