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CHICAGO-Anyone outside the market might wonder why a Democratic mayor would speak glowingly of a Republican governor, practically endorsing him for re-election in 2002. But the bipartisan alliance between Mayor Richard M. Daley and Governor George Ryan has yielded millions of investment dollars in a city that previously fought for meager state support.

Two developments on the Southeast Side are cases in point. The city and state teamed up on the Ford Supplier Park at 126th Street and Torrence Avenue, with Ryan ponying up $40 million in Illinois First money to help stop the project from landing in Atlanta. To help redevelop a former USX steel mill site to keep Solo Cup from moving across the nearby state line to Hammond, IN, Illinois First is paying the bill for $86 million in infrastructure improvements.

“Up until two years ago, if the state put in $3 million in the city, that was a lot,” says Grubb & Ellis senior vice president Christopher R. Hill, Daley’s planning and development commissioner until January.

However, that bipartisan working relationship is in jeopardy, as Ryan is up for re-election in 2002. A license-for-bribes scandal in the secretary of state’s office while he held that position hangs over him, with many of his own aides advising him against running for a second term.

The two deals have been a win-win for both party leaders, members of the Real Estate Investment Association were told recently by Hill and deputy commissioner Eileen Figel. Retaining jobs in Chicago has been a top priority for Daley, but Ryan needed projects to put his pet project, Illinois First, to work. Also benefiting are residents of the South Shore, South Chicago and Hegewisch neighborhoods. For instance, the USX plant once employed 20,000 when the steel mills were in full swing. Its closing left behind disinvestments, evidenced by 1,000 vacant lots where homes once stood.

“Honestly, neither of these projects would happen if the city and the state didn’t partner,” Figel says.

Chicago couldn’t beat Hammond by itself to keep Solo Cup and its 550 jobs, as well as a promise of 450 new positions, without the state’s help, Figel says. Meanwhile, the Ford Supplier Park will keep 2,000 jobs in Chicago as well as add 1,000 more, she says.

The city took title to its first USX parcel two weeks ago, Figel says, about the same time Solo closed on 180 acres. Groundbreaking for construction of Solo’s facility is expected in two weeks.

The plan commission is expected to review site improvements for the Ford Supplier Park later this summer, Figel says, and announcements on some of the suppliers who will occupy the 1.5 million sf over seven buildings is expected in September.

Meanwhile, funding for Ryan’s Illinois First program is winding down, but “these two projects are far enough along, so they’re very secure,” Figel says.

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