World Business Chicago in new campaign for regional growth

The economic development group World Business Chicago announced Wednesday it will focus on growth across seven northeastern Illinois counties, not just the city, and has gathered political and civic leaders to ensure cooperation.

Michael Fassnacht, the association’s president and CEO, said the effort addresses concerns raised by business owners discussing opening or expanding facilities in the area. “Business leaders don’t think about city or county boundaries,” Fassnacht said. “They want to know about the area” and factors such as workforce development and quality of life, he said.

He said the campaign will aim to record 150 “pro-Chicago decisions” by private companies over the next three years. Fassnacht said the campaign would be overseen by an advisory board including city and rural officials, and promised an “effective system with no red tape or bureaucratic obstacles.”

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The Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership group announcement at the Chicago History Museum included remarks by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Cook County Board Chair Toni Preckwinkle and Board Chair -DuPage Administrator Deborah Conroy.

Lightfoot said the composition of the group is a good indicator of the campaign’s success. “The women are done,” he applauded the crowd, which included representatives of other rural districts.

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“This is a big and important opportunity for all of us,” Lightfoot said, noting that rural development interests have called for greater regional cooperation. “There have been previous efforts to make this happen, and I am proud to lead an administration that wholeheartedly embraces regionalism and, importantly, delivers on that promise.”

World Business Chicago was founded in 1999, originally with a regional focus. But insiders say it has become more focused on the city over the years, especially under former mayor Rahm Emanuel.

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Fassnacht said that the new program will bring WBC about 1 million dollars a year in new funding from the service continent. He said most of the more than $8 million budget comes from corporate donations and less than 20% from City Hall.

He said the increase in the size of the WBC office has brought additional support to the company.

Others involved in the initiative are the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, which examines issues related to growth and collects data on the area, and the Chicago Community Trust.

Michael Fassnacht, president and CEO of World Business Chicago, addressed the Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership on Wednesday.

Michael Fassnacht, president and CEO of World Business Chicago, addressed the Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership on Wednesday.


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