Illinois waterways responsible for 1.7 million jobs, study shows


The Illinois River passes through or touches 22 counties, and nearly 2 million jobs in the state are tied to the smooth operations of the river.   File photo

Illinois waterways contribute to more than 1.7 million jobs and $102.5 billion in wages, according to a report released by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Foundation about the Illinois River's impact on the economy.

“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,” Benjamin Brockschmidt, executive director of the chamber's Infrastructure Council, said.

The study, called "Final Report: An Economic Impact and Cluster Analysis of Illinois River Lock and Dam Facilities for Beneficial Users" was prepared by the Economic Development Research Group Inc. along with the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee.

“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,” Illinois Soybean Association Director Paul Rasmussen said. “This groundbreaking 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 said the Illinois River passes through or touches 22 counties, and nearly 2 million jobs in the state are tied to the smooth operations of the river.

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

The report highlights the contribution of the Illinois River and Chicago Waterway System to the state’s chemical industry.

“Our industry is a robust provider of over 45,000 jobs in Illinois with an average annual wage of above $112,000," Mark Biel, executive director of the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois, said. "These great jobs depend on the open and continuous movement of goods on Illinois’ waterways.”

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