Frank Ptak joined WBC’s board of directors in 2014; in this spotlight, Ptak discusses living and working in Chicago
Frank Ptak is chairman and CEO of Marmon Holdings, which includes three autonomous companies consisting of 14 diverse, stand-alone business sectors, and about 175 independent manufacturing and service businesses. These businesses operate more than 350 manufacturing, distribution, and service facilities worldwide, with revenues totaling approximately $7.5 billion in 2016.
Prior to joining Marmon, Ptak completed a 30-year career with Illinois Tool Works Inc., serving as vice chairman of the $12.9 billion in revenues diversified manufacturer of highly engineered components and industrial systems and consumables. He previously was employed by Sara Lee Corporation for five years in roles including assistant treasurer, assistant to the chairman, and VP-analysis and planning. He also worked at Kemper Financial Services as a venture capital manager and at Arthur Young & Co. as a senior auditor/consultant. He is a CPA.
Ptak graduated from DePaul University, which in 2013 honored him with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. He has served on many company boards, including Morningstar, Inc., Snap-on Incorporated, General Growth Properties, Inc., Hon Industries, Heller Financial, Inc., and Kemper Insurance. In addition to WBC’s board, he currently serves on boards of Junior Achievement of Chicago and the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago.
Marmon is the founding partner of mHUB, Chicago’s first innovation center for physical product development and manufacturing. Launched in 2016, mHUB originated out of WBC, and serves as a co-working community of product designers and developers entrepreneurs, engineers and manufacturers; a network of manufacturing mentors, industry experts and investors; and a source of intellectual and economic capital. Here, Ptak explains why Chicago is a good place to live and work.
QUESTION: Why did you choose to live in Chicago?
ANSWER: It’s been my home for my entire life. It’s not by accident as I have always preferred to work for Chicago-based companies (e.g. Sara Lee, ITW and now Marmon).
QUESTION: What is the best thing about running a business in Chicago and how would you explain to your stakeholders that Chicago is the best location for your company?
ANSWER: It’s the remarkable diversity of the Chicago population; no one is out of place here in Chicago and its many races and ethnicities coalesce forming this unique Chicago culture.
QUESTION: How would you describe Chicago’s business community?
ANSWER: Seriously civic minded almost across the wide range of Chicago CEOs; liberals and conservatives working side by side for the benefit of the Chicago that we all cherish and love.
QUESTION: Have you found that the public/private partnership between business and government is unique to Chicago? In what ways have you engaged in this partnership?
ANSWER: It is very unique indeed as party lines never are put ahead of what is best for Chicago! I have prioritized my civic contributions to JA Chicago, WBC, and the Commercial Club’s Civic Committee.
QUESTION: How have the following Chicago attributes impacted your company:
- Diverse economy?
- Talented workforce?
- Access to the world (i.e. via central location, two international airports, extensive road and rail network, digital infrastructure)?
ANSWER: All three of these distinct Chicago advantages have impacted me and the Chicago companies that I have worked for since graduating from DePaul in 1965.
QUESTION: When entertaining clients or business associates, where do you go and what do you do?
ANSWER: Bulls, Hawks, and Cubs games; dinner near North in one of our many great restaurants; boat tours are a must with a nice Millennium Park stroll at the end. Foreign visitors love driving along our lakefront and touring our fabulous Art Institute.
QUESTION: If you were to describe Chicago to a friend or family member that has not visited, what would you say?
ANSWER: It’s a fabulous city with its magnificent skyline, Lake Michigan, and the preserved public lakefront. It’s the only major city in the world where young people can afford to reside in the central city. Chicago has one of the youngest most educated workforces as a result. No disrespect meant, but we enjoy it here because the people are friendly and it’s New York City without the “hassle”.
QUESTION: What neighborhood do you live in and what do you like about it?
ANSWER: I grew up in the Brighton Park neighborhood where I was astounded by how well the “Chicago Machine” back in the 1950’s and 1960’s took care of its loyal constituents. My mom loved helping the “boss” and his local precinct captains run our little neighborhood with a high degree of efficiency. My wife and I currently reside in the Northern Suburbs but never miss a chance to come back into the city to enjoy dinner and perhaps one of Chicago’s great theater venues or the CSO in action. One of our three children lives and works in the city so we always have an excuse to come back and enjoy the city.
QUESTION: Which part of WBC’s mission resonates most with you and your organization? How have you helped carry this part of the mission out (or how will your organization help)?
[Mission: World Business Chicago is a public-private, non-profit partnership that drives inclusive economic growth and job creation, supports business, and promotes Chicago as a leading global city.]
ANSWER: Chicago desperately needs manufacturing jobs for its beleaguered South and West sides. This is where we’ve prioritized our efforts through mHUB and working with other Chicago CEOs to try to create such local job opportunities.
QUESTION: Is there anything interesting or noteworthy that you’ve learned through your involvement with WBC thus far?
ANSWER: I believe that what the Mayor has done at CPS is remarkable with the huge progress made in our schools; the Mayor and his staff have also made the Chicago business community first class with the addition of numerous new headquarters and the highly educated young workforce that this attracts. No other city can match Chicago’s vibrancy where young professionals love to live and work despite the winter weather! The final mission for us all now is to create meaningful manufacturing and service jobs for our hard working “blue collar” rank and file.