Millennium Reserve: Looking Ahead
As Millennium Reserve continues to focus on the economy, communities and environment of the Calumet region, the Steering Committee is taking important steps to sustain and strengthen its work. Two key developments are in the works: creating an independent 501(c)(3) organization to leverage the resources of the collaborative to identify, guide, support and coordinate the economic, community and environmental assets throughout the region and advancing stronger bi-state representation reflective of the broader Calumet region.
Growth and development
Current strategic developments build on four years of work that includes a variety of successes and the strong support of Partners. Millennium Reserve emerged in response to President Obama’s ‘America’s Great Outdoors’ initiative. While the Illinois Department of Natural Resources was the lead agency early on, from the beginning Millennium Reserve focused on the “three-legged stool” of economy, community and environment. Since 2013, Millennium Reserve has established a shared leadership structure and built a public-private Partnership of nearly 100 government agencies, businesses and nonprofits working together in the Calumet region and Chicago’s south lakefront. In 2015, the Millennium Reserve Steering Committee hired its first full-time staff person, Sarah Coulter, who works in close partnership with Steering Committee members and other key stakeholders on priority projects, while looking for new ways to leverage and build upon the strengths of the partnership.
Examples of successes have included the Conservation Compact, an agreement of public and private agencies to ensure that 23 ecologically important areas in the region are cared for; the Calumet Stormwater Collaborative, which works to ensure long-term region-wide solutions to urban flooding; and the development of a free guidebook highlighting some of the best destinations in Millennium Reserve and the greater Calumet region from Bronzeville to the Indiana Dunes.
Now, members of Millennium Reserve’s Steering Committee believe that creating an independent organization will best position this work for the future.
“We aim to build upon the Millennium Reserve’s accomplishments over the last four years and create a new level of sustainable development collaboration across the entire Calumet region that maximizes the region’s assets,” said Bill Steers, Chair of the Steering Committee and general manager, communications & corporate responsibility for ArcelorMittal Americas, part of the world’s largest steel and mining company. “Through a strengthened and expanded cross-sectoral and cross-jurisdictional approach, we believe the Calumet region has incredible potential to transform itself into an area recognized for its economic, environmental and cultural value.”
Last year, the Steering Committee engaged Metropolitan Planning Council to evaluate different organizational models to consider as the Partnership moves forward. This analysis led to the Steering Committee’s decision to pursue Millennium Reserve becoming an independent, 501(c)(3) organization. A group that is recognized as a 501(c)(3) is exempt from paying federal taxes and is better positioned to pursue resources in support of its mission, hire staff and meet other needs.
“Having 501(c)(3) status will give Millennium Reserve a more formal legal structure in which to operate,” says Diane Tecic, a member of the Steering Committee and director of the Coastal Management Program for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “It will also give the organization standing as an independent entity that continues to work with the state, companies, nonprofits and communities as partners.” Millennium Reserve Steering Committee Vice Chair Mark Bouman says “There’s a growing sense that as Millennium Reserve becomes an independent entity, there is a real opportunity to engage a broader group of people from Illinois and Indiana -- people who are passionately interested in the betterment of this region.” Bouman is Chicago Region Program Director at the Field Museum’s Keller Science Action Center.
At this point, the Steering Committee has initiated the process of filing papers required for 501(c)(3) status.
Meanwhile, steps are being taken to build more partnerships with Indiana organizations as the Steering Committee desires a bi-state and collaborative approach to the region. ArcelorMittal, the Field Museum and many Steering Committee member organizations have an active and strong record of engagement throughout the bi-state Calumet region. One of the next steps, Steers says, is to engage with more Indiana organizations to provide input as Millennium Reserve builds a bi-state strategy. “The region is incredibly linked,” says Steers. “Hopefully we can bring people from both sides of the Illinois-Indiana border into a conversation about how we can shape and define goals that benefit the region. We see this as a real opportunity to bring stakeholders together so that everyone has more success.” Bouman adds that people who live and work in the region share many of the same benefits and challenges, and that a collaborative approach could make sense for both sides of the Illinois-Indiana border.
“This region is connected - we share markets, communications networks, highways, an economy, networks of suppliers and so much when it comes to our environment,” says Bouman. “We share so many assets as well as challenges, and it’s been like that for a long time. There are places where we can find even more common ground together.”