World Business Chicago president, Rita Athas, traveled, alongside Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and a delegation of business and civic leaders to Russia this month on a mission to attract business investment to the Chicago area.
“In order to encourage investment and trade, it’s important to make face-to-face contact with international business and government leaders,” Athas said. “Our international travels produce key relationships and position Chicago as a premier global business destination for companies and governments deciding where to invest. By coordinating these visits, we are building for future investment in Chicago and giving the city visibility that marketing investments could never reach.”
As a part of the mission, the U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, the Honorable John Beyrle, hosted a reception for Russian and American business leaders where Mayor Daley presented Chicago and its business advantages to the group.
“Urban centers are where the greatest concentrations of people will live in the 21st century. We must make cultural connections and expand our working relationships with many partners if we are to succeed in the global economy,” said Mayor Daley during the presentation. “I believe the business relationship between Chicago and Russia is strong, and we want it to grow stronger,” he added.
Approximately 35 Chicago area companies currently have operations in Russia, including Boeing, Abbott Laboratories, A.T. Kearney and Motorola. Led by two of Boeing’s head engineers, the group toured the Boeing Design Center in Moscow, an engineering resource center set up in 1998 to tap the knowledge of the experienced engineers in the Russian aviation industry.
Additionally, Mayor Daley and the delegation met with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, agreeing to continue to strengthen ties between Chicago and Moscow through exchanges, greening projects and outreach to respective business communities. Chicago and Moscow have shared a Sister Cities relationship since 1997.
Mayor Luzhkov invited the group to participate in the Moscow City Day Celebration. The festivities celebrate the capital city’s birthday with an attendance of approximately 3.5 million, including more than 60 official delegations from across Russia and Belarus. President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev welcomed the crowd and introduced Mayor Daley, who was a special guest of Mayor Luzhkov.
The Chicago delegation also met with the Russian Minister of Trade and Commerce to highlight Chicago and its investment opportunities. The Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation will host the Russian National Exhibition November 18-21st at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The exhibition is intended to promote bilateral connections and stimulate economic ties. The first day of the Exhibition will feature a forum focusing on business and investment opportunities.
Another highlight of the visit was a meeting with Russian Railways President, Vladimir I. Yakunin. Russian Railways is an entirely state-owned company with the largest rail network in the world next to the U.S. It carries nearly 1.3 billion passengers and 1.3 billion tons of freight annually across 11 time zones and is responsible for 80% of all transportation in Russia. Yakunin is a key influencer in Russian business. As a follow up to the trip, a delegation from his office is coming to Chicago to meet with Mayor Daley and explore investment opportunities.
Russia is the world’s leading net energy exporter, the largest natural gas exporter and second largest oil exporter in the world. The energy sector is estimated to represent more than 20% of Russia’s GDP, more than 60% of Russia’s exports and 30% of all FDI in the country.
The trip was sponsored by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and World Business Chicago with additional support from Boeing and American Airlines. In addition to Mayor Daley and Rita Athas, the delegation included Sean J. Conlon, Chairman, Conlon & Co.; Maggie Daley, First Lady, City of Chicago; Eileen Hubbell, Director of International Relations, City of Chicago; Kaarina Koskenalusta, President and CEO, The Executives’ Club of Chicago; Lance Pressl, President, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Foundation; and Mike Roberts, Founder & CEO, Westside Holdings, LLC.