Chicago is home to some of America’s greatest achievements in architecture and design. The Tribune Tower, One Illinois Center, The Wrigley Building, Millennium Park, the Chicago Riverwalk and Maggie Daley Park, define its skyline and enhance the lives of its citizens. None of these achievements would have been possible if not for the talent, creativity and determination of countless engineers who translated these landmarks from concepts on paper into tangible realities.
[The contributions of engineers] along with the larger questions of looming national infrastructure funding and climate change will be on the agenda as the American Council of Engineering Companies hosts its Fall Conference this week through Wednesday, Oct. 16 in Chicago.
America’s engineers design the world around us. They are responsible for nearly every aspect of the built environment—the roads, buildings, rail lines, airports, power and water systems—that make modern life livable. Because of this, their work has intrinsic value that puts them in a unique position in our society.
As problem solvers in today’s world of complex challenges to our environment, our society and our economy, engineers are thought leaders who can inform the decision-making of local and national elected leaders to build a more accessible, sustainable and resilient America. As trusted advisers, engineers can help guide urban planning decisions, encourage their clients to use energy-saving materials and better save taxpayer dollars.
Engineering’s impact on Illinois’ economy is significant. The industry contributes $72.9 billion, or 8%, of the state’s gross domestic product and is partly responsible for $18 billion in economic activity that is created by private and public construction projects. The state is home to 41,830 engineers from every discipline who make an average salary that is 59% higher than all other employees in the state.
A vibrant engineering industry makes for a vibrant America. That’s why it is so important that local, state and federal leaders invest in STEM education early, to draw curious minds to the sciences. It’s why we need immigration reform to allow foreign-born engineers, who were more than likely trained at American universities, to re-enter the country. It’s why we need to focus on broadening diversity in the profession, so talented people from various backgrounds are included.
The next time you drive down Lower Wacker Drive or take in the views along the Magnificent Mile, remember to thank an engineer for making it all possible.
Linda Bauer Darr
President and CEO, American Council of Engineering Companies