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Pritzker Announces Infrastructure Grants To Help Close Equity Gaps In Economic Development


Gov. JB Pritzker on Thursday announced $11 million in new infrastructure funding aimed at spurring economic development in underserved areas.

Pritzker announced the funding at a visit to Alsip in southern Cook County, also known as the “Southland.” Alsip is one of 11 locations statewide that will receive the funding, which is part of a $45 billion infrastructure plan passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Pritzker in 2019.

These “shovel-ready” grants, which are designated for construction projects that can begin operations relatively quickly, are among a number of projects funded by Rebuild Illinois .

Grant funding will go toward constructing affordable housing for seniors, cleaning up polluted brownfield lands, and increasing accessibility to public transit.

In addition to Alsip, which will use its grant dollars to construct a transportation logistics center, projects were approved in East St. Louis, Marion, Peoria, Rochelle, Rockford, Rock Island, Wood River, and multiple sites in Cook County.

Pritzker said the investments will spur needed economic development for currently blighted areas.

“Even in a pandemic — especially in a pandemic — we must invest in new jobs to lift up our residents,” Pritzker said. “Investing in infrastructure lays the groundwork for companies to choose Illinois and to expand operations here.”

Sylvia Garcia, who earlier this week began her new role as the acting director of the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities, said investments in underserved communities will help to close an equity gap in economic development — a goal Pritzker had previously laid out in his five-year economic plan.

“All of these capital programs were required to have an inclusion plan as part of the process," Garcia said. "This really helps us leverage our capital dollars to maximize diversity and inclusion."

Democratic State Rep. Justin Slaughter, whose district is in the southside of Chicago, commented on what projects like the one coming to Alsip will mean for his constituents — who live only a 15-minute drive away.

“Think about the job training opportunities that this is going to bring. Think about the apprenticeship program and those opportunities,” Slaughter said. “Also the exposure. Do these individuals and families that come from underserved communities, are they exposed to the opportunities and what it can mean to have a career in [transportation, distribution, and logistics]?”

The $11 million investment will be on top of a $2 million grant awarded last year to a Chicago-based urban farming campus.

Derek Cantù is NPR Illinois' graduate student Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2021 legislative session.
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