Roundtable with Québec companies focused on attracting international investment to the ‘blue green’ economy

Chicago Construction News staff writer

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson last week hosted a roundtable with Québec companies in water management and green energy sectors that have an interest in investing or expanding in Illinois.

“Chicago’s proximity to one of the largest bodies of freshwater in the world is a competitive advantage that has been historically underutilized,” Johnson said. “We are working hard to identify and interact with economic sectors where we have an edge so that we can attract sustainable businesses and good jobs to our city for long-term success.

The meeting followed an April city council meeting where more than 100 clean building advocates showed up in support of the Clean and Affordable Buildings Ordinance (CABO). 

Supporters of CABO told council members why they believe this ordinance is vital for protecting the city’s health, environment, and well-being, including Illinois Green Alliance’s Policy and Communications Associate, Ryan Wilmington. 

“It is clear that the demand is there,” Wilmington said. “The technology is feasible and these buildings are affordable.

“Chicago needs to take inspiration from cutting edge market leaders and not those who want to stick residents with ineffective, outdate technology that makes our residents unhealthy and drains their pockets.”

CABO was presented at the hearing by Chief Sustainability Officer Angela Tovar, Buildings Department Managing Deputy Commissioner Grant Ulrich, and other city officials. They explained that meeting Chicago’s goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050 is pressing, as the last decade has been the hottest on record.   

The “Chicagoland’s Green Future” report released by World Business Chicago in October 2023 found that Chicagoland’s green economy produced over $18 billion in economic output in 2022, growing by nearly 180 percent from 2016 to 2022. In 2022, Chicagoland’s green economy employed over 65,000 workers, ranking fifth out of the top ten metro areas for employment in the green economy.

Chicagoland’s transitioning green economy, which the report defines as “the size of Chicagoland’s economy that is either an end user of clean energy or a critical input to the advancement of and transition to clean energy and climate technology,” employed over 500,000 people in 2022.

“There is a correlation between good policies and business growth,” said Charles Smith, vice chair of World Business Chicago. “We are working to boldly position Chicago as a global leader in the blue-green economy by leveraging our strategic position as the transportation hub of the Midwest.”

Upstream Illinois: Strategies to Boost Illinois’ Blue Economy, a report prepared for Current, a Chicago-area water innovation hub, defined the blue economy as “the collection of companies that develop and provide technologies, products and services that manage the movement, quality and use of water – in addition to inputs to make these products, supporting industries, and the customers that demand these products.”

“Our report found that the blue economy is a significant part of the city and state’s economies and yet nobody was talking about it that way,” said Alaina Harkness, executive director of Current. “We are looking at areas where we needed to invest in growth and where we have the right to win by adding things like treatment technologies, monitoring, water infrastructure, water-saving products, resource recovery, and the water-energy nexus.”

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