Building An Equitable Economy In Illinois


Many of us have been taught that America is the land of opportunity, where if you work hard you will succeed. The American Dream is a promise of economic mobility, that no matter where you start, you can access the resources you need, resources like education and job opportunities. This mobility is the essence of the freedom we associate with being Americans. The ideal of the American Dream is freedom, and this freedom is realized through economic justice.

The notion of freedom has been critical to the Kennedy family’s political philosophy for more than a century, from championing civil rights to casting off colonialism throughout the world.Freedom and economic justice have never been distributed equally, and in Illinois it is only getting worse. This attack on the American Dream has been going on for decades, and under Governor Rauner we have reached a breaking point. It does not have to be this way. That is why Ra Joy and I are putting forward our plan to rebuild Illinois’ economy and restore the promise of the American Dream to everyone in our state.


A comprehensive economic strategy for Illinois must be bold, inclusive and equitable. Illinois must move away from a status quo that has left our economy stagnant and the middle class with fewer and fewer options because a small group of insiders and billionaire families have combined to support candidates who in turn, as elected officials, give them government contracts, lower taxes, or looser regulation.

Bold new ideas can inject optimism, confidence and enthusiasm for Illinois’ economic future. The State’s economic plan will remove barriers to participation in the economy and create access and opportunity for all Illinois citizens. An equitable growth strategy includes three major prongs: A robust workforce plan that guarantees Illinois has the highest quality workforce in the country, a business environment that is welcoming to businesses and operations, and a commitment to innovation.

A Kennedy/Joy administration will stand firmly with workers, and will look for innovative ways to grow the middle class. Labor is the backbone of our state. Organized labor has a long history of protecting works, whether it be through child labor laws, fighting for safe work spaces, or advocating for the 40 hour work week. Organized labor has protected us, which is why we have to protect them in return. This is why we will fight for a $15 minimum wage and never allow Illinois to become a so-called “Right to Work” state. Our economic plan will protect workers, increase opportunity, and restore equity to our state. Illinois workers should not be asked to work full-time and still live in poverty.


Rebuilding Illinois’ economy will take more than political will and fiscal stability, it will require vision and drive within our own state government to forge a new and prosperous path for Illinois’ economic future. A Kennedy/Joy administration will forge that path by first creating an infrastructure within our state government that allows for continual evaluation, statewide information gathering, and proactive, strategic planning for every region – rural areas, towns, and urban centers.



Illinois is a donor state. We rank 48th out of 50 in terms of the tax dollars we send to Washington D.C. as compared to the funds the Federal Government spends in Illinois. Chris Kennedy will create a State Grants Office to ensure that the state of Illinois and its employers, research facilities, and taxpayers are getting their fair share from the Federal Government.

Kennedy Connection

As Chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, Chris Kennedy created a grant office for the University System. The office supported the efforts to obtain over $1 billion in grant money and beat back strong challenges for resources from competing states. Chris helped secure the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) on Goose Island for Chicago and for Illinois. Not only did this bring federal resources to Illinois, but it created a hub for innovation and job creation in advanced manufacturing for years to come.

In-Depth Look

Identifying resources to spur economic growth requires proactive advocacy to recruit maximum resources from philanthropy, private industry, and the federal government. Notably, Illinois ranks 48th in the nation for per capita federal fiscal spending. If Illinois raises our per capita allotment to the national average, we could raise the amount of federal support we receive from $105 billion to $128 billion. We cannot afford to keep leaving billions of dollars on the table from the federal government and philanthropic organizations.

A Kennedy/Joy administration would establish a State Grants Office to identify, recruit, secure and effectively distribute private, philanthropic, and federal funding in Illinois. Similar to the Grants Office established in Maryland in the early 2000s, the Illinois State Grants Office would host an annual grant training conference, with attendees representing every region of the state, as well as representatives of non-profit organizations and various state employees. The Office will work to secure additional federal grant funding while also building partnerships with foundations across Illinois to better link state agencies and agency partners with grants available across the state.



Illinois is missing a strategic economic plan for how we move forward as an entire state. The Chicagoland area has a number of community planning councils and commissions dedicated to improving the area through strategic planning and stewardship. A Kennedy/Joy administration will create regional and sector-based planning commissions to provide each part of Illinois with the support it needs to grow its economy and flourish as a part of a comprehensive plan for growth.

Kennedy Connection

Chris Kennedy saw first-hand the importance of long-term economic planning while he was the finance committee chairman at the Chicago Community Trust, which established Metropolis Strategies as a supporting organization to initiate a strategic agenda to grow the regional economy, promote sustainable development and create safer communities throughout the Chicago region.As Chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, Chris Kennedy conceived of the Food and Agriculture Roadmap for Illinois (FARM Illinois), a comprehensive agricultural coalition that developed a strategic plan for advancing agriculture in Illinois through market cooperation and legislative advocacy.

In-Depth Look

Modeled after FARM Illinois, a Kennedy/Joy administration will create a Strategic Roadmap for the state’s economy that will be region-specific and developed alongside regional stakeholders to create opportunities for industry leaders to come together to rebuild Illinois’ economy across the state.

As part of Illinois’ economic roadmap, we will hold regional Blue-Ribbon Economic Development Summits that will bring together experts from every region working to identify the best strategies to accelerate development in Southern and Western Illinois where there is little to no assistance in large-scale community development and metropolitan planning.

During the first six months in office, the Kennedy/Joy administration will convene regional blue-ribbon economic development summits with representation from the labor, business, education, workforce, economic, health care, and community development sectors. These convenings will operate as a four-part series starting with a listening and learning tour, followed by high-level planning workshops, proposal development and submission, and finally a formal submission of regional development vision plans for consideration in budget and economic planning. A Kennedy/Joy administration will follow this process in order to identify plans and priorities that are reflective of community needs across our state.

A Kennedy/Joy Administration will create a Council of Economic Advisers to advise the state on tax and fiscal policy, with a special focus on revamping the corporate tax code by looking at the full range of policy, including credits and exemptions. The R&D credit is almost universally recognized as one of the highest returns for future economic growth through commercialization of new technologies and increased productivity through advanced manufacturing processes. Even when Illinois did have a state credit, it lagged behind what many other states offered. A Kennedy/Joy administration will recommit Illinois to financial investments that will spur economic growth, including restoring our education and revitalizing research to spawn new ideas, programs and businesses that will put people to work and enhance public funding.

The Chicagoland area is home to quality public-private collaborations like the Civic Consulting Alliance, that bring private sector consultants together with government to help solve the big issues facing local governments. A Kennedy/Joy administration would expand these strategies and invest in Strategic Consulting Aid for All of Illinois to cover the entire state and provide local governments the support they need to overcome their largest obstacles and challenges.Overcomes challenges like regional access to clean water, transportation issues, sewage and runoff problems, how we power our new businesses.




Our universities can play a significant role in job growth, creating new companies, and spawning entirely new industries, which can contribute to the economic rebirth of our state and region.

Universities are often home to critical research operations. Places like Boston, Silicon Valley, and the Research Triangle in North Carolina, among other locations, have research universities that feed into the local economy.

These institutions invest in basic research that is developed into applied research, which spurs new ideas and products that attract additional investment. Those new ideas and products can then turn into companies or organizations that employ people who pay taxes, which help fund our schools–all of which fuels a virtuous economic cycle.

The alumni of MIT alone have founded over 30,000 companies. We have great universities. There’s no reason we can’t create this same robust system here through our public institutions.

As Governor, Chris Kennedy will create this cycle of opportunity in Illinois by bringing together political, business, and academic leaders to work in concert with one another to operate robust research operations and attract local investments.

Kennedy Connection

Chris Kennedy challenged his colleagues on the University of Illinois Board of Trustees to invest in their own university system. The result was a community dedicated to innovation that would lead to entrepreneurship from the ground up. Today, the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign Research Park is a leading technology hub for startup companies and corporate research and development operations, and a key partner to the Chicago-based digital manufacturing hub, UI Labs.

The research park has partnered with companies like Yahoo, Sony, Illinois-based Abbott Labs, and the Federal Government to put Illinoisans to work.

In-Depth Look

There is a special role that public research universities play in the economy of our state—as a perpetual job creator through politically and economically integrated research operations. The program will operate through the Illinois State Grants Office through a process that starts with the State assisting our universities in securing and tracking grant funding among our higher education institutions, which then use the grants to conduct basic research. This basic research leads to applied research. Alumni and other business leaders invest in the ideas or products to create companies that employ people who pay taxes and help fund local government services like public education or hospitals. This perpetual chain of economic stimulation—this innovation pipeline—leads to constant rebirth. It is a model that has taken hold in places like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Research Triangle, North Carolina; and Austin, Texas; in Silicon Valley, California, and in Boston, Massachusetts



Since 1989, the only workers in America generally, and Illinois specifically, who have seen their incomes grow at a rate greater than inflation and growth in purchasing power are those with a college degree. There is also a statistically significant correlation between educational attainment and unemployment— as educational attainment increases, unemployment rate decreases. States with the greatest increases in productivity also have the largest share of adults with a college degree.

A Kennedy/Joy administration will ensure that our education system drives Illinois’ economic growth by reversing the trend of disinvesting in higher education institutions and rebuilding our vast network of community colleges via a Promise Program that will make college accessible to all residents of the state.

Kennedy Connection

While chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, Chris advocated for the expansion of articulation agreements, which allow students to transfer class credits from community colleges to the U of I. This ultimately made attaining a college degree more affordable for thousands of students.

The U of I has since built on that program and has articulation agreements with community colleges throughout the state.

In-Depth Look

We will create the Illinois Promise Program (IPP) that will cover two years of tuition and fees for low and middle-income Illinois high school students who are eligible to attain a degree or credential at an Illinois community college or trade school, after accounting for federal and state aid. The IPP will also eliminate the barriers to transferring community college credits to a four year state university, thereby reducing barriers to educational access and harnessing the power of Illinois’ robust community college system as a major economic growth tool to create the highest quality workforce in the country. Modeled off the states with the most established Promise Programs in the country, such as Tennessee, Oregon and Minnesota, the IPP will also connect Illinois residents to education and apprenticeship opportunities across the State.



Our teaching faculty across the state is one of the greatest assets to our university and community college systems as well as to our students, but Illinois has to do our part to make this the greatest state to work in for higher education professionals. Currently, non-tenure track faculty are getting the short end of the stick: they work long hours, oftentimes for multiple colleges or universities, and they earn low wages relative to their skill sets and do not receive benefits.

Kennedy Connection

Under Chris’s leadership as the board chairman at U of I, about 700 faculty members unionized and completed contract negotiations, providing them with living wages, health benefits and job security.

In-Depth Look

Recognizing that Illinois has seen a growth in non-tenure track faculty–a highly skilled workforce that provides subject matter expertise to students across the state–a Kennedy/Joy administration will encourage non-tenure track faculty to unionize in order to negotiate for the benefits they are sorely lacking. Modeled after the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), the state of Illinois will charge our public universities and community colleges to work with a non-tenure track faculty union to share in the costs of paying for their benefits. Through this cost-sharing plan, non-tenure track faculty will receive benefits partially paid for by each of their employers.



A Kennedy/Joy administration will reinvest in career training to revitalize employment and across our state. The lifetime earnings potential of four-year college graduates far outpaces those who are not able to advance their education beyond a high school diploma or GED. In Illinois, we have to streamline access to community colleges while also offering pathways to success for students who choose to go to trade schools and technical colleges.

A four-year degree can be cost prohibitive, too demanding and inflexible for individuals who need to work in order to support their families. A career education, made up of integrated offerings that include fundamental career courses such as communication and conflict resolution, career-tailored courses, and apprenticeships, can serve as the bridge between a post-secondary education and securing a good job.

Kennedy Connection

Chris knows the impact of workforce development and has helped empower and, ultimately,, foster economic freedom in students and adults. While at the Chicago Food Depository, Chris helped maintain funding for the organization’s workforce training program, which prepares unemployed adults for productive careers in food service.

In-Depth Look

To revitalize our economy, Illinois needs businesses, job training programs, higher education institutions, and the state to work together harmoniously. Through a joint partnership between the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development (DCEO) and the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), a Kennedy/Joy administration will create a Career Training and Workforce Revitalization Initiative. This initiative will work with Illinois-based companies and industries to assist our community colleges and workforce training programs to model their academic offering into career pathway programs for in-demand and growing industries. DCEO and IDES will assist our community colleges and career training programs by operating a centralized online system for career planning and by administering a marketing campaign to promote career pathway programs throughout Illinois.



A Kennedy/Joy Administration will create a pipeline between high schools, community colleges and technical schools and building trades unions to give all students an opportunity to join the workforce as full union participants.

Kennedy Connection

On Chris’s development projects, plans are in place to help provide students with hands-on experience in concrete masonry, construction carpentry, and electricity work.

In-Depth Look

Many students graduate high school, community colleges, or trade schools but still meet barriers to entry to the building trades unions that remain one of the largest contributors to middle class employment in the United States. Across Illinois, trade unions are looking for new members to meet the high demand for skilled labor. A Kennedy/Joy administration will create programs linking public high schools, community colleges, and technical institutes to trade unions and developers so that graduating students become full members of trade unions in Illinois.



Illinois’ future rests on the state’s ability to produce the highest quality workforce to create and attract new businesses, spur entrepreneurship, and ensure that Illinois is a leader in economic growth. Illinois must lead in preparing our residents not just for the jobs of today, but for the jobs of tomorrow. New Collar Jobs for Illinois’ Future (NCJ4I) recognizes that Illinois is not just competing with other states to attract and retain the best workforce—it is competing globally.

Kennedy Connection

Chris Kennedy helped expand the University of Illinois’ extension program, which provides educational programming in mostly rural areas throughout the state. This program continues to give students throughout Illinois access to educational opportunities that they might night have had access to otherwise, in preparation for entering the workforce.

In-Depth Look

New Collar Jobs for Illinois’ Future (NCJ4I) will create pipelines to the largest growing industries in our economy: Health Care, Information Technology/Coding, Advanced Manufacturing, Transportation and Logistics. The NCJ4I program will deploy a Corps of skilled professionals certified to teach in these sectors to communities across the state, leveraging community-based organizations to serve as workforce training centers and provide career planning and training where unemployment rates are high or where they have risen in recent years.

No community should be left behind. We need to meet communities where they are. Within the NCJ4I, Illinois will operate a 21st Century Workforce Project (21WP), which will serve as a public/private partnership to advance digital and tech training in rural areas where such opportunities do not currently exist. The program will operate out of local schools, businesses, or community centers, to provide programming with a focus on improving skills today (through teaching and tutoring), tomorrow (through coaching and mentoring), and the future (through internship placement) with an entrepreneurial focus. Key deliverables for participants are the creation of web and mobile apps for (Google Android, iPhone, iPad etc.), accompanying business plans, accrual of college credits (for youth) and case studies on their resumes and portfolios because of hands-on tangible skills gained through internship placements. Parents and guardians would be eligible to apply for monthly trainings and events for youth.



A Kennedy/Joy administration will prioritize innovation and entrepreneurship across all of Illinois by investing in business incubators across the state so that all communities have access to the resources needed to start a business.

Kennedy Connection

The MART pioneered the development and growth of industry specific colocation centers to aggregate industries. The MART’s efforts helped to provide the model and infrastructure to allow 1871 to be successful. The MART team helped sort through the complexity of co-locating scores of complementary and rival tech companies to create and ecosystem in which they would all thrive.

In-Depth Look

Every region in the State of Illinois should have access to a business incubator/accelerator. These business accelerators foster economic development through shared coworking services and would serve as a beacon of resources that provide entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs with the resources to realize their business ideas. These incubators create an affordable, creative and collaborative environment so that entrepreneurs can produce their best work through workshops, seminars, technical assistance, and access to technology.

Modeled on the best practices of the Chicago-based Blue 1647, University Technology Park at IIT, Eiger Lab at Northern Illinois University, and the Small Business Incubator at Southern Illinois University, these incubators would be targeted in smaller towns and cities across the state to provide a resource to entrepreneurs statewide.




The makeup of Illinois’ government should reflect the makeup of our state. We need to commit to increasing minority and women’s participation in our economy and creating pathways for minority-owned businesses to get state contracts so that everyone has access to the American Dream. A Kennedy/Joy administration is committed to raising the bar for empowering minority and women-owned enterprises.

Kennedy Connection

Chris Kennedy is committed to increasing the number of minority owned contractors when he develops in urban areas. To make sure new contractors had the resources they needed to compete, Chris held events where they received assistance with the paperwork needed to bid. Through this strategy, Chris hired more than 150 small business enterprise (SBE) subcontractors, 55 of whom were first-time public contractors within the city or county. The project had a goal of 25 percent minority participation and exceeded that goal with a 31 percent minority business participation.

In-Depth Look

Currently the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) participation rate is only 6.8% in Illinois, but this number may be inflated due the state’s poor capacity to collect all the data. Although there is a 20% statewide participation goal established by the Business Enterprises Program (BEP), that goal is not enforced, and the number of thriving minority owned firms participating in state contracting opportunities has remained far too low.

A Kennedy/Joy administration is committed to being intentional and deliberate about creating opportunity and access to state contracting opportunities, as well as to ensuring timely and complete data collection and reporting. There are several key sectors that prove to be exceedingly lucrative for contractors—IDOT, Toll Road, and Central Management Services (CMS) and segments of key sectors, such as asphalt. Under a Kennedy/Joy administration, the state will work to increase minority participation on state contracts. The administration will set a 20% Minority and Women-owned Businesses (M/WBE) state contracting mandate for Cook County and 15% for the rest of the state, following the example of the University of Illinois system, which has goals of 22% for their Chicago campus, and 15% for the Peoria, Rockford, Springfield and Urbana campuses.

To oversee and enforce our policies, the state will create a new cabinet level Office of Inclusion that will serve as a watchdog to review and monitor the fine print of all state contracts and aggressively hold firms accountable for achieving state contracting participation goals, and seek out new firms that can take advantage of such opportunities.

The Office of Inclusion will also enforce M/WBE participation goals and ensure data collection. The Office of Inclusion will ensure that companies that have been convicted of violating guidelines should be barred from bidding on other state projects, and principals convicted of fraud at the state or local level will be prohibited from state contracting opportunities, even with other firms. The Office of Inclusion would maintain a database of such companies to ensure that the state has a record of companies seeking to defraud the system while maintaining key incentives to ensure minority participation in contracting opportunities.

We will establish a Business Equity and Access Program (BAEP) that will set a goal of $1 billion worth of contracts for Minority and Women-owned Businesses (M/WBEs). The Kennedy/Joy administration will establish a statewide BAEP team by executive order that will explore ways to eliminate barriers to expand the participation of M/WBEs in State contracting. The BAEP team will make recommendations on state initiatives based on their findings. Access to state contracting opportunities is a critical mechanism to expand existing businesses and create a pipeline of new businesses that contribute to the State’s economic growth.

The Kennedy/Joy administration will create the Pipeline Gateway Program that consists of a pool of new businesses that receive intensive technical assistance and special access to contracting opportunities that position them for more lucrative contracting opportunities down the line. The pool would only be available for first-time contractors and subcontractors with the state.

The Kennedy/Joy administration recognizes that the state can play a role in creating a robust pipeline of participation in contracting opportunities that can help businesses expand their capacity and position them for more and larger contracts. However, all too often pipeline programs create one or two successful businesses but exclude the remainder of smaller businesses that can often be blocked by their more familiar and experienced counterparts.

Once businesses in the pool successfully obtain their first contract, they are moved out of the pool and into the general database of M/WBE businesses. The administration will aggressively recruit new businesses to replenish the pool. This program ensures that benefits of contracts aren’t realized exclusively by the M/WBEs that have already had significant exposure and opportunities to state contracts. It “spreads the wealth,” which results in more high quality, high performing M/WBE businesses across the state.

The Kennedy/Joy administration will create a “Bridging the Gap” loan program to invest at least $20 million to expand access to short term bridge loans for M/WBEs. We recognize that access to upfront capital remains a significant barrier to business expansion and participation in contracting opportunities – particularly for M/WBEs. The Bridging the Gap loan program will provide qualified M/WBEs with the short-term resources they need to participate in contracting opportunities with the State.

A Kennedy/Joy administration will create a “Mentoring for Success” Business Assistance Program by leveraging the massive talent of business professionals across the state. The Mentoring for Success business assistance program will be a free program that consists of a corps of volunteers and current and retired professionals (attorneys, accountants, financial, communications, information technology and other professional experts) that will be deployed to provide one-on-one technical assistance to M/WBE businesses seeking to participate in contracting opportunities with State agencies. The goal is to deploy 250 such professionals within the first two years and scale up to 500 such businesses. The Mentoring for Success program will complement existing technical assistance programs utilized by the state.



Chris Kennedy and Ra Joy know that access to real employment opportunities is one of the best ways to keep ex-offenders out of prison. One-third of the U.S. population has a criminal record, and every year over 30,000 Illinois residents are released from the Illinois Department of Corrections. These 30,000 people represent an amazing opportunity to inject our economy with new workers, but instead we relegate ex-offenders to the fringes of our society and of our economy, where all-too-often the only way they can get by is through repeating past criminal behavior. We must provide pathways to employment for ex-offenders so that they may join our economy and not risk recidivating.

Kennedy Connection

For years the Merchandise Mart, provided a pathway to employment for ex-offenders. The Mart worked with organizations to provide employment opportunities for ex-offenders. Low skill jobs with living wage and union benefits.

In-Depth Look

In 2004, then-State Senator Barack Obama passed legislation allowing felons to obtain licenses required for 27 occupations, including barbers, athletic trainers, real estate agents, roofing contractors, and nail technicians. It took until 2016 for the General Assembly to pass legislation standardizing eligibility requirements for felons to obtain these licenses. Despite these advancements, ex-offenders still face immense hurdles to receiving state licenses that lead to gainful employment. That’s why a Kennedy/Joy administration will establish a Governor’s Task Force on Employment and Recidivism to examine and streamline the licensing process for returning citizens.



It is no secret that our economy is leaving people behind. A Kennedy/Joy administration believes that Illinois’ government has a responsibility to make the economy work for everyone, and in order to do so the state must be willing to embrace innovative microfinance solutions that will help harness the potential of minority and women entrepreneurs across the state and boost our economy.

Kennedy Connection

Chris supported his brother, Michael Kennedy, who was a major donor to the Women’s Opportunity Fund, one of the early microlending nonprofits to pioneer microfinancing around the world.

In-Depth Look

We will create a microloan program through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) as part of our economic development agenda. Microloan programs have worked around the world, as well as in the United States, and Illinois should follow the model of Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank, as New York has, to create equity, opportunity, and access through microfinancing.

Illinois’ program will be financed by capturing a portion of the revenues from business fling fees and used to issue micro loans to minority and women entrepreneurs. A microfinance strategy recognizes that pathways to traditional loans are blocked for many members of these communities, whether it be because of bad credit or no credit, redlining, or criminal convictions. These barriers can no longer be allowed to forestall Illinois’ economy and keep hard-working people in poverty.




Employee misclassification costs the state over $600 million a year and harms workers by keeping them in lower-wage jobs without benefits. This is a fixable problem that the state has not solved, but with proper oversight, we can protect our workforce and generate revenue the state is rightfully entitled to.

Kennedy Connection

As board chairman at U of I, Chris had the power to appoint two members to the University Civil Service Merit Board, the governing body of the University System that determines issues around classification of employees. Chris made sure that the appointees would be diligent in protecting workers’ rights, even as the state often attempted to misclassify employees as a way to reduce costs and avoid paying benefits.

In-Depth Look

We need to crack down on employee misclassification and prevent companies from cheating on their taxes by misclassifying their employees as independent contractors. A Kennedy/Joy administration would instruct the Illinois Department of Employment Security to conduct joint audits with the Illinois Department of Revenue and the Illinois Department of Labor to find these businesses and stop this illegal practice. Every year, the state loses out on $624 million that should go to the unemployment trust fund, $589 million in income tax revenue, and $121 million that should go to workmen’s compensation premiums. Union-run businesses are being priced out of the market by competitors who are getting an edge by cutting corners. This is fundamentally unfair to workers and to the economic welfare of our state.




Chris Kennedy believes that workers deserve the pensions that they contracted for. As Governor, Chris will put workers ahead of politicians and fight against illegal attempts to steal workers pension under so-called pension reform.

In order for our state to thrive, we have to start holding ourselves fiscally accountable. That begins with holding our government accountable to its workers. Paying workers their constitutionally protected pensions, never taking a pension holiday, and beginning to recognize the promises Illinois made to its workers will put money back into Illinois’ economy, give retirees a better quality of life, restore faith in government, and continue to attract a highly talented workforce to government.

Kennedy Connection

While Chris led MMPI, the company that owned the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, he contracted with 10,000 companies annually. The validity of those contracts were critical to the success of the businesses and the entire economy. Chris has a history of respecting contracts, because abandoning the rule of law, whether it’s for contracts between businesses or contracts between employees and businesses, is detrimental to progress in our economy and counter to integrity in leadership.

In-Depth Look

The state’s pension funds have made a lot of money for Wall Street and cost taxpayers too much. New laws and new leadership need to:

  • Make it harder for the state to skip payments into its pension systems.
  • Create automatic enrollment for defined-contribution retirement systems.
  • Collect all investment manager fees into one database for review and comparison by all systems on an annual basis.

Furthermore, we need to maximize the state’s role as an investor by:

  • Changing statutory requirements to invest pension dollars in Illinois-based firms and funds. By amplifying the Office of the Treasurer’s Illinois Growth and Innovation Fund, an Illinois-focused $220 million venture and private equity funds, the state can create thousands of additional jobs.
  • Incentivizing firms and funds owned by Minorities, Women, Veterans, and Persons with a Disability (MWVD) that bid on investment contracts so that our dollars are used to grow jobs and companies in our state, not on Wall Street.



The state of Illinois should be investing in Illinois-based companies as a central tenet for how to grow our economy. To do so, a Kennedy/Joy administration will create an Illinois Index Fund that will be designed to mimic the performance characteristics of the S&P 500.

Kennedy Connection

At the Chicago Community Trust, Chris developed the framework for an index fund comprised of a basket of IL public companies that would be managed to mimic the performance characteristics of the S&P 500. The index fund would allow public funds, such as SERs, to invest directly in the state and enhance capital formation for Illinois based-companies to boost our economy.

Chris is also Chairman of the Audit Committee for Ariel Mutual Funds, Chairman of the Investment Committee for the Chicago Community Trust, and he manages the Kennedy family financial investments.

In-Depth Look

We will create an Illinois Index Fund of 100 of Illinois’ best performing companies whose performance characteristics will be modeled on the broader S&P 500. Companies like Caterpillar, Illinois Tool Works, ADM, William Blair & Company, Northern Trust, Boeing, Walgreens, Horizon Pharma, and AbbVie. The Governor will direct the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) to invest a portion of their pension fund in the index, jumpstarting direct investment in the businesses at the forefront of our state’s economy.




There will now be a major priority shift by lawmakers in D.C. to pass a federal infrastructure bill in 2018, funneling somewhere around $200-$500 billion into communities and states across the country. Our government can invest in the state’s economy and yield a return that’s greater than the cost of the investment itself. That is why Illinois must stand ready to take advantage of this investment by passing a capitol bill, coordinating the federal delegation, and creating an inventory of shovel-ready programs to put Illinoisans back to work.

Kennedy Connection

Chris has managed capital projects in both the public and private sectors. He is a building developer who is currently leading the real estate development in downtown Chicago known as Wolf Point, a massive construction project backed by more than $1 billion in private financing that is bringing 2,000 construction and permanent jobs to Illinois.

The success of businesses is built on reliable and sophisticated infrastructure. Chris experienced this first-hand when he led the Merchandise Mart, which relied on O’Hare International Airport to make it easier for exhibitors and customers to visit the Merchandise Mart. Similarly, the success of the Apparel Center was derived from access to a fiber-optic cable, which attracted high-speed trading firms to the building.

In-Depth Look

Whether it’s investments to modernize our roads, highways and bridges, or whether it’s water infrastructure to improve our locks and dams that fuel the blue economy on the Mississippi River, a Kennedy/Joy team will accelerate infrastructure investments that put men and women to work making a living wage sufficient for supporting Illinois’ families and boosting the state’s economy.

A Kennedy Joy administration is committed to leveraging infrastructure investments to spur economic growth, particularly for challenged communities. A Kennedy/Joy administration will reserve funds for capital spending to target infrastructure investments in under-resourced communities along with technical assistance from the State to invest in community development projects related to infrastructure and transportation. Moreover, the State will invest in building a robust workforce program designed around infrastructure investments that will target the hard to employ, underemployed, reentry individuals, and veterans, for jobs within key sectors for capital investments, including: broadband access, open lands, transportation, and water infrastructure.



Access to affordable broadband in Illinois is an equity as well as an economic issue. From inner city neighborhoods to rural Illinois, communities need robust broadband capacity to help residents connect to needed services that improve quality of life and close the digital divide.. Business owners and entrepreneurs need access to broadband in order connect to both the local and global economy. High-speed Internet can help close the digital divide that punishes people based on their zip code.

Kennedy Connection

During my time at the MMPI, the Apparel Mart began its own renaissance as it became very attractive to the new breed of successful high-speed trading firms. Rival cable providers, such as AT&T, Above Net, Level 3 and Quest, all operated within the building because of its desirable open-technology format.

At U of I, we were able to create a critical mass of leading researchers, and the momentum began to build on itself with great research in the pipeline, a pipeline whose pump was primed by a relatively low investment in a fiber optic network.

In-Depth Look

A Kennedy/Joy administration believes closing the digital divide is crucial to creating an inclusive economy that benefits all of Illinois. Access to quality broadband also increases the ability to attract new businesses to towns and cities, particularly in key sectors like tech and healthcare.

A Kennedy/Joy administration will encourage more municipalities across the State to set up broadband as a public utility to meet the needs of residents—particularly in rural towns across the state. We will also create partnerships with franchises to arrange agreements for lower cost broadband services in towns and rural areas of need.



Chris Kennedy understands that agriculture drives job creation in communities across the state. A Kennedy/Joy Administration will double down on efforts to assist farmers across the state in getting products to new and diverse markets. We will work with the supply chain, from the millers and food processors, to the distribution centers and grocery stores to make sure high-quality, Illinois products reach across the country.

Our agriculture economy has significant interface with the environmental movement, and harmonizing these two vital interests will be top of mind for our administration.

Kennedy Connection

Thirty years ago, Chris moved from Boston to Decatur to work for Archer Daniels Midland in agriculture. He worked in Decatur, Peoria, the Metro East and throughout downstate. This experience helped Chris learn the fundamentals of food distribution in the United States. He used this foundation throughout his life to help contribute in the fight against as chairman of the Greater Chicago Food Depository and founder of Top Box Foods, a nonproft that he and his wife, Sheila, started to ensure that communities in food deserts have access to healthy, fresh, affordable food options.

In-Depth Look

Agriculture is responsible for 1 in 17 jobs in Illinois and accounts for just under 10% of the economy. Chris Kennedy knows that to plan and invest in agriculture is to create jobs across our state.

A Kennedy/Joy administration will build on the work of FARM Illinois to establish a Governor’s Council on Agriculture to create a permanent planning group to implement a strategic, long-term plan and much-needed improvements to the state’s agriculture policies. This council will commit to refreshing Illinois’ agriculture roadmap every three years.

Working with the public university system, a Kennedy/Joy administration will invest in the university system’s agriculture schools to attract and retain a labor supply that is properly trained to develop tomorrow’s great agricultural innovations.

Reducing the waste in the farm-to-fork process begins with protecting our state’s natural resources, investing in infrastructure and supporting local efforts to reduce agricultural waste. It results with food distributors investing in our state to feed the nation.

A Kennedy/Joy administration will invest in marketing for our local farms. By developing specialized marketing plans for each region of the state and our various harvests, we can market Illinois products to the world.



Whether it be a skier gliding down Chestnut Mountain in Galena, a family camping in Shawnee National Forest, or conventioneers taking in downtown Chicago, Illinois has something to offer to every tourist. A Kennedy/Joy administration will invest in Illinois’ tourism industry to create jobs in every region and bring in money from other states to fuel our economy.

Kennedy Connection

As Chairman of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, Chris Kennedy has firsthand experience in promoting Chicago’s assets and convention business. Chris worked to bring back trade shows that had left Illinois for cities like Orlando or Atlanta. By working with the City of Chicago, the State of Illinois, the hotel industry, and the restaurant industry, Chris helped create the thriving downtown Chicago we enjoy today, and which is host to hundreds of trade shows a year that bring out-of-state dollars into our economy.

In-Depth Look

A Kennedy/Joy administration will invest in our open spaces by expanding support for tourism funding so that the rest of the country knows about the great beauty throughout our state. A forward-thinking vision for Illinois will integrate our environment with infrastructure planning to create greater access to our open spaces, integration among them through public trails and bike paths, and also the expansion of public outdoor green space for more communities throughout our state.

To accompany such planning, a Kennedy/Joy administration will adopt a more expansive, proactive tourism promotional plan that highlights our state parks, nature preserves, and other important natural lands. Overall planning will integrate into technical assistance for local communities to explore capital investments that would create or expand green spaces and outdoor activity spaces, particularly through a set-aside fund dedicated to capital spending for under-resourced, low-income communities that often bear the brunt of toxic pollutants.

We would work to create a statewide biking network of bike paths throughout the state to connect communities where no paths exist to places like Chicago where many have been developed. Ideally, these paths would be built to provide better access to our public buildings as well as to our open spaces, such as our schools, libraries, public parks, and outdoor destinations. This effort would be integrated into plans to update existing roads, making all of our state easy and enjoyable to travel.

But Illinois’ tourism opportunities do not stop at our open spaces. A Kennedy/Joy administration will grow Illinois’ trade show industry in our urban centers by harnessing economic development strategies to expand the restaurant and hotel industries while also investing in capital upgrades and on-going marketing dollars to boost the year-round use of state and county fairgrounds to attract people to events throughout Illinois and allow commerce to occur.



Illinois’ geographic location makes our State a major national thoroughfare via our waterways, roads, highways, and rail lines but our outdated infrastructure creates unnecessary and costly transportation bottlenecks as well as environmental hazard. Illinois can only be a center for commerce, if it has the transportation network to support its economy.

Much of our infrastructure was built in the 1930s with an intended lifespan of 50 years—the system is long overdue for upgrades, rehabilitation, and repair. Illinois’ major waterways serve as vital connections for commercial shipping of goods or travel throughout Illinois and the rest of the country. Illinois also has over 1,750 State-regulated dams, with a number of older dams whose condition and level of risk are unknown. Many of these dams are decades old and merit funding for repair and, in some cases, replacement.

Our rails are critical to providing efficient and reliable transit in the midst of a transitioning economy. The Illinois rail network is the second largest in the country. Almost every North American railway connects in Chicago, which makes our major city arguably the most active rail hub in the country.

Kennedy Connection

During his time at ADM, Chris traded barge freight on the St. Louis Merchants Exchange, helping him understand the importance of a maintaining a navigable channel to transport barge freight along waterways.

In-Depth Look

A Kennedy/Joy infrastructure plan will prioritize upgrades to our lock and dam system to ensure we maintain a safe and navigable infrastructure of our waterways. In doing so, we will work hand-in-glove with environmental regulators to ensure that our state’s commercial interests in navigable channels is balanced with the environmental risks of invasive species. In addition, a Kennedy/Joy administration will invest in modernizing our rail lines following recommendations laid out in the CREATE program to improve intermodal transport and linkages between our rail lines.

Illinois must invest in revitalizing our transportation infrastructure to optimize efficiency and capacity. We can no longer afford to underspend compared to other American and international cities and states.



The fresh water supply of the MidWest is one Illinois’ greatest assets, yet our water infrastructure earned the worst grades among Illinois’ multiple infrastructure elements. Many wastewater management systems in Illinois are more than 100 years old. Dangerous amounts of lead has been detected in pipes in various communities across the State, from Peoria to Springfield and in Chicago. An analysis by the Chicago Tribune identified aged pipes in the Chicago area that lead to the unnecessary loss of around 25 billion gallons of water with a substantial cost of about $44 million to taxpayers. Some 16 communities lost up to 32 percent of their water in a single year (2016).

The burden of water loss and costly lost supply was further found to be discriminatory, with the medium price for water in predominantly African American communities costing 20% more than mostly white communities for the same volume of water.

Kennedy Connection

The Merchandise Mart became the largest LEED-certified building in the world and we made sustainability an everyday commitment. Water management is extremely important to LEED certification and whenever we replaced one of the 1,500 plumbing fixtures in the building, we did so with low-flow devices.

We also replaced the fan unit that cooled the computer equipment in our corporate office because it used City of Chicago tap water to cool the air temperature, and then returned that tap water to the common sewer system and then passed it back to the water reclamation district. By modifying the fan to an air-cooled system, we save 4 to 5 million gallons of water per year.

In-Depth Look

In Illinois, we must treat our water supply as the vital, precious resource that is—economically, environmentally, and morally. Water is the new oil: around the world, water scarcity is associated with 9,000 miles of continuous warfare. Within a broader infrastructure plan, the Kennedy/Joy administration will further expand productive programs that have enhanced our water quality such as the Illinois’ Clean Water Initiative, the Public Water Supply Loan Program, and the Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act. The state will build on the initiative that The City of Chicago Department of Water Management’s recently adopted and institute a statewide 10-year plan for replacing aged water lines.