lowdown on Mid-America Committee & Illinois Global Partnership

Friday 16 July, 2010

I attended this event sponsored by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business international roundtable Doing Deals Around the World: What’s New, What’s Old, What Remains the Same? featuring Tom Miner, a well-traveled Chicago-based international businessperson who founded THE MID-AMERICA COMMITTEE FOR INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS AND GOVERNMENT COOPERATION, INC. and Illinois Global Partnership.

Miner is a native South-side Chicagoan who enlisted in the navy @ 17, & when his program closed was discharged, & enlisted in the Army.   After attending West Point, he enrolled @ Knox College where his worst subject was languages.  He then earned his law degree @ the University of Illinois.  After working @ Continental Illinois Bank, he was recruited away to set-up a manufacturing plant in Mexico for a pump manufacturer.  He spent 3 years there before moving to Europe with a farm equipment manufacturer.  When he jumped off on his own to found his international consultancy THOMAS H. MINER & ASSOCIATES, that firm became his 1st client.

Tom thought kings & queens visiting America should stop in the midwest when flying from coast-to-coast, so he approached the US Dept. of State to get them to encourage these dignitaries to stop & local corporate sponsors to support the Mid-America Committee to fund these visits.  Unfortunately Miner contracted cancer in 2002 & effectively sold the Mid-America Committee to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, where it has since disappeared.

A few years later he proposed a private/public partnership @ the state level to promote Illinois exports called the Illinois Global Partnership.  He received $6M funding for 5 years, but it only lasted 2 1/2 years before the politicians in Springfield ultimately pulled the plug when they didn’t get the political considerations they expected.

If you had $1B to invest he ranks countries in this order:

  1. China, despite corruption in real estate
  2. India
  3. Brazil, for now-things could change in the next year or 2
  4. Korea-for a country its size, it does incredibly well
  5. Mexico
  6. Turkey

Although he has great respect for Gorbachov, Russia is the easiest country to get in & out of deals quickly, but also 1 of the most corrupt & dangerous.  Nigeria is another treacherous business place.

re: inbound investment, Miner notes that the US government wants equal access & protection for US investors, yet at the same time does not provide the same for foreign investors in the US.

In his own words, “To do what I do, you simply can’t approach an embassy & ask for help.  You have to have someone who knows how it’s done.”  The difficulty is defining what he does.  Today he seems to be simply a global opportunity seeker/deal-maker.   For example, he’s been talking with a Swedish company which has some great alternative energy-wave technology, but it’s 1/3-owned by a university & they don’t want to give up control. Enforceable contracts,  corruption, & political stability are the biggest stumbling blocks for him.  After he helped Beijing get the 2004 Olympics, he became a member of Chicago’s Olympic bid committee, but quickly recognized that they would not be successful because they refused to “play the game.”


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