Lindsay Mitchell

Aug 09, 2016  |  Today's News

Illinois waterways support more than 1.7 million jobs and $102.5 billion in wages.

That’s the core finding from an Illinois Chamber of Commerce Foundation report highlighting the importance of the Illinois River to the state’s economy. Total employment across the 22 counties that benefited from the waterway in 2014 represents approximately 47 percent of all employment in the study.

“Commercial navigation and our inland waterways are unsung assets of our transportation networks. This report identifies not only that they are a significant source of employment for Illinoisans across the state with over $102 billion in annual wages but that with additional investment, these benefits can grow,” said Benjamin Brockschmidt, executive director, Infrastructure Council of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

The findings are in the Final Report: An Economic Impact and Cluster Analysis of Illinois River Lock and Dam Facilities for Beneficial Users, prepared by the Economic Development Research Group, Inc., in association with the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee.

"The economic information gleaned from the study clearly shows the importance of our inland waterway transportation system to Illinois and surrounding states. This will prove to be invaluable as we continue to advocate for future investments," said Tom Mueller of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.

 “According to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis, more than half of U.S. soybeans are destined for export markets, and around half of those soybean and soybean co-product exports are moved by barges on the inland waterways,” according to Illinois Soybean Association Director Paul Rasmussen, who farms near Genoa, Illinois.

“This ground-breaking research helps quantify the critical importance of the Illinois River. Its natural and man-made systems of the Illinois River support our communities in many ways,” Rasmussen says. “In fact, the Illinois River passes through or touches 22 counties, and nearly two million jobs in the state are tied to the smooth operations of the river.”

 “This report highlights the invaluable contribution of the Illinois River and Chicago Waterway System to the state’s chemical industry,” said Mark Biel, executive director, Chemical Industry Council of Illinois. “Our industry is a robust provider of over 45,000 jobs in Illinois with an average annual wage of above $112,000. These great jobs depend on the open and continuous movement of goods on Illinois’ waterways.”