Kane, Collar Counties Join Forces to Juice Up Exports

Kane, Collar Counties Join Forces to Juice Up Exports

Toni Preckwinkle

Toni Preckwinkle

A consortium of collar counties, including Kane County, and the city of Chicago will use a $500,000 check form JP Morgan Chase to launch a regional export initiative aimed at helping small- and medium-sized businesses compete in international markets.

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 have joined JPMorgan Chase, the Brookings Institution, founders of the Global Cities Initiative, and World Business Chicago to launch “Metro Chicago Exports.”

Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen applauded the public-private partnership as a way to grow the local economy without seeking additional tax dollars.

“The regional export initiative clearly shows that the seven metro-area counties and the city of Chicago are serious about helping local entrepreneurs tap into growing international markets,” he said. “Our local businesses create jobs, and expanding exports regionally accelerates local job creation and career opportunities for existing workers and for young people entering the workforce.”

According to a Monday press release, Metro Chicago Exports is “an unprecedented regional collaboration” that will help local businesses capture a bigger slice of the exports pie.

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 percent 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.

Those stats come from a forthcoming Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program report.

The essential problem is that owners or smaller businesses are sometimes afraid to jump into the exports business, either because of red tape or lack of resources or simply because they aren’t familiar with how to begin the process.  According to one estimate, there are up to 2,500 manufacturers in the Chicago region that would be eligible for Metro Chicago Exports services.

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 and sales missions.

Preckwinkle said 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,” she said.

Emanuel agreed that 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,” he said.  “Only one in 20 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.”

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.

JPMorgan Chase has pledged an additional $500,000 to launch Metro Chicago Exports.

“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 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

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.

For more information on Metro Chicago Exports, visit metrochicagoexports.com.


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