Chicago Selected by Brookings Institution for Distinguished Metropolitan Export Initiative

Chicago was selected by the Brookings Institution to participate in its Metropolitan Export Initiative (MEI), a ground-up collaborative effort to help a pilot group of regional civic, business, and political leaders create and implement customized Metropolitan Export Plans (MEP).  A group representing World Business Chicago’s (WBC) Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs (PEGJ) will participate in the first working session in Washington D.C. October 16-17, along with representatives from the seven other cities and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“Brookings’ Metropolitan Export Initiative significantly aligns with the goals of WBC’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs, and we are honored that Chicago has been selected to participate in the distinguished program,” said Rita Athas, president WBC. “By participating in the MEI program, we will gain unique insight and expertise on how to best build on Chicago’s assets and further the city’s exporting capabilities.”

WBC’s PEGJ ( serves as a blueprint for the region’s economic development efforts and includes transformative strategies for economic growth and job creation. One of those strategies is to make Chicago a nationally leading exporter.

Last spring, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to double the exports of Chicago’s small and medium sized businesses over the next five years.

“Only one in twenty of our small businesses in Chicago export their goods overseas, so we are missing an enormous opportunity for our businesses,” Mayor Emanuel said. “We can grow high-paying jobs in global industries throughout the city by expanding our exports, and create crucial economic advances that will drive Chicago forward.”

Chicago has close to 100,000 small businesses, only five percent of which (roughly 5,000) export overseas. Of these businesses, only 40 percent (about 2,000) export to more than one country, and approximately 95,000 Chicago small businesses don’t export at all.

Chicago distinguished itself from other metros in Brookings’ highly competitive application process due to its readiness, capability and commitment to growing exports from Chicago small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The first cohort of the The Metropolitan Export Exchange (The Exchange) includes Charleston, SC; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; Des Moines, IA; Louisville-Lexington, KY; San Antonio, TX; San Diego, CA; and Tampa, FL.

Localized export plans apply market intelligence to develop better targeted, integrated export-related services and strategies to help regions connect their firms to global customers, as outlined by their individualized export goals. To help metropolitan leaders successfully adopt their own plans, Brookings developed the six-to-twelve-month Exchange program that utilizes classroom instruction, peer learning opportunities, regional team work assignments, and targeted advice to help metropolitan areas successfully design and launch their own MEPs by the end of the Exchange period.

Marwa Joy Zohdy (Director of the Chicago Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs), Kevin Schumm (Chicago Economic Growth Fellow on Exports and Trade) and Cara Bader (WBC Research Associate) are representing Chicago at the Brookings Institution for the first two-day session.

The Metropolitan Export Initiative is part of the Brookings-Rockefeller Project on State and Metropolitan Innovation, a national effort to catalyze and showcase leading-edge practices to boost the nation’s transition to the next economy.



Chaired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, World Business Chicago drives regional economic growth. WBC collaborates to create jobs, cultivate talent, and put Chicago at the forefront of the global economy. A unique public-private partnership, WBC engages business and community leaders to advance Chicago’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs.