World Business Chicago (WBC) reported on the organization’s accomplishments in attracting and retaining companies in the Chicago area at the spring meeting of its board of directors, held at BMO Harris Bank this week.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel updated the board on the state of city efforts and departments including the Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Transit Authority, as well as the Mayor’s support of new anti-violence initiatives being spearheaded by WBC board members Tom Wilson of Allstate and Jim Reynolds of Loop Capital. Reynolds also explained the importance of the business community’s participation in the initiative to the board.

“Chicago is flourishing as a global business center,” said Mayor Emanuel. “There are continuous accolades and metrics showcasing our progress. But our city will not be successful until all of our children are ensured the opportunity for a bright future, and I commend the business community for stepping up to tackle this important issue that impacts all of us.”

At the meeting, WBC board member and Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs co-chair Glenn Tilton updated the board on the Plan’s progress. Unveiled by Mayor Emanuel in February 2012, the Plan is coordinating and accelerating economic development efforts in Chicago and throughout the metropolitan region. To date, four full-time staff, eight Fellows, and 80+ community and business leaders on the Steering Committee and Strategy teams are implementing the 10 strategies that enable Chicago to better realize its full potential as an economic powerhouse in the new global economy.

“World Business Chicago has partnered with civic leaders and organizations throughout Chicagoland to effectively implement a wide array of initiatives to grow our economy and strengthen Chicago’s role as a global city,” said Michael Sacks, vice chairman of WBC, and Plan co-chair. “The Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs serves as the road map for our work, so the majority of our business development and job creation efforts directly align with at least one of the Plan’s strategies. We will continue to further infuse the Plan into our work throughout the coming year.”

ChicagoNEXT directly aligns with the Plan’s strategy to support entrepreneurship and foster innovation in mature and emerging sectors. During the meeting, WBC board members and co-chairs of ChicagoNEXT, Jeff Aronin of Paragon Pharmaceuticals and J.B. Pritzker of The Pritzker Group, talked about the council’s dedicated effort to drive growth and opportunity related to science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. Specifically, they discussed efforts to work closely with the biotech industry in conjunction with BIO 2013 in April, the world’s largest gathering of the biotech industry.

Also highlighted at the meeting was the Plan’s inaugural Economic Growth Fellowship Program, which launched in January. Fellows serve full-time for three-to-six-months to implement initiatives from the Plan’s 10 strategies. WBC is currently accepting applications for its summer Fellowship term, which will begin in May. Applications are due March 15.

Other initiatives recently launched in alignment with the plan that were discussed at the meeting include:

  • Partnership created with the Ex-Im Bank of the United States to provide small and medium-sized businesses with direct access to the Ex-Im’s financing programs, including the Global Credit Express Program (in alignment with the Exports Strategy)
  • Successful business development trip to China, which included meetings with more than 30 senior-level business executives and government officials in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, including a reception co-hosted by WBC and Choose Chicago in conjunction with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s concert (in alignment with the Headquarters and Business Service Strategy)
  • Austin Polytechnical Academy’s expanded advanced manufacturing programs, a result of $1.25M in reallocated TIF funds from the City of Chicago (in alignment with the Manufacturing Strategy)
  • The Broadband Challenge engaging the public to submit ideas and insights to secure Chicago’s position as a U.S. digital capital, with the greatest availability of ultra-high-speed broadband (in alignment with the Infrastructure Strategy)
  • Recruiting trip by Mayor Emanuel to the University of Illinois’ prestigious College of Engineering along with leadership from 39 Chicago tech companies to recruit the best talent for the city’s fast-growing technology industry (in alignment with the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Strategy)

In addition, Marie Lynch, president and CEO of Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, presented to board members on how the organization aligns with the Plan’s strategy to develop Chicago’s workforce in a demand-driven and targeted manner. Skills for Chicagoland aims to close the workforce skills gap by helping unemployed Chicago and Cook County residents return to work. In recent months, Mayor Emanuel has announced that companies such as GoHealth and bswift are not only bringing jobs to Chicago, but have committed to work with Skills for Chicagoland’s Future to fill some of those jobs with local unemployed job seekers.

WBC also outlined its use of enhanced metrics capabilities to gather and report on new and expanding companies in the region. Board members received metrics data indicating that since the beginning of 2013, WBC has directly worked on 26 projects representing a potential 3,194 new and retained jobs.

Additionally, WBC presented its 2012 Business Growth Profile, which utilized the metrics to report that more than 600 companies located or expanded in the Chicago region last year, accounting for 54,673 new and retained jobs and $10.5 billion in investment across the region. Nearly two-thirds are companies that have relocated from outside the region or established a new presence in the metro area.

“Our metrics capabilities have also enabled us to implement a new system for proactive outreach to companies that don’t currently have a presence here, in order to strategically build a pipeline of projects that will ultimately contribute to Chicago’s economic growth,” said Rita Athas, president of World Business Chicago. “We are off to a solid start for business growth and retention in Chicago in 2013 and look forward to continuing that momentum throughout the year.

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