Last weekend Roosevelt University hosted the Green Economy Action Roadshow at its Schaumburg Campus. The two-day even draws business professionals, environmental experts, community members, faculty, students, and staff together to discuss green initiatives being undertaken in the Chicago Region and to exchange ideas about technological innovations and economic prospects related to energy conservation and sustainable development. The event was sponsored by the Delta Institute and Mindful Metropolis along with the Village of Schaumburg and Roosevelt University.
During Friday’s Business Conference segment of the Roadshow, Schaumburg mayor Al Larsen participated in a panel discussion entitled “Economic Development Opportunities in the Green Economy.” According to the notes of RU Professor Mike Bryson, who represented RU’s Sustainability Studies program at the Friday conference, Mayor Larsen highlighted the following issues/initiatives in his remarks:
- Building retrofits — Schaumburg has invested around $700K in energy-efficiency retrofits for almost 200 homes; approximately $680K for almost 30 businesses; and about $180K for eight public buildings — all with external funding that had funneled over $1.7M in the local economy.
- Landscaping — The 2004 Biodiversity Report helped Schaumburg figure out how to change its zoning/landscaping codes as well as identify natural areas and potential linkages. The village has devised a loan program to facilitate creating retention ponds at apartment building complexes with naturalized shorelines emphasizing native vegetation instead of riprap.
- Biodiversity, Conservation, Energy Efficiency — These are not side issues, according to Larsen, but central to economic development in the village and NW suburbs. Emphasizing these assets will make people want to live and work here. Larsen stressed the continued need to maintain green linkages between natural areas, and conserving open space.
- Transportation — Good transportation, such as Schaumburg’s extensive bike network and the trolley service in the northeast part of the city, serves to “break down barriers between communities,” according to Larsen, who noted his support for the STAR line Metra project that would connect Schaumburg with Joliet via an outer suburban commuter rail line. The project would augment mobility and create jobs/economic opportunity; but $3.2B in funding is needed, a significant economic challenge.
- Economic development — Not just about a “one-time jolt in money” in the form of business incentives; it really is part of long-term investment in sustainability-influenced civic development.
- Collaboration — Key to moving forward on a variety of fronts, particularly transportation, as numerous agencies and organizations are involved: Cook County, State of Illinois, IDOT, Forest Preserve, Illinois Toll Authority, RTA, etc.
Larsen’s comments, while characterizing Schaumburg’s green economic efforts in as favorable a light as possible, nonetheless underscore a central contention of this web project: that Schaumburg’s sustainable future will hinge upon its ability to build upon the solid planning process of the 2000s by facing some of the tough challenges of the next two decades: the conservation of biodiversity, the restoration of high quality ecosystems with the village’s open space, the development of better and more accessible public/active transportation systems, and the reduction of energy and water resource use.