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2016 Year in Review

A note from WBC President & CEO Jeff Malehorn

Dear Colleague,

Thank you for your support in continuing to make Chicago a premier business destination in 2016. As we enter the new year, I wanted to reflect back on WBC’s progress in 2016 and recognize our contributors. Our accomplishments would not be possible without the invaluable support from our community.


WBC worked with more than 180 companies in 2016, in coordination with the City, bringing nearly 9,000 jobs to Chicago. Activities included McDonald’s headquarters relocation to the West Loop; Whole Foods’ expansions in Englewood (retail) and Pullman (distribution); Echo Global Logistics’ continued growth at 600 West Chicago Ave with other growing companies such as Uptake; and GE Healthcare and Duracell’s respective international and domestic headquarters moves. Chicago was awarded the Top Metro by Site Selection magazine for corporate relocations and expansions for its 2015 numbers, and 2016 saw even more overall business growth.


International Business Development

International business development was also strong in 2016. Our foreign direct investment (FDI) numbers are on track for another record-breaking year (we ranked #1 in FDI in North America in 2015). In 2016, we had the opportunity to host and take part in a number of prominent relationship-building events including business delegations to China/Hong Kong, Italy, Mexico, and Western Europe. Chicago was the first North American partner city at the Hong Kong Business of Design Week. We also hosted leaders and delegations from China, Italy, the U.K, and more, including London Mayor Sadiq Khan on his first official visit to a U.S. city.

Chicago Sister Cities International

Chicago Sister Cities International (CSCI) had an impactful year, launching 80 programs, hosting 25 international delegations, and reaching more than 300,000 people at events. WBC hosted mayors from Birmingham, Galway, Kyiv, and Warsaw, and led missions to Bogota and Mexico City. WBC also hosted the first ever Global Youth Ambassador Leadership Summit, engaging youth from Birmingham, Bogota, Durban, Lucerne, Mexico City, Paris, Toronto, and Chicago. In 2016 CSCI secured a $443K grant from the Aspen Institute, a donation of $250K in hearing aids from Beltone for children in Bogota, and hosted 16 international physicians from our sister cities for the Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Symposium.


In 2016, WBC designed and collaborated on a number of transformative programs that advanced Chicago’s economic agenda. Examples include:

  •  1000 Jobs for Chicagoland Manufacturing placed 750 people in jobs (including approximately 300 ex-offenders) and more than 250 people into training programs;
  • Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE) worked with 15 anchor institutions to facilitate local purchasing, hiring, and investment. To date, CASE has supported 235 businesses, facilitated 46 contracts (totaling $49.4M) and created 180 jobs;
  • Metro Chicago Exports provided assistance to hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses throughout the region to expand their reach in international markets;
  • WBC helped launch mHUB, Chicago’s first innovation center focused on physical product development and manufacturing; the initiative has already raised more than $6M in corporate support and a $500K federal grant;
  • Current, our joint effort with the City of Chicago and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) designed to leverage the strength of the Chicago region’s water economy was established; the initiative raised seed funding, began program development, and appointed an executive director;
  • WBC helped the City launch the Industrial Growth Zones program to accelerate neighborhood development in seven designated areas by providing support services to property owners and industrial businesses; and
  • We piloted the “Better Data for Better Neighborhoods” initiative in collaboration with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Chicago to build relationships in 20 neighborhoods where data could be better utilized to advance economic growth.


ChicagoNEXT, dedicated to driving growth and opportunity within Chicago’s tech community, also had a robust 2016. Through ChicagoNEXT, we hosted nearly 350 of the nation’s top students for ThinkChicago during Lollapallooza and Chicago Ideas Week and connected them with Chicago’s leading tech employers. In addition, the region’s tech leaders, start-up founders and nearly 150 investment firms attended our second annual Chicago Venture Summit, which increased its attendance to 420 people.


WBC focused on enhanced collaboration with our public and private partners within the city, region, and state in 2016. New collaborations include:

  • We appointed new board members: Charles Matthews of Peoples Gas, Jim Brady of Grant Thornton, LLC, Michael Englehart of Presence Health, John Flannery of GE Healthcare, Jamie Miller of GE Transportation, Robbie Robinson of BDT Capital Partners, Virginia Simmons of McKinsey and Company, and Paula Steiner of Health Care Service Corporation;
  • 13 organizations sponsored employees for WBC’s Fellowship program; thanks to the American Library Association, the Austin African American Business Networking Association, Avison Young, Blue Cross Blue Shield IL (HCSC), Coder EXP, Deloitte, EY, Grant Thornton, Northern Illinois University, PepsiCo, KPMG, The PrivateBank, and UIC for their contributions; and
  • WBC’s legal advisory board was expanded to include 15 law firms that consult in various areas; thanks to Baker McKenzie, Chapman and Cutler, DLA Piper, Dentons, Foley & Lardner, Goldberg Kohn, Jenner & Block, Jones Day, Katten Muchin Rosenman, Kirkland & Ellis, Locke Lord, Mayer Brown, Seyfarth Shaw, Sidley Austin, and Winston & Strawn for their contributions.

As you can see, we’ve been busy in 2016 and have great plans for 2017. Please follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter for updates on our work. Don’t hesitate to reach out with comments or suggestions on how we can continue to drive economic growth in Chicago. We appreciate your input.


Jeff Malehorn

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