Mayor Rahm Emanuel has touted and touted his work on economic development, often choosing little-watched advisory committees to help him shape his policies.
But one has become prominent: World Business Chicago , a largely city-funded nonprofit, of which Emanuel is chairman. But it is, in effect, led by Emanuel's friend Michael Sacks, its vice chairman. (His full-time job is leading investment firm Grosvenor Capital Management.)
This week, organizational responsibility for the G-8/NATO summit transferred under his command, with former Olympic-effort president Lori Healey replacing veteran event organizer Leslie Fox in the lead staff role.
And in an interview, Sacks announced that World Business Chicago would design and help execute an economic-growth plan for the city. The effort, a first for the city, will be lead by a 14-member steering committee, plus three World Business Chicago board members: Sacks, JPMorgan Midwest Chairman Glenn Tilton and Ernst & Young Midwest Managing Partner Tony Anderson. Deputy Mayor Mark Angelson, a former CEO of printing company R.R. Donnelley, will be the point person for the group at City Hall.
The mayor's tax-increment financing task force "recommended we have such a plan," Angelson said. "But even if they hadn't recommended it, it's a good idea."
The new duties are in addition to World Business Chicago 's long-standing effort to recruit businesses to the city.
With additional responsibility, however, comes additional scrutiny. In that vein, Sacks said, World Business Chicago has hired law firm Sidley Austin to review all of the group's compliance and conflict-of-interest policies and whether the group should make some records publicly available. Sidley is doing the work pro bono, with partner David Hoffman taking the lead.
The review comes on the heels of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson's allegations that, during the Daley administration, the economic development agency failed to disclose potential conflicts when endorsing tax breaks for local corporations. So it's not a coincidence that Hoffman is Chicago's former inspector general.
But when asked whether Hoffman's recommendations would be made public, Sacks would only say that World Business Chicago 's board "would determine the policy."
The issue of disclosure came up again regarding the G-8/NATO effort. Former Sara Lee Chief Executive John Bryan and Emanuel fundraiser Anne Olaimey are responsible for raising money from the business community to pay for the summit. World Business Chicago will take in and pay out the money raised from donors.
When asked whether the identities of the donors would be disclosed, Sacks repeated that World Business Chicago 's board would decide.
"We want to be as transparent as we can be without jeopardizing our mission, and we are looking for ways -- and going to discuss and ultimately conclude on ways -- we can be more transparent," Sacks said. "When you have businesses that you're talking to about relocating to Chicago, the last thing you can afford to do is let people know about it. That is a confidential process, and we can't ever violate that confidentiality."
In the long term, the economic development plan could be the most powerful of the group's initiatives. The steering committee is stacked with heavyweights from the corporate, philanthropic and labor worlds, including former congresswoman and now Executives' Club CEO Melissa Bean; Commercial Club President Ty Fahner; Jorge Ramirez of the Chicago Federation of Labor; and Juan Rangel, CEO of the United Neighborhood Organization.
"If all we do is get on the same page, so we all know what the plan is, it's probably of real value," Sacks said. "That's obviously not our goal. Our goal is to work hard to ensure this is not shelf ware, and that we, as a group, present actionable items."
The effort is modeled after a Brookings Institution program, which has already prompted a fundraising effort for a new testing center for green-building technology in the Seattle region, for instance.
"This is not regional aspirational planning or a visioning process; it is a business process," said Robert Weissbourd, of RW Ventures, who is working with Brookings on the Chicago effort. "The output isn't going to be some initiative; it's going to be a real enterprise."
Buffett attending 2 fundraisers
Warren Buffett will make at least two stops in Chicago on Thursday.
First, he'll be taking questions at an early evening fundraiser for Junior Achievement, a nonprofit that teaches kids about business. About 100 people will attend the $10,000-ticket event, which is closed to the press, Junior Achievement of Chicago President Sandy Daffe said. Personal finance columnist and Junior Achievement board member Terry Savage will moderate.
CareerBuilder (which is part-owned by the Chicago Tribune's parent, Tribune Co.) donated $500,000 to Junior Achievement to sponsor the event, and in exchange its CEO, Matt Ferguson, and other company executives are getting a private, half-hour brainstorming session with Buffett before the Q-and-A period. Junior Achievement declined to release the event's location.
Later, Buffett will attend a $35,800-ticket fundraiser for President Barack Obama at the North Shore home of former Goldman Sachs investment banker Byron Trott, best known for helping arrange Buffett's $5 billion investment in Goldman during the financial crisis.
Expected attendees include: Mellody Hobson and John Rogers Jr. of Ariel Investments; real estate developer and casino owner Neil Bluhm and his son, Andy; Morningstar CEO Joe Mansueto; and Penny Pritzker.
Another political fundraiser
Attorney Manny Sanchez and Cabrera Capital Markets founder Martin Cabrera Jr. flew to Los Angeles earlier this week for a glitzy, celebrity-filled fundraiser for Obama at the home of actors Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith.
Sanchez, along with TV personality Giselle Fernandez, Puerto Rican attorney Andres Lopez and Texas architect Henry Munoz III, are the national co-chairs of the FuturoFund, Obama's group of Hispanic fundraisers. (Four years ago, it was called the Obama for America National Hispanic Leadership Council, which Sanchez co-chaired with Francisco "Frank" Sanchez.)
Manny Sanchez said the FuturoFund co-chairs had a private meeting with Obama at the fundraiser.
"We didn't hesitate to share with him that we were disappointed in the handling of the whole immigration issue," Sanchez said. "I think it's a civil rights issue, and the other side has really exploited the issue in a very ugly way, throwing Latinos under the bus."
Given his disappointment, I asked Sanchez why he was out raising money for the president again.
"The fact of the matter is when we look at what the alternative is, there is no alternative," he said, calling all but one of the Republican candidates "scary for Latinos."
Melissa Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-222-4582.