World Business Chicago Hosts “On the Table” Conversations

This week, World Business Chicago hosted thirteen forums as a part of On the Table, an annual initiative led by the Chicago Community Trust to organize discussions that inspire citywide economic development.

Logo2[1]Community leaders, civic leaders, business owners, and students gathered with WBC staff to discuss topics including manufacturing in Chicago, diversity in the tech community, and business development in the African-American community.

Yolanda Richards, WBC’s Business Development Associate, hosted “All in Together: Economic Empowerment in the Black Community.” Real estate professionals, economic development experts and entrepreneurs gathered to discuss the challenges and opportunities for small business growth. The group discussed the need for more black-owned businesses located within the neighborhoods, in order to keep local dollars in the community.

One of the initiatives discussed was WBC’s Chicago Anchors for Strong Economy (CASE) program, which fosters strategic relationships between anchor institutions (universities, government, business, etc.) and small businesses to build economic vitality across Chicago’s neighborhoods. CASE has partnered with the Chicago Urban League to engage community leaders, promote local procurement, and help minority businesses leverage their value propositions.

Given Chicago’s presence on the global stage, WBC Research Analyst Valerie Egon hosted “A Conversation with International Students.” Coming from countries including China, Iran and Turkey, DePaul graduate students discussed how Chicago can attract more international students and leverage the talent and cross-cultural understanding they bring.

While these students face challenges that the business community must understand, such as visa sponsorship and building professional confidence, they value Chicago’s commitment to higher education, the city’s diverse culture, and its international resources that include 80+ consulates. Foreign students looking to make Chicago their new home rely on professional networking to start their careers. WBC is well positioned to facilitate their needs given WBC’s initiatives in workforce development, talent recruitment, and Chicago Sister Cities International.

WBC gathered important insights from community stakeholders to inform our implementation of Chicago’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs. Overall, more than 55,000 people participated in various On the Table discussions this week. To develop a city as large and diverse as Chicago, everyone needs to have a say. Chicago Community Trust opened important dialogue with its third annual On the Table.


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.