Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Crain's: With Emanuel's departure, Chicago needs a new closer

Hold on, in what way is Rahm Emanuel a closer for Chicago?
Emanuel was as enthusiastic a pitchman for Chicago as Daley, which is saying something. But after years as a national Democratic fundraiser, Emanuel had access to CEOs across the country, if not around the world. That included tech chiefs like Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Salesforce's Marc Benioff and Google's Eric Schmidt. When word broke a year ago that Amazon was looking for a second headquarters, Emanuel already had been working on Bezos.

"He understood he had access to the tech community at a level very few people have," says Howard Tullman, a veteran tech entrepreneur and avid watcher of Chicago politics who traveled with Emanuel overseas on recruiting trips. "He used that great advantage. The biggest loss (in Emanuel's decision to leave office) is he had an international reputation. You saw this in Japan, China. People wanted to meet and work with him because of his stature. He had the ability to talk about national and global politics."

Emanuel also put CEOs at ease, and it showed in the parade of companies that moved their headquarters to downtown Chicago from other countries, other states, downstate Illinois and the suburbs during his two terms. The list includes Motorola, Archer Daniels Midland, GE Healthcare, Conagra, McDonald's, Beam Suntory and Kraft Heinz. Though they're not ribbon-cutting full-fledged HQs, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Google and Facebook are staffing up significantly downtown, too.

"Businesses want to know the mayor and the administration understand the private sector—that they don't view it as an enemy," says Steve Koch, a former investment banker who was Emanuel's point person on economic development for five years as deputy mayor. "The private sector really wants to know the mayor is committed to fiscal responsibility. They want to know the city has a vision for the future. Rahm was extraordinary at that. He's an unbelievable bundle of energy. With his commitment to (what companies care about), you were already 75 percent there."
OK, it's great to see the Mayor work hard to make big business at ease with doing business in Chicago. However, perhaps a future mayor of Chicago - to be elected next year in 2019 - could be a closer for both the south and west sides of the city? Don't just put all the focus on the north side and downtown Chicago.

BTW, I suggest you read the whole thing

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