Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed an executive order on July 14 that transforms the Millennium Reserve public-private partnership into an independent entity. The executive order opens the door for the creation of a voluntary bi-state entity, long a dream of stakeholders in Illinois and Indiana who are focused on sustainable development on both sides of the state line. Stakeholders are coming together to create a new organization whose temporary name reflects the geography, focus and emphasis on partnerships of this effort: the Calumet Bi-State Sustainable Development Collaborative.
“This is a very important day for the people of northeastern Illinois and northwest Indiana,” said Rauner at a July 14 press conference held at the Riverdale facility of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel and mining company. “We share this environment and we share this economic region. So working together is critically important.”
The announcement was a key step in the evolution of Millennium Reserve, which is in the process of creating an independent, non-profit, bi-state organization that identifies, guides, supports and coordinates the economic, community and environmental assets of the region. The new organization will be able to raise corporate, philanthropic and government funds to support its work.
The Governor’s Executive Order also reinstituted the Illinois Millennium Reserve State Agency Task Force, which is charged with identifying ways for partners of this effort to access information, technical assistance and funding from the task force’s member agencies.
Speakers at the governor’s press conference emphasized various Millennium Reserve accomplishments as well as the great potential of what the future can bring. “Good work has been done, but we need to take it to the next level,” Rauner said.
One example of substantive work is the Conservation Compact, an agreement of public and private agencies to ensure that 23 ecologically important areas in the region are cared for. Another is the Calumet Stormwater Collaborative, which works to ensure long-term region-wide solutions to urban flooding. Meanwhile, Millennium Reserve has also produced a guidebook, website, newsletter and story map for the region and completed phase one of a wayfinding project to link the assets and amenities of the region.
Millennium Reserve has also played an important role in encouraging the region’s workforce through the Calumet Green Manufacturing Partnership (CGMP), a collaborative effort that has partnered with high schools and colleges, jobseekers and industrial companies. Earlier this summer, OAI, a workforce development organization in the region, received a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to continue its work with CGMP.
Milllennium Reserve has also partnered with many organizations in the region’s communities and will continue to do so when it transforms into a bi-state organization. One current example is the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum in Pullman, which tells the story of African Americans in the labor movement. The Museum’s work includes programs that focus on outdoor recreation education and local economic development. David Peterson, executive director, spoke at the July event and emphasized the Museum’s potential to reach people in the community. “We are creating an opportunity for people to empower themselves right within our own community using cultural economic development as our tool under the broader umbrella of tourism,” said Peterson.
“The challenges facing the entire Calumet region don’t stop at the state border,” said Bill Steers, chair of the Millennium Reserve Steering Committee and general manager, communications & corporate responsibility for ArcelorMittal Americas. The new organization, Steers said, will help “attract additional funding partners and expand to foster a fully bi-state organization.”
“Going forward we will continue to build on our momentum to create a new level of collaboration for sustainable development in our region,” said Steers. “Together, we hope to leverage our significant resources to further advance the Calumet region as it transforms itself into an area recognized for its economic, environmental and cultural value.”
Meanwhile, Rauner emphasized the importance of partnership in this continuing effort. “We’re partners,” he said to members of the audience from Illinois and Indiana at the July event. “When you succeed, we succeed. When we succeed, you succeed.”
See the full video of the press conference here.