On Thursday afternoon, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was joined by former President Bill Clinton he announced a multi-million dollar infrastructure program that will invest in energy efficiency for city properties, generate more than 2000 jobs and save taxpayers $20 million dollars yearly.
The Chicago Infrastructure Trust was created in partnership with the private sector, non-profit organizations, and union leaders.
Thursday’s announcement was the first time Mayor Emanuel and President Clinton appeared together in an official capacity. However, Clinton visited Chicago in January 2011 to stump for Emanuel’s mayoral campaign.
Clinton was invited to Chicago to unveil the initiative because of his extensive knowledge of job creation and economic development from his years in the White House.
The former president said he wanted to be present for the announcement because Chicago is the first city in the country establishing an infrastructure bank using private capital.
“I have seen first-hand how investments in our infrastructure can modernize our country, get people to work, and improve our economic strength through energy efficiency,” said Clinton. “One of the biggest barriers to this work is the financing. Mayor Emanuel and the city of Chicago, through the creation of this infrastructure trust, have taken an important step towards addressing that challenge and embracing these opportunities.”
The mayor called the trust “an innovation” that spurs job creation and serves as a means to meet future economic challenges.
“Nothing is more crucial to our long-term competitiveness and job creation than infrastructure,” Emanuel said. “The Chicago Infrastructure Trust will bring additional resources to stimulate public and private investment in our infrastructure, create thousands of jobs for Chicagoans, and ensure that our residents have a world-class quality of life.”
“We have a 21st century economy sitting on a 20th century foundation,” Mayor Emanuel said at the press conference. “Unless we modernize it we ain’t gonna get moving.”
The mayor also declared that the city will continue to fight for federal and state dollars but due to the economic woes facing both government bodies, he does not want to leave the city’s fiscal outlook in an indeterminate state.
“The infrastructure trust allows us to actually start to unlock our future, take control of our destiny and not leave it beholden to the problems, the challenges or the dysfunction of either Washington or Springfield,” Emanuel said. “It allows us to do what we need to do for Chicago, for our own economy.”
Several investors have agreed to provide funding for the trust including Macquarie Infrastructure Company—the firm that manages the Chicago Skyway.
“Macquarie has had a long-standing commitment to Chicago through its management of Thermal Chicago and the Chicago Skyway,” said James Hooke, Chief Executive Officer of Macquarie Infrastructure Company in a statement. “We look forward to working with the City to continue to enhance its infrastructure, its environment and create local jobs. The establishment of the Chicago Infrastructure Trust will see Chicago lead the nation in funding of infrastructure development.”
The trust’s first project will help Chicago work with debt and equity investors to finance $200-$225 million in an effort to reduce energy consumption of participating city assets by 20 percent.
According to a press release from the Mayor’s office, the City currently spends $170 million annually on energy consumption. The project will reduce energy costs for the city by more than $20 million annually, create nearly 2,000 construction jobs, and remove CO2 emissions – the equivalent of taking more than 30,000 cars off the road – from the atmosphere annually.
The trust has to be approved by the City Council and will be introduced at this month’s City Council meeting.
By Thelma Sardin