DuPage Airport Authority of Illinois: A Model for Good Government Reform and Regional Economic Growth

Jan 20, 2011

by Carol Hallett

The Chamber's American Free Enterprise. Dream Big. campaign is surging forward in an effort to create the 20 million jobs needed in the next decade to replace the jobs lost in the current recession and to meet the needs of America's growing workforce. The Chamber believes the path to recovery lies in improving existing regulations and implementing smart policies that allow American businesses and the economy to grow.

The success of the DuPage Airport Authority in Illinois (DAA) stands out as a tremendous example of this can-do power of private enterprise. Over the past decade, the DAA reshaped its culture from one of political exceptionalism and corruption to one of political independence. Under the leadership of Daniel Goodwin, the board of the DAA rejected a culture impeding progress in favor of one that instead promotes advancement through economic development. By strengthening its board with independent, entrepreneurially-minded members, DAA effected this shift to fresh ideas and a commitment to accountability.

For years, DAA had been a drag on the local community, its operations heavily supported by property tax levies paid by those living in the area. With the introduction of five basic changes - a customer-focused clarity of mission, transparency, professional management, financial stewardship and political independence - DAA dramatically cut its reliance on local tax dollars while putting into place a strong plan for economic development and job growth.

DAA's mission now espouses three goals:

  1. Leverage DAA's aviation services to encourage the growth of related businesses on DAA land;
  2. Promote job growth and economic development by generating increased land-related revenue and aviation fees; and
  3. Ultimately, reward local taxpayers by providing new tax revenue sourced from increased economic growth and development, thereby reducing the burden on local taxpayers.

We must remember that job creation, innovation, economic growth and prosperity result directly from a healthy, vibrant, dynamic free enterprise system. Sadly, we also must remember that economic and regulatory barriers inhibiting the growth of entrepreneurship exist at every turn.

We saw the effects of those barriers in the recently released Transportation Performance Index, which measures how well the nation's transportation system is meeting the demands of the business community. This year, the Chamber's Let's Rebuild America (LRA) initiative will release additional indexes that measure the performance of energy, broadband and water systems. The Chamber is doing this because, as Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue said in a November 2010 speech to the board of directors:

"Another major part of our jobs-creating program is to help rebuild and modernize the physical infrastructure of our country. We can do that by expanding both private and public sector investments in our transportation, energy, water, and broadband systems. The private sector is prepared to pour billions of dollars into new infrastructure projects if government would clear away many of the costly, time-consuming regulatory, legal, and financial hurdles."

Through badly needed private sector investments, we can create jobs. DAA's success in turning its airport and newly developed golf course and business park into a springboard for economic development is a successful example of leadership and innovation in the private sector. The DAA's infrastructure improvements and expansive development plans are projected to result in $373 million in local spending, 2,940 jobs totaling $106 million in wages and salaries, and $3.8 million in tax revenue.

In his speech to the board, Tom highlighted the risks to our great nation presented by both our crumbling infrastructure and the regulatory burden that an expanded government imposes on business. These are major roadblocks to jobs and economic prosperity. In the interest of rebuilding America's economic foundation, individuals and business must espouse the spirit of free enterprise and help put America back to work. If we all emulate the actions of DAA's board, just imagine the multiplying effect it could have on growth and jobs!

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