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Increasing Chicago’s Global Engagement

Monday 23 June, 2008

I checked out this event recently The Global Edge: Increasing Chicago’s Global Engagement Here’s how it went.

Paul O’Connor, formerly of World Business Chicago, summarized the role of local public institutions (Daley helps), transportation infrastructure (needs help), & human capital (help reform city colleges) in Chicago’s place in the world.

John Livingston of McKinsey talked to branding Chicago. We’re in a good starting point because many are aware of Chicago, but there is much to be done. How do we segment the market? What’s the message? Do we focus on landing headquarters locations or bringing jobs to the area?
John Murray from the Chicago 2016 Olympics office brought us up to date with the bid & put it in perspective: hosting an Olympics has 20 times the economic impact of hosting the national democratic convention.

Q&A addressed these issues:

2016 should help improve the Chicago Transportation Agency.

the midwest could cooperate on a regional high-speed rail system, but those are very expensive.

small-medium sized businesses have the same access to talent in the city, so they have the opportunity to go international as well. How well they capitalize on it is up to them & remains to be seen. Some services businesses are.

technology commercialization is a stranded asset & difficult to leverage.

Chicago’s geographic centrality in the US Central time zone makes communications with both Europe & Asia possible during work hours, which differentiates us from the coasts.

My take is the Chicago Council on Global Affairs published “The Global Edge: an agenda for Chicago’s future” & is attempting to promote that agenda more aggressively. There are a number of big global corporations which are obviously deeply engaged globally. My impression is there is a small group @ the top of each of these companies that travel the world & maybe have even lived & worked elsewhere & know the subtler & even not so subtle differences between Chicago & other world-class cities. They are qualified to steer the direction of this project. My concern is there are very few who know the rest of the world well-enough to make valid propositions on how Chicago organizations can change to compete in the future. We no longer compete with just Cleveland, Detroit, & Minneapolis, rather with Copenhagen, Delhi, & Moscow. I laud the effort & the intent. I question whether the CCGA will be able to have the desired impact of elevating Chicago to the global city to which they aspire.

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