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They’re not your grandfather’s warehouses: Chicago should encourage new buildings that are more environmentally friendly and bring jobs.

Doing so will keep the City of Chicago moving forward and continue to unveil a new era of Industrial Chicago

Mayor Lori Lightfoot answers questions from the media at the announcement of the winners of the second round of the City’s INVEST South/West Requests for Proposals program at Back Of The Yards College Prep at 2111 W. 47th St. in Back of The Yards on Aug. 23.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

As the country and the world recover from the economic shock of the pandemic, the question continues of when will we fully recover and what “life” will look like going forward.

While economic uncertainty continues to crop up with each new coronavirus variant, we have seen local movement on the industrial/manufacturing/logistics front that has not been seen in decades. The integration of technology with this sector has finally benefited Chicago’s industrial corridors. This is a good thing.

As a result, there has been a renewed interest and, more importantly, investment in these corridors. Old, obsolete buildings have been demolished, hazardous sites cleaned, new state-of-the-art facilities built and much-needed jobs for local residents have been added. Based on industrial real estate projections, this demand will continue for the foreseeable future.

This investment helps answer questions regarding the industrial policy of the City of Chicago and how industrial sites are redeveloped to take advantage of the historic strategic attributes of communities.

A new coalition of pro-industrial organizations — including the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council and the new Lake Effect Community Development — applauds the industrial investment of new warehouses in largely Hispanic communities on the South and West sides. These warehouses benefit from accessing a labor pool with a strong work ethic and skills that strengthen business, which guarantees better salaries and working conditions for families.

Of course, the corporate and business community has deep responsibilities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and their carbon footprints.

Regrettably, there continues to be opposition to industrial investment and development. Opponents ignore the integration of tech, sustainability, fuel efficiency improvement and the eventual deployment of electric truck fleets. The opposition continues to think and argue the narrative that industry is stuck in a 1950s era of industrial investment.

During the last three years, the INVEST South/West initiative of Mayor Lori Lightfoot has convinced hundreds of investors, many of them members of our organizations, of the value of investing in medium- and long-term sustainable development projects. This coalition thanks the mayor for striking a clear balance between caring for the environment and developing important centers of economic and industrial development. The vast majority of the city’s new warehouses and industrial operators are integrating new health rules and making investments that will generate thousands of jobs and benefit consumers by allowing them to access products at lower prices, thanks to the proximity of the centers of distribution.

We cannot continue to limit the development of new economic opportunities in historically marginalized areas, based exclusively on complaints without any scientific basis. Or worse, by arguing “alternative facts.” There is no real evidence that warehouses and industrial construction and logistics traffic are generating more pollution in the area.

We strongly request that the mayor’s office continue with its policy of promoting the construction of new warehouses and industry, and guarantee the delivery of all industrial permits to those companies that comply with all the requirements established by law, which includes submitting to constant tests that guarantee the efficiency of their processes.

Doing so will keep the City of Chicago moving forward and continue to unveil a new era of Industrial Chicago.

Jaime DiPaulo is the CEO of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Craig Chico is the CEO of the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council. Jorge Perez is the president of Lake Effect Community Development.

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