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Obama Library Will Give $3.1 Billion Boost To Cook County, New Report Says

By Sam Cholke | May 11, 2017 12:00pm | Updated on May 12, 2017 11:34am
 Former President Barack Obama announced plans for his presidential library May 3 at the South Shore Cultural Center.
Former President Barack Obama announced plans for his presidential library May 3 at the South Shore Cultural Center.
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Joshua Mellin

HYDE PARK — The Obama Presidential Center will create more than 2,500 new jobs and have a 10-year economic impact of $3.1 billion throughout Cook County — far greater economic benefits than previous estimates, a new report says.

The Obama Foundation Thursday released an analysis by Deloitte Consulting that predicts the library will contribute to the creation of 2,536 permanent jobs in Cook County through its ongoing activities, well above the 1,900 permanent jobs the Anderson Economic Group predicted in a 2014 report for the University of Chicago.

David Simas, CEO of the Obama Foundation, which is developing the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, said Barack and Michelle Obama are building the library on the South Side because of the outsized impact it would have.

“By bringing thousands of visitors to the South Side every year, the OPC will create new jobs and opportunities in the community, strengthen the economic climate and revitalize historic Jackson Park,” Simas said in an announcement releasing the report. “This analysis helps quantify the impact we can expect the OPC to bring to the community, the city and the state.”

RELATED: Obama Says Presidential Library Will Be 'Transformational' 

Thursday’s report gives a much rosier projection of the library’s impact on the city than U. of C.’s report. The new report predicts $246 million in economic gains for Cook County businesses, with about $177 million of that going to businesses on the South Side of Chicago. The U. of C. report predicted Chicago would get a $220 million jolt in new economic activity yearly from the Obama library.

The new report predicts that the economic impact on Cook County over the first 10 years after the library project starts will be $3.1 billion.

A direct comparison between the two reports is difficult because the new report provides figures for the county and the South Side, while U. of C.’s report focused just on its impact on the city.

The new report estimates that 4,945 jobs will be created in Cook County during the construction of the library, generating an estimated $296 million in new earnings. That’s well more than the estimate in the U. of C. report of 3,280 local jobs during construction creating $156 million in earnings.

The one spot where numbers are lower than U. of C.’s estimates are on tourists, with the new analysis predicting 675,000 to 760,000 visitors a year after an initial burst of interest in the library. U. of C.’s report predicted 800,000 visitors a year, with 350,000 traveling from outside Chicago to see the library. By comparison, 1.4 million people visit the Museum of Science and Industry every year on average.

RELATED: Barack Obama Has Big, Bold, Optimistic Plans For The South Side

During a presentation showing the design of the library, Obama said he wanted to make sure that people who live closest benefit from the contracts and work that come with the library.

He said he wants 80 percent of hires from the South Side and wants to start training people now to work on the project.

“We want to make sure that some of those young people can get trained so people don't say, ‘Why didn't you hire anybody from the neighborhood?’ And the contractor says, ‘We didn't have anybody who was trained.' Well ... let's start the pipeline now so that we can start getting some of those folks trained,” Obama said.

How aggressively the foundation pursues those efforts will impact how loudly community groups continue to call for a community benefits agreement, that would guarantee that people close to the library and in the city benefit from contracts and hiring first.