Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and World Business Chicago (WBC) on Monday welcomed White House Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, for the discussion Strong Cities, Strong Nation. This conversation was presented to nearly 300 corporate and civic leaders at the University of Chicago Gleacher Center.

The presentation came little more than a week after President Obama’s State of the Union address, where he outlined the administration’s plan to make 2014 a “year of action” by ensuring opportunity for all Americans and boosting the economy. Jarrett discussed the important role of Chicago and other cities in realizing these goals and was introduced by Mayor Emanuel, WBC Vice Chairman Michael Sacks and University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer. The discussion was moderated by Vice President for U.S. Programs, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Julia Stasch.

“In order for our country to succeed, our cities must succeed and Chicago has set a clear framework for economic growth and job creation so our City can thrive,” said Mayor Emanuel. “The President has made clear that 2014 will be a year of action building strong cities and Chicago will continue to invest in education, infrastructure and the environment so as a City we can move forward and provide opportunities for all.” ​

In his remarks, Mayor Emanuel highlighted his administration’s efforts to support growth in Chicago’s neighborhoods, including expanded access to broadband, the Smart Chicago collaborative and Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, a public-private partnership working to close the skills gap in Chicago by helping to match businesses that have current, unmet hiring needs with qualified, unemployed job seekers. He also discussed City Colleges of Chicago College to Careers (C2C) program. The C2C program forges partnerships between City Colleges and industry leaders to better align curricula with demand in growing fields; companies have committed to programs in transportation and logistics, healthcare, business, information technology, advanced manufacturing, and hospitality.

“Many of the elements that President Obama recently outlined align with Chicago’s efforts to implement the city’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs,” said Sacks. “We appreciate the opportunity to further our dialogue with Senior Advisor Jarrett in order to advance the regional – and national – economic growth trajectory.”

Since Mayor Emanuel took office, he has stood with more than 80 companies that have committed to creating more than 25,000 jobs in the city and its neighborhoods. The Mayor called upon leaders in the audience to continue to support and invest in Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Stasch, who moderated the talk, leads Mayor Emanuel’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs strategy to develop and deploy neighborhood assets to align with regional economic growth. The Plan indicates that regional economic development is critical for the Chicago-area to compete in the global economy, and brings together the key parties to facilitate growth. Other key Plan strategies focus on advanced manufacturing, business services and headquarters, transportation and logistics, tourism and entertainment, exports, workforce, innovation and entrepreneurship, infrastructure, and business environment.

Prior to the discussion, Jarrett met with Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs committee leaders including Chicago Urban League President and CEO Andrea Zopp, Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez, Chicago Community Trust President and CEO Terry Mazany, University of Chicago Vice President for Civic Engagement Derek Douglas and Rush University Medical Center Vice President of Corporate and External Affairs Terry Peterson.

Senior Advisor Jarrett’s Chicago conversation comes just months after Mayor Emanuel and WBC hosted U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker for her first official hometown event in the position. During the candid conversation, Pritzker discussed the U.S. business climate and local and national efforts to strengthen the economy and create jobs. She highlighted specific critical areas: the need to invest in infrastructure (both physical and digital), the need for a skilled workforce, immigration reform and the need for federal support for R&D and innovation.

Jarrett oversees the White House Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, and serves as chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

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