Posted by Heidi Schwartz
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin and the Chief Executives of Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties joined together with JPMorgan Chase, the Brookings Institution, founders of the Global Cities Initiative, and World Business Chicago to launch “Metro Chicago Exports.” Metro Chicago Exports is a regional collaboration that will help small and medium enterprises throughout the area capture export opportunities and strengthen the Chicagoland area’s network of regional service providers.
“Metropolitan areas like northeastern Illinois are the engines for economic growth in this country. And regions that work together perform better. Last year, I convened the economic development leadership from seven counties and the City of Chicago to explore opportunities for collaboration to further the region’s economic growth. I’m pleased to see that one of the first results of this group is the creation of Metro Chicago Exports,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “By increasing the export capacity of small and medium-sized businesses, we will enhance global competitiveness, foster innovative activity within firms, and positively impact the economy of our region.
“Small businesses continue to be drivers of growth for Chicago’s economy. By helping businesses on the threshold of exporting to cross that divide further increases economic opportunity and job growth,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Only one in twenty Chicago small businesses currently export their goods overseas, but by bringing together assets that exist throughout the Chicagoland area—access to ports, promotion services, transportation and more—Metro Chicago Exports can help these businesses to increase their global competitiveness, support local job growth and make Chicago a national leader in exports.”
According to data from a forthcoming Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program report, in 2013, the Chicago region was the nation’s fourth largest exporter at $65 billion, but ranked only 28th in the share of its economy that comes from exports. Despite high exporting volume, only 6% of the region’s small and mid-size firms currently export and, on average less than half of those firms export to more than one market.
Metro Chicago Exports will assist manufacturers and business service companies to reach new international markets. The pilot program will focus on three initial strategies:
- Build the pipeline of export ready firms: use a data-driven approach to proactively target firms in high demand industries with specific opportunities in international markets; create clear export roadmaps for groups of firms and scale the reach of existing services
- Strengthen the export ecosystem: serve as a concierge for firms and assist navigation through the network of regional services; develop opportunities for peer learning and mentorship to leverage the expertise of current exporters
- Reduce the initial business costs to reach new markets: expand resources for firms to become market ready and reduce the hurdles to exporting faced by small firms, such as specialized market research, translation, sales missions, etc.
Based on one estimate, there are up to 2,500 manufacturers in the Chicago region on the threshold of exporting that would be eligible to use the services of Metro Chicago Exports.
Metro Chicago Exports builds on the Global Cities Initiative, a joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase, that aims to catalyze a shift in economic development priorities and practices resulting in more globally connected metropolitan areas and more sustainable economic growth.
“The global marketplace is more complex, more challenging, and more receptive than ever,” said Melissa Bean, Chairman of the Midwest, JPMorgan Chase. “It’s critical that local governments and businesses work in partnership to build capacity to compete and succeed in today’s global environment.”
“This exports program is a powerful demonstration of Chicago’s leadership in a new form of economic development. Rather than shift jobs around a region, this multi-jurisdictional collaboration is growing jobs and opportunities by helping existing businesses expand through tapping demand abroad,” said Amy Liu, co-director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and co-director of the Global Cities Initiative. “With the global marketplace more dynamic than ever, Chicago is right to act regionally and globally to ensure businesses and workers continue to prosper.”
Metro Chicago Exports is the product of a working group convened by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in December 2013 and comprised of leadership from Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties, and the City of Chicago. The group agreed to pursue outcome-based initiatives to grow the regional economy and build trust between regional partners while targeting specific industries.
“We welcome this initiative as a truly regional enterprise. As leaders in the collar counties, we know our small business owners wear many hats. They are Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, they manage employees, and market their goods and services. While they may want to move into international exporting, they may not know where to begin,” said Dan Cronin, DuPage County Board Chairman. “Metro Chicago Exports provides the expertise and opens that door for our collar county businesses. We believe the resulting market opportunities will grow jobs in our communities and create a more vibrant regional economy benefitting us all.”
Over the next six months, Metro Chicago Exports will focus its efforts on building organizational infrastructure, including hiring a managing director and forming an advisory council, as well as identifying firms to participate in the pilot program. Offices will be located in the City of Chicago and DuPage County.