Emanuel’s report, “A Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs,” is a first-draft strategy on how to lift Chicago out of its economic slump by creating more union jobs, rebuilding the city’s infrastructure and retrofitting city buildings, among other efforts, which will directly impact Austin, said Tom Alexander, a spokesman for Emanuel.
The plan calls for an increase in advanced manufacturing jobs in the city, which are ideal professions for residents of Austin and other neighborhoods, Alexander said.
“These are the jobs of the future,” he said.
Specifically, Emanuel wants to scale up Austin Polytechnical Academy’s adult manufacturing job-certification program for Chicago residents.
Alexander said Emanuel considers the school – which provides state-of-the-art manufacturing training to students in grades nine through 12 – a “great asset” for the city.
Currently, the community group Austin Coming Together (ACT), in partnership with Austin Polytech, has about 10 West Side adults participating in a 44-week manufacturing credential program at the school, located on the campus of the former Austin High School at 231 N. Pine Ave.
Amara Eniya, executive director of ACT, said it makes sense for Austin and other West Side communities to be a hub for manufacturing.
“The West Side generally has a manufacturing infrastructure already,” she said. “You see the empty factories and buildings.”
Chicago’s West Side once had a robust manufacturing industry, but over the last 30 years those jobs left, she said
“Then the communities changed once the companies left.”
ACT and other community stakeholders say the manufacturing industry has the potential to build the middle class, not only in Austin, but across the country.
“If you are talking about the quality of Chicago as a city, we have to invest on the West Side,” Eniya said.
Erica Swinney, career and community programs director at Austin Polytech, said the school is excited the mayor has included manufacturing as a top priority for the city’s economic future.
“His administration’s top-level staff has visited the school in the last couple months,” she said.
“We are working with the city’s Housing and Economic Development department to scale up our (evening) program.”
In addition to investing in manufacturing, more private sector resources are to be pumped into communities to retrofit city buildings, such as libraries, public schools and police headquarters, among other buildings, to increase energy efficiency, Alexander said.
“That will have an immediate impact on Austin,” he said.
Street and stop lights along with road and other transportation upgrades are key to Chicago’s economic future, the plan states.
“Certain parts of Austin’s infrastructure are in dire need of repair,” Alexander said. “Hopefully, those will be areas where we will be able to target in these infrastructure efforts.”
Emanuel’s report also calls for better communication to residents about job opportunities in the city and the suburbs.
Available jobs may be close to Austin in the surrounding suburbs, yet they aren’t always publicized in the city, Alexander said.
“That’s stupid,” he said. “If there are jobs two miles away from you, you should have access to that job.”
The Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council applauded the plan.