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Visions for Chicago’s Future: A Community Forum


CHARLES EVANS: Good morning. I'm Charlie Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. It's my pleasure to welcome you all to our community forum. I'm grateful to be joined today by a panel of leaders from across the city to discuss Chicago's bright future. For the last 13 years, I've been honored to serve as the president of the Chicago Fed. I could never have imagined the economic shocks we have experienced during this time.

This latest event has truly been without modern precedent. As we gather today, more than 120,000 of our fellow Americans have died from COVID-19 and millions have fallen ill. On behalf of all of my colleagues at the Fed, I offer my deepest sympathies to all of those dealing with this disease.

It's also true that the city and state have found firmer ground in terms of reduced transmission rates and general disease levels. And as a result, we see a slow return to better economic activity. This is welcome progress, especially for the many millions of Americans who have lost their jobs since March, including hundreds of thousands in the Chicago metro area. It is difficult to overstate how painful this recession is, because so many Americans were told they weren't allowed to work, and now are saddled with fighting through an uncertain recovery.

And tragically, the most affected are our most vulnerable neighbors-- those who don't enjoy paid sick leave, work from home options, or much cushion in those savings accounts. The Federal Reserve has tried to match the size of our response to the severity of this crisis using all the powers we've been granted by Congress. An important goal has been to ensure that credit continues to flow so that our economy can get back to full employment as soon as the public health crisis allows.

The Fed has lowered short term interest rates to near zero and reduced regulatory burdens to encourage banks to work with their customers. In this way, people have the best chance of finding solutions to keep their houses and businesses. We've launched a slew of financial programs that are designed to keep credit and funding markets working well. And by working well, I mean efficiently delivering the credit that is needed in almost every facet of the American economy. Some of these liquidity programs include support for the Paycheck Protection Program, municipal funding markets, and our latest facility called the Main Street Lending Program. It's been designed to support bank lending to small and medium sized businesses.

This is a time for all policymakers to think big and be creative. And with the support of the US Treasury, our Federal Reserve credit programs have indeed aimed high. Still, our financial policy tools are unable to address many foundational elements of the systemic inequities that we have seen laid bare by this crisis. For too long, even when the economy was stronger, racism and other barriers were limiting opportunities for too many people. So as much as economic recovery and a return to a low unemployment rate would help everyone, returning to the strong economic fundamentals of 2019 doesn't seem to be enough to meet this generation's challenge.

Progress on systemic health and economic issues will take community, city, state, and national level conversations and policy changes. At the Chicago Fed, our commitment is to take an active part in helping move these conversations and policy changes forward by gathering people purposefully and inclusively throughout our district, and by investing in our own research and thought leadership. This is an important role we can play and it's why I wanted to have this forum today.

This is the first in a series of conversations that the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago will be hosting throughout our five state region. It is only appropriate we start in our own hometown. I'm looking forward to hearing our panelists discuss their visions for the future of Chicago, so let's get started. We have a who's who of Chicago leaders with us today. I'll briefly introduce them, but please visit our event page for their complete bios.

We have Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, someone who we here in Chicago had become accustomed to seeing on TV during the mayor's press conferences. Next, Dr. Helene Gayle, the president and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust and one of the nation's oldest and largest community foundations. The trust has worked tirelessly the past few months to help Chicagoans survive this crisis, and I'm honored to say that Helene is also a member of the Chicago Fed's board of directors.

Next, Jennifer Scanlon, the president and CEO of UL, and chair of the Commercial Club of Chicago, which brings together senior business government and civic leaders to build a better Chicago. And finally, Samir Mayekar, the deputy mayor of Chicago for neighborhood and economic development, who oversees a wide array of assistance programs and business development efforts for all our city neighborhoods.

I want to thank you all for joining us and I welcome your opening remarks before we jump into some questions. And we have some really great questions from the members of the audience shared with us in advance. So Allison, how about we start with you? The floor is yours.

ALLISON ARWADY: All right, thank you, Charles. Thank you and the Fed for having me. And I just want to start by really expressing gratitude for everyone who is part of this call. We've seen people here in Chicago from across sectors-- across government, business, philanthropic, economic-- all really pulling together here.

As the commissioner at the Chicago Department of Public Health I am used to thinking about public health outbreaks and crises. The fact that this one has been so large, that we've had twin public health crises and economic crises, has meant that a lot of the decisions that I've been part of have been especially difficult, because of course, the number one goal is protecting health and lives here in Chicago. But the only right along with it goal is recognizing that those decisions that are needed to protect the health and well-being of Chicagoans do have major economic impacts and economic impacts that have the potential to extend forward for many years. And so I really appreciate everyone who has lent expertise to the very difficult decisions we continue to make.

As you all know, we are at a much better place in Chicago and in Illinois than we had been previously. We've continued to use data, we've continued to have a very, very tight focus on even small local changes that we see. So if there's a zip code where we see even a slight increase in cases or a slight increase in percent positivity, we're working very fast to make sure that we're driving resources there that we're working with community leaders there and doing everything we can to not let any one part of Chicago start to have new problems again with COVID.

And a lot of that work has come with a particular focus on racial equity, and I appreciate you raising that right from the beginning. For those who aren't aware, the Chicago Department of Public Health already prior to it had a focus on what we call Chicago's racial life expectancy gap. So prior to COVID, all comers in Chicago, black Chicagoans live on average 8.8 years less long than other Chicagoans. And that is driven by a number of chronic diseases, violence, infant mortality, infectious diseases.

But really, it's driven by the things that underlie the different rates of death related to that. So we think about the risk behaviors. So for COVID, that would be things like are you able to isolate at home, are you able to keep your distance from others, do you have the capacity to be able to do your work without needing to come into contact with others? But then we also think about what underlies those risk behaviors. And that would be the living conditions, the economic and environmental, community safety systems of care.

And so for COVID, one of the reasons why we've seen such disparities in terms of both cases and especially Latinx Chicagoans, and then deaths especially in African-American Chicagoans, get to the fact that it's very hard to follow public health guidance if you're living in a multigenerational crowded household, where you can't have someone who potentially is sick stay in their own bedroom, use their own bathroom. Where you can't necessarily just be able to do your work from home. You're already doing a lot of work with you know keeping multiple jobs, just trying to keep things afloat.

And where we think about children in particular who have been out of school with this and the possibility that there's additional risk here for them to fall even further behind for people who are on the other side of the digital divide, for example, we think about what underlies those changes in living conditions. And of course, that gets into institutional inequities and then social inequities-- racism, discrimination.

And all of the ways in which here in Chicago, we have set up systems that lead people especially vulnerable. That's been true for a long time, but I think COVID has really brought that to light. And then that's been amplified by a lot of the recent racial justice and protest work. That does mean a different moment, I think-- I agree with you-- here in Chicago looking forward, where we really think about what does it mean to work on things like the racial life expectancy gap. What does it mean to invest in parts of the city that historically have not had as much reinvestment.

So when I think about what comes after COVID, it's about taking what we've seen from COVID, this conversation that has started, and using that work to think about long term in Chicago, how can we create healthier communities for all. For the sake of time, I won't go into some of the other pieces. We'll have time in the questions. But just for awareness, I think some other real strengths in Chicago have been our amazing health care sector-- really unusual communication. We've also had a lot of strengths from our tech sector, who have been very helpful in terms of thinking about new ways for us to look at data, bring together information, be creative about how we're sharing some of that, and thinking about, again, bridging that digital divide.

We're going to have a lot of opportunities moving forward just because of COVID to think about what does it mean to connect and what does it mean to be vulnerable. COVID is going to be here for some time. At the Chicago Department of Public Health, we are planning for at least two years with a primary focus on COVID, where we include the vaccine. And I hope all of us together will continue to take what has become really evident here in Chicago over these last four to five months and use it in our work to think about not just getting past COVID, but creating a both economically more healthy Chicago for the future. Thank you.

CHARLES EVANS: OK, terrific. Thank you, Allison. Next, Jenny Scanlon. Jenny?

JENNIFER SCANLON: Hello, Charlie, and everyone. Thank you so much for allowing me to be part of this group. And it's terrific to once again be with Allison and Samir and also, with Helene. One of the qualities that I really admire about the Fed is the power to convene groups like this. And as president and CEO of UL Inc, along with being chairman of the Commercial Club of Chicago, I am pleased to represent the business community, both on the mayor's recovery task force and as a co-chair of the policy and economic stimulus working group.

I think as Allison highlighted, even without these crises that we face this year, this task force would be relevant to help the mayor advance her strategic plans. And there are many elements of this crisis that we need to use as a catalyst to really think about the future of Chicago and its rightful place as a global city. We at the Commercial Club have highlighted a number of challenges that Chicago is facing and we are facing some big challenges. We were before this crisis.

But we also believe and I in particular believe that we've got a tremendous number of assets that can accelerate our recovery and accelerate our progression, again, to be a rightful global leader as one of the largest cities in the world. So I approach this recovery with a spirit of optimism. And I always look back to another time where we as a city took a historic moment and really built from it.

You know, Daniel Burnham, one of my favorite architects and, of course, developer of the Burnham plan, always told us to make no small Plans and he was certainly confronted with a number of challenges when he was overseeing the World's Fair. His partner had died suddenly, there was a financial panic that was looming, and there were tremendous financial and logistical obstacles to opening that Columbia Exposition on time. Now we know it was a huge success, and I will add it was hugely successful because it also launched Underwriters Laboratories as a company, but that vision is something that I think we can continue to build upon today.

So when I look at what we've got to build on there's some very important assets that Chicago is a city really has. And as we looked at the policy and economic stimulus, I think we wove a number of these assets into so many of the recommendations that will be published in the coming weeks. Our most important asset is Chicago's position as the transportation hub in the United States. We've got O'Hare as the huge asset that it is along with being an economic engine. You've got commerce. Cargo equals commerce, and the amount of cargo that comes through the airport even when you don't have passengers is tremendous. Additionally, we are the Nexus for class 1 railroads.

And so Charlie, I know you're on the commercial clubs transportation task force and you know the data of how important it is for us to remain the most connected city. But we can draw upon this-- build upon the modernization plans and draw upon it to really do a number of things that will advance economic stimulus in Chicago. Attract second headquarters to Chicago, be a hub for transportation distribution and logistics even more so than we are today, and continue to be that focal point.

Another key asset that Chicago has is our education. We've got the top tier research universities, and quite frankly, we've made tremendous progress in advancements in K through 12 that often get overlooked. And that combination gives us a very talented and very diverse workforce that is incredibly attractive to so many sectors-- advanced manufacturing, technology, as Allison mentioned, transportation, distribution, logistics, second headquarters. Tremendous asset to have the number of talented and educated workers that we have here in Chicago.

And then finally, my favorite thing is Lake Michigan. And it's not just the fact that it's beautiful to look at and provides us an endless source of fresh air and green space, but it does hold 20% of the world's available fresh water. And I travel the world in my job, I've been to over 40 countries, and I see firsthand what types of problems water shortages cause-- regions. And I also have observed how other countries really regard with a lot of admiration our abundance of freshwater, and it's a huge competitive advantage we as a city can build upon. So many different places that we can take this conversation, but I look forward to discussing them.

CHARLES EVANS: Thank you very much, Jenny. Helene Gayle is next.

HELENE GAYLE: Hi, and thanks so much, Charlie. And I must say, the Fed is one of the little understood institutions, but I think in this moment in this crisis, people are beginning to appreciate the role that the Fed can play and the role that it has played to really help us in this moment of economic crisis. So thanks so much for doing this. It's wonderful to be part of this panel with all of my colleagues here.

I'll try to be as brief as possible, because I know we want to get on to questions, but I would just start by saying as you mentioned, we're the Chicago Community Trust. We're Chicago's community foundation. We have been around for 105 years and. Our role really is to stand with the communities in being able to tackle its greatest challenges as a result of generous donors who contribute to the Chicago Community Foundation so that we are able to have that kind of impact.

And about a year ago, we rolled out a new strategy focused on closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap. And we did that because while there are a lot of issues, and Allison pointed out, for instance, the life expectancy gap, which is one of the largest in the nation. We know that we have problems with violence, lack of access to education, et cetera-- but underneath all of those is this wealth inequality.

And here in Chicago, due to longstanding racial and ethnic economic segregation, the wealth gap particularly is persistent between African-American, Latinx, and white community. And we know from all of the data that if we don't have an impact on increasing economic equity among our black and Latinx communities that make up 2/3 of our population, we aren't going to be able to move forward our region overall.

And I think when we looked at our strategy that focused on closing this wealth gap, the COVID pandemic only highlighted, as Allison, mentioned some of the very issues that we have been tackling with. And so when we recognize that this twin pandemic of public health crisis that's necessitated a shutting down of economies and therefore, an economic crisis, we recognized that there was going to be a huge impact on communities that had already been economically fragile and that the health as well as the economic impact on black and brown communities here was going to be great.

And so along with our partners at the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, we mounted two funds, one for the city of Chicago and then one for the state of Illinois. Both of those funds were able to raise 30 million plus dollars. And at the city level, we raised about $33 million, and have been able to give out $24 million thus far in grants across the city and in the metropolitan area, particularly focused on the economic impact. And so getting out food-- making sure that people had food and shelter, access to cash to pay their bills, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable communities particularly in the Latinx and African-American community, again, because of the health as well as the economic impact.

So we have been in response mode for the last three months. We continue to be able to provide funds within those communities, but we're now turning our attention to looking at the longer term recovery. And as Jenny mentioned, there's a lot of work going on with the mayor and the mayor's office, but we in the philanthropic and private sector are also looking at what can we contribute to be able to look at long term recovery.

If we look back at the great recession of 2008, we know that communities that were hardest hit particularly, black and Latinx communities, have still not really recovered to the full extent economically before that recession. We don't want that to happen now, so we're really making sure that there are ways in which we can both pull resources, but also look at practices and policy that will help a economic recovery in the communities both hard hit as we look at how we move forward.

We're working closely with the mayor's office and others around launching Together Now, which is actually launched-- I'm sure Samir will talk about that more-- first phase focusing primarily on a lot of the neighborhoods and businesses that were hit during the aftermath of the George Floyd murder. But then looking longer term at how can we develop a pulled funds through philanthropic and private sector dollars to be able to focus on the equitable recovery and the most economically impacted communities. I'm sure we'll have time to talk about that later, but just to say like all of the others, I look forward knowing the assets that we have here in the region we can be a model for the nation what does it take to actually come out of this crisis better and build back better and more equal than we were before. So thank you.

CHARLES EVANS: Thank you so much, Helene. OK, all right next is Samir. Samir, welcome.

SAMIR MAYEKAR: Thank you Charlie for having us on this panel. You know, I wanted to start actually by just really taking a moment to thank Dr. Arwady. So seven days a week, the mayor and I are on a phone call with Allison pretty early in the morning where she's updating us on the state of the city from a health perspective.

I'm going to tell you that we are so fortunate to have a dedicated public servant like Allison at the helm of the Chicago Department of Public Health. She's really helped us get to where we are today. And I think too often, we don't recognize some of the some of the civil servants who are in this city who are working day and night. So Allison, I think that the city is just tremendously thankful for you and your service and the service of your whole team who's been working pretty much night and day since February on this crisis.

So if we take a step back you know the situation we find ourselves in-- too often, the word unprecedented is used. Think about this-- we are currently facing a pandemic that is something that the country is faced once every 100 years. We are facing economic turmoil, the likes of which we haven't seen in probably over 75 years. And then we're seeing a ground swell in civil society like we haven't seen in probably 50 years. And so you take all those and you put them all together at a singular moment, and I think it internalizes the nature of the challenges that the mayor and the city and the country has faced, but also, those challenges bring opportunity.

Now what I'll say is that the confluence of those three factors have highlighted fundamental inequities that we need to tackle, and I think Helene and Jenny and Charlie and Allison have all highlighted those, and we also need to focus on inclusive growth. These have been priorities of Mayor Lightfoot since day one of her taking office. So this is nothing new.

When we came in office, the mayor immediately recognized first-- there was a report that came out that highlighted the flows of capital and the inequity in those flows of capital in our city. Primarily if you live in predominantly white neighborhoods or north side neighborhoods in Chicago, your neighborhoods see about 400 to 500% more private capital flows than the neighborhoods in the South and the West side. Allison has already covered the life expectancy gap, but we have some of the largest life expectancy gap between neighborhoods of any city. So we've known about these challenges. These are challenges that the mayor has really been focused on since day one.

So her vision for the city involves four key pillars. The first is increasing investment on the South and West side. She's talked so often about making sure that we deal in the neighborhoods South of Roosevelt Road and west of Ashland. Secondly, she has an ambition to make Chicago the safest large city in America. Now we have a ways to go, but she is an expert on issues of police reform, and is really taking tremendous steps forward. And you're going to hear more from our team on that in the weeks that come.

The third is stabilizing the city's finances. This is something that the Fed knows all too well. But prior to this crisis, we had a plan really to balance the budget. Now that's been complicated, as you can imagine, by the events of COVID-19, but we are deeply committed to structural financial reform. And we are taking measured steps towards that. And again, you'll hear more from us on some of those structural steps that we'll be taking as you see the budget come out later this year.

The final vision for Chicago is that Chicago can be synonymous with good government. The mayor really came in on a wave of reforming the system, and she's taking tremendous efforts to curb the challenges posed by all dramatic prerogative, increased levels of transparency, and make sure that Chicago government doesn't serve as a friction to businesses, but really serves as an enabler of the business community. So those are already steps that were in the pipeline and really have just been reinforced by the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the other crises that we face.

Now the mayor is also convened, as Jenny mentioned, when the nation's first COVID-19 recovery task forces. And at the end of next week, we will actually launch the task force report and the findings, some of which Jenny had alluded to and I'll allude to a little bit more here. But we are the only city in the country right now charting that vision to put forward a list of bold recommendations. I want to thank Helene and her team for being involved with that, and Jenny as well, for really rolling up her sleeves and helping us with that effort. The business community has been tremendous with our recovery task force.

So that work is going to highlight several things. And I'll just provide an appetizer course here, but first, we need to address the trauma, both new and old in our city. And you'll see a number of recommendations there and items that we've already funded to get moving thanks to funding we've received from the CARES Act. The second is how do we expand economic opportunity for more Chicagoans. How do we really promote black and brown small business especially to make this a thriving environment for them to grow and pilot new types of social safety net mechanisms.

Additionally, as Jenny mentioned, how do we double down in our regional strengths on the transportation, distribution, logistics, infrastructure, the health care sector, food and agriculture? These are all sectors poised to grow despite the challenges from COVID-19. Additionally, how can we capture some of those opportunities position by COVID-19. So building on our strengths in manufacturing historically. How do we prepare the region to capture more corporate growth, especially as corporations think about their footprint a little bit differently.

And then finally, how do we reignite economic activity by really sharing our stories? So this involves efforts like launching a master brand for Chicago, and really reimagining what regional tourism can look like. As we saw a recovery in Asia, regional tourism really picked up quite a bit, and we can position Chicago very well, given how close we are to so many tourists that can drive to our city.

So you'll expect to hear from some of the co-chairs next week on the full details of the recovery task force, but what's really going to fund all this work and to solve the gaps in investment that we've seen in Chicago is going to be efforts like the Together Now fund that Helene mentioned. Not only in the near-term in terms of helping businesses rebuild-- we received over 4,000 applications earlier this week to help businesses rebuild after events of civil unrest and also the lasting impacts of COVID-19-- but longer term, we have a vision for what would a billion dollar fund look like.

And could we get to a billion dollar fund. And that doesn't involve actual donations itself. It involves corporate commitments. And I think later on in our Q&A, I want to focus on how companies in Chicago can step up and make different pledges on procurement and investment policy that can help address these structural inequalities. So with that, I look forward to your questions and I'll turn it back to you, Charlie.

CHARLES EVANS: Thank you very much, Samir. Those are very important comments. Helene, Jenny, and Allison were off to a terrific start. And let me pick up on one of the things that Samir indicated in terms of financing. Obviously, the COVID-19 hit the United States and the world-- nobody could possibly have been prepared for this and the measures needed to ensure our safety. As Allison said, obviously, had a negative effect on the economy and business enterprise in general.

I think it's incredibly important that fiscal policy strongly consider supporting state and local governments-- all 50 states, all communities. These are things that everybody needs help for, because there's an awful lot of jobs, a lot of business enterprise that comes out of these activities. And if we went through a period of austerity that was needless, that would be very difficult.

Let me build off-- so many of the comments here-- and the first question I want to have Jenny Scanlon start us off on this, but it basically involves the question of trust. And at the Fed, we've been looking at a lot of mobility data to try to get an idea of how the economy is going to come back, how it's going to come back in the Chicagoland area and everywhere. And we've obviously seen reduced mobility. And I saw some comments about a paper by University of Chicago Booth economist, Austan Goolsbee, and Chad Syverson, and that indicated really, it was trust in the public's concern about their safety more so than explicit lockdowns that sort of led to the first reductions in economic activity.

And so it seems as if trust on the part of consumers, businesses, that everything can proceed safely. Everybody's doing as much as they can to ensure that is going to be important. And then just to build on the earlier comments about Chicago and challenges that we face, racial challenges, maybe we can add in how do we address racial barriers to trust that get in the way of inclusive growth. So Jenny, why don't you start us off one on tackling that one?

JENNIFER SCANLON: I'm happy to start with that one [INAUDIBLE] safety science leader. We at UL have a tagline of empowering trust. And so there's a lot of elements to how you rebuild trust in a population. And not just a city, but clearly, around the world. And I think as a business, first and foremost, we have to address the fear that our employees have.

We're an essential business. We stayed open throughout the COVID crisis. And we had to make sure that our employees felt safe coming to work. That it was clean, that it was sanitized, that we were wearing masks, that we were respecting physical distancing as appropriate. And that when we had any type of incident, that we were manually contact tracing through to inform other employees of the risks that they faced.

And I think that it's really important as businesses are reopening, UL published a start safe playbook. And it's out on our website, I published it out on LinkedIn. But we realize that it's part of our service to our customers and our broader communities to help smaller companies work through a lot of these elements of what you need to do in the workplace to allow your employees and your customers to feel like they can trust you as a safe place for interaction.

I think going on to the broader areas that you've talked about Charlie, and we can turn this over to some other of the panelists, but you know there does need to be trust connected with the mayor's vision around being the safest large city. And psychological safety for all of our employees and our customers and our community, our citizens, to feel like that they have the ability not only to be free from violence, but to be free from any discrimination, any racism, any inappropriate feeling of lack of safety.

So I think that in thinking about the mayor's vision of the safest large city, in addition to addressing the violence and the other challenges, there is the psychological safety that we need to also have part of Chicago's brand. That we are open and welcoming and a place for all.

CHARLES EVANS: OK, great. Allison, you must have some thoughts about trust and all the efforts that we're making.

ALLISON ARWADY: Yeah, I certainly do. I think one of the most important things and I think one of the reasons that we're doing as well at the moment is we are in Chicago, is we've managed to keep the very basic things that help keep the risk for COVID down out of the realm of politics, by and large. So it is just remarkable to me that across this country, basic decisions like whether someone wears a face covering or whether someone takes care to keep distance where that's possible has become a referendum on politics in some way as opposed to all of us together against the virus.

And where I think about that building trust, some of that, I think, frankly, also has to do with do we trust in the science, do we trust in the public health work, and relative expertise in terms of fighting some of these outbreaks. And again, I think here, I'm very appreciative of the mayor, the governor, that our decisions here have absolutely been guided by the science and by the recommendations, but that has really not been true in many other places across the country that, for example, went ahead with reopening before having met even the basic federal recommendations.

And so I think that locally here, helping people understand that these things that businesses can and should do will help all of us be as safe as we can be. These really basic decisions that we make are about protecting others fundamentally, right? When I wear my mask, I am protecting my neighbor. When my neighbor wears my mask, they are protecting me. And if we can help people sort of keep that narrative, my hope is that there will be social pressure on businesses that may be less inclined to be doing all of the things that help keep us safe, and that customers will, for example, not choose to patronize businesses that are not taking this seriously.

I think just briefly on the racial barriers, there is major parts here. Just as an example, again, I think where there is mistrust of government broadly, which is a problem everywhere, and I think has been exacerbated in some ways by this crisis, and some of what we've seen particularly maybe at the federal level, is that we've had very acute situations here that I think have made it difficult for people to trust.

When there were federally funded testing sites that were stood up in Chicago that required people to provide their citizenship information and get tested for COVID, and we said, absolutely not, right? We are not going to tolerate testing for COVID sites that are asking those kinds of questions that have no impact on the actual outcome of the disease. But I think where we see some of that-- I've got folks at the health department who are polling people who have been diagnosed with COVID, and it's their job to have the conversation about where have you been, who have you been in touch with, so we can do our work.

And we find a lot of people you know unwilling to engage-- very worried about sharing contacts, worried about where that information is going to go-- will it leave Chicago, will it track along with them in some way. And it won't, but even in the very direct response to this, I think a lack of trust, particularly of government, has been made worse in some ways by this outbreak. And we need some of that trust to actually be able to respond appropriately.

So here, for example, we've decided we're doing something really different from virtually every other city. We are pushing a lot of our contact tracing work out into neighborhoods. We'll be working through the Chicago Workforce Partnership with 30 community-based organizations, specifically from the areas in Chicago that have high economic hardship. That's where the contact traces will be hired from, and the goal there is that it will be folks from within community who can be doing some of that contact tracing, educational work, building capacity within communities, building economic opportunity, building long term jobs. But also, hopefully, helping us overcome some of that just natural I think mistrust that is there. So it's a huge thing to work on, but something that I think we all sort of need to be a part of in terms of promoting what we know works.

CHARLES EVANS: Thank you. I don't want to move away from this question so much, but let me just expand it and add in some questions about-- obviously, we've already touched on the fact that Chicago has a number of strengths and weaknesses, as has been mentioned. We're a transportation hub-- O'Hare, crossroads for the Midwest. Also, urban density up until the COVID crisis, I think a lot of people were moving to the view that living in a big city was very attractive. Corporations had moved from the suburbs to downtown to take advantage of the amenities and the workforce, but of course, everybody has to feel safe.

And I just wonder how Chicago is uniquely positioned here. Strengths that we always felt were advantages for the future, how do we make sure that we continue to take advantage of that? Samir, why don't you start us off with that angle?

SAMIR MAYEKAR: Yes, I think there's been this narrative nationally saying, what is the future of a big urban dense city? And when you think about the strength of Chicago, the reason I think the past seven years we've been number one in terms of corporate expansion and relocation-- it's due to the many assets we have, whether it's the workforce infrastructure we have, but also, the cost of living. Jenny obviously highlighted the importance of the transit infrastructure. But our cost of living compared with some of our coastal peers can be 50% of what you would find in a San Francisco or in New York.

And only in Chicago right now can you build in the South and the West side and still have land for development. If you look at some of the large developments from Lincoln Yards on the north side of the city to the 78 on the near South side to the potential Michael Rees development South of McCormick place, only in Chicago where you have this potential for large scale new development to happen in a way that is informed by the pandemic, but also, in a way that can allow companies to kind of reimagine what's possible for their workforce.

And so I think our team and especially our planning commissioner is really optimistic about those long term trends because we have that asset of land availability that most of our large city peers do not have. So that's going to factor into some work we're going to be doing in terms of urban planning. And we expect to be doing a city wide plan. And really, Chicago hasn't had one since the 1960s. And before that, it was the Burnham plan that Jenny alluded to. So the land availability and the possibility for development in an informed way is a unique strength of Chicago, and is going to help us come out of this crisis much stronger.

CHARLES EVANS: Helene, Would you like to add any comments there about the development and in the various areas?

HELENE GAYLE: Sure. And maybe just for a, minute I want to just circle back to the issue of trust. And I would say as you started the question, it is clearly a moment where building trust is going to be important. And I think that along with the other comments that people made, the biggest thing that builds trust is keeping promises. And I think at this moment, being where we have, I think, a real window of opportunity for a civic reset, if you will, at a moment when we know that we have real challenges to face.

So I think being able to deliver on promises around economic development, around access to living wage job, access to high quality education, access to health services, police reform-- some of the things that I know of our government our city government, state government, as well as the private sector, is really thinking about it. So I think how we come out of this and what promises we are going to be critical for addressing the issue of trust, particularly for communities where there has been such a decades long of disinvestment and broken promises. I think we have a real opportunity here.

On the issue of density and urban vitality, one of the things that we sometimes confuse is density with overcrowded. And in fact, the most dense neighborhoods in Chicago like Lakeview and Lincoln Park, et cetera, were actually the ones who have had some of the lowest COVID rates in the city. And it's some of the other neighborhoods where there is underinvestment and overcrowding in homes and neighborhoods where we've actually seen the higher rates.

So I just think adding to Samir's comment that we have such an opportunity here to look at how we develop and how we develop vibrant neighborhoods, including around transit systems, which allow people to have greater access to economic opportunities. But also, allows people to have safe walking areas that are important, really, for creating that kind of vibrancy. So I think there should not be a in terms of continuing to build dynamic metropolitan inner city areas, but we do need to deal with the issue of overcrowding that goes with economic inequity and underinvestment.

CHARLES EVANS: I agree those are important issues. And you touched on overinvestment in some parts of the city. Let me try to craft a couple of themes related to that perhaps. One is every time I think about economic development in the city and you think about this South side and the West side and what are the types of programs that could give rise to a stronger development, one question we received-- audience members have also mentioned this-- how can we better support growth in neighborhoods on the South and West sides, and how can businesses on the South and West sides tap into the commerce of the city's big corporations?

I'm going to let Jenny take that question, and then maybe if we can also weave into that-- people who live in those neighborhoods-- obviously, a lot of young people-- and how can we make sure that the young and vulnerable are protected? And the schools, large high schools-- that was another audience question-- how can we make sure that they're safe and leverage their strengths there? Jenny, why don't you get us started on these.

JENNIFER SCANLON: I'm happy to take the first part of that, because it's certainly something that we in the commercial club spend a lot of time talking about-- is the development and investment in the South and West sides in addition to the Central Business District. And I think an important element coming out of this is going to be a big push around by Chicago and by Illinois. And by that, I mean all of us leading large corporations are always looking to diversify our supply chain.

Now certainly, one thing that this crisis has taught every company is that single source of any element of your supply chain is risk. And a business leader's job is to minimize risk. So there is a double bonus in doing this. And we at the commercial club are thinking about what are the best ways that we can help companies understand what is the breadth of available sources for various materials needed in your supply chain, services or goods? And where are those located in the city? Or additionally, where should investments be made.

CHARLES EVANS: Did we lose Jenny?

SPEAKER: I'm still hearing that.

CHARLES EVANS: OK, I'm not. [INAUDIBLE], can you hear her? Can you hear?

SPEAKER: I can hear her. But I'm hearing it through the live stream.

CHARLES EVANS: I see. I can't hear it through the big shoulders. Helene can't hear, either. OK, Allison is indicating that, too. Why don't we sort of expand this. I guess the point that I was trying to get to on the high schools and younger people is obviously, we'd love to see businesses be able to leverage the West and the South sides and tap into businesses there and the corporate side. But the current economic downturn and pandemic is obviously going to cause disruptions everywhere. And how is it that we can avoid leaving a lasting mark on future prospects for everyone, but perhaps with a special emphasis on young Chicagoans? Helene, Allison, Samir?

HELENE GAYLE: Yeah, I would just start by saying I think we have to be pretty deliberate about it, because if we don't attend to the younger generation who are the future of the city, we really are not going to have the kind of economic growth and vibrancy that we can. So I think there are a lot of opportunities for workforce training programs that help young people.

One of the things that I think was most helpful and hopeful during this crisis was the fact that young people who had been disconnected from broadband access because of the schooling from home, there was a big effort mounted to make sure that young people were able to get laptops and tablets, but also to be able to get broadband access so they could do their schooling. And I think this whole issue of the digital divide has been a huge issue, but we're finally tackling it.

And I think continuing to put in place programs like that that help to make sure that our young people don't get left behind, and that we're looking at expanding opportunities for well-paying jobs the future, is a very hopeful program that the CPS and the city colleges are putting together called the Roadmap, that for the first time it's really doing a very intentional linking of CPS students with the city colleges system so that they actually are going to be able to have a path for getting an education. And note, even a two year education has a huge impact on future health as well as future employment.

And so I think there are a lot of initiatives like that are intentionally thinking about how do we make sure we don't leave young people behind during this crisis and making sure they have access to educational services, making sure that they continue to have a pathway to complete school, completing at least a two year, if not more, education. And then making sure that there are programs, internships, and fellowships that allow people to actually have practical experience, job experience so that they can get hired afterwards. So yeah, I see a lot of hopeful programs, but we have to be intentional about it so we don't have these huge gaps in the future.

CHARLES EVANS: Thank you. Samir, you want to add on to anything there?

SAMIR MAYEKAR: Yeah, so I think I'm on the topic of South and West side investment, obviously, this is something that we have been considering deeply since the early days of the Lightfoot administration. And that's one of the reasons why last fall, the mayor launched a program called Invest Southwest. And really, it was designed on tackling that investment gap that I spoke of earlier between different parts of the city.

So Invest Southwest is going to mobilize over $750 million of government capital over the next three years to invest in 10 neighborhood areas on the South and West side. And to do so in a comprehensive way that's investing in community plans so that the private sector especially can come in and double down on those commitments. So just on Monday this week, actually, the mayor and I were out in Auburn Gresham announcing that we used 11 million of CARES Act funding to fund two community health centers in Auburn Gresham and one in Lawndale.

And actually, those developments have a health aspect, but there's a lot of retail and office space and other private development that's multiplying that $11 million into well over $30 million as a multiplier. So to us, the South and West side investment challenge is one where we need to get the public sector investment to provide that confidence to the private sector to multiply it.

And I think you had asked, Charlie, what can the corporate sector do? In addition to partnering with us on Invest Southwest, I'm going to give you four ideas. The first is to change corporate investment practices. So just yesterday, Netflix announced it was investing 2% of its assets into community financial institutions. This is something we partnered with Starbucks on doing last year. So if you instead of investing in a hedge fund or an alternative asset, take a small percentage of your assets and invest them in CDFIs, that can have a huge multiplier in tackling this gap with access to capital for communities of color. And it really doesn't cost you anything.

Secondly, hiring and representation. I don't think that can be said enough, but you need to be able to see it to believe that it's possible. And we don't have enough diversity in boardrooms and boards and even in upper management of most companies. The tech sector today in Chicago is the fastest growing sector of the Chicago economy, and it is about 15% underrepresented minority one that represents well over 50% of our population.

Third would be on diversifying your operations. This is something Jenny and I have been talking quite a bit about. Companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield are actually moving their back office functions into South and West side neighborhoods so the extent to which more companies can onshore and diversify their footprint to create jobs in neighborhoods. That's fantastic.

And the final, which could be the most powerful to get to that potential billion of new commitments to our communities of color, would be on the procurement standpoint. So if you start catering your corporate events differently, think about your larger holiday events differently, if you start looking at professional services differently on accountancies-- in fact, I just saw a deal that got done with the BlackLine investment bank-- those are the types of things that will move the needle well beyond just philanthropy. And I think it's going to take a combination of philanthropy and corporate commitments to really drive transformative change.

CHARLES EVANS: Thank you. It's so predictable-- we're running out of time. And so let me try to put a couple of questions together and give everybody a final opportunity to make some comments in the last five minutes that we have. Because one question, and we've already hit on it through so many of these comments-- Samir just did sort of like-- one thing I wish I could have asked with more time is what are some of the lasting lessons we've learned from the pandemic and how public, private, and nonprofit organizations can work together to foster the longer term health and strength of the city and the economic health? I think Chicago has a good reputation for everybody working together. That's really one of the strengths I've learned in the time that I've been here in Chicago.

But I want to add in and end with a question from our audience, which has been so valuable, to us and ask each of you, what are the ways that Chicagoans can get involved in and support the work that you're doing so that we can really move the needle and continue to grow inclusively? So why don't we start with you, Helene? And then Samir can go next, followed by Jenny, and then we'll give Allison the final word. So Helene, please.

HELENE GAYLE: Yeah, first of all, I don't think there is any one way. And I think being as knowledgeable as possible about the different kinds of organizations that are doing great work is one way to start. I also think that everybody in this moment educating themselves about where the real gaps are, where the real needs are so that wherever you are, and whatever organization you're part of, you can be contributing to the solution.

In a tangible way, as Samir and I have talked about, we are going to be raising resources that can be invested in this recovery. And so we would love to have people be a part of-- and that's individuals, companies, philanthropy will play its part-- will actually helping to raise dollars through this Together Now on to contribute to rebuilding and rebuilding equitably, along with Samir said, the even more important that will come from how businesses and other organizations change their practices. So that we can actually look at equitable growth, inclusive growth in this region, and be a model. So I hope everyone will join in as we think about what does it mean to recover better, build back better, but particularly build back in an equitable fashion with inclusive growth.

CHARLES EVANS: Thank you. Samir?

SAMIR MAYEKAR: So I would encourage folks to go to a neighborhood that they've never been to and engage in commerce in that neighborhood. This is something we saw on Juneteenth, when there were dine around all throughout the South and West side focused on Black-owned businesses. And those businesses saw 40, 50, 60% increases than even their high projections. And so if we can really unite the city and get folks to go to neighborhoods that they've never been to, that is one way tangibly that you can start to make a difference.

CHARLES EVANS: That's a great suggestion. Jenny?

JENNIFER SCANLON: I'm going to make two very simple, easy suggestions for everyone. One, please fill out the census if you haven't done so. It is online, it is less than 10 minutes. We in the region need our fair share of the funding that results from us being counted correctly.

And two, exercise your right to vote. As citizens of this great country, it doesn't matter what decision you make in the voting booth. It's very important that your opinion is in there represented in the voting booth. So please get out and do both of those things.

CHARLES EVANS: You're exactly right. The census is very quick for anybody who will do it. Allison.

ALLISON ARWADY: I think I would just encourage everybody to think about including people from Chicago who have not historically been part of your decision-making or your deliberative processes. I think that where we have a long way to go, although we are good at sort of working together as organizations, is about pulling people into the conversation in Chicago who have felt isolated from those organizations for a long time.

And so whether that means thinking about what your employment practices look like, what your community-- true community engagement can look like. Or back on that point of youth, what can you do to really support young people here in Chicago, whether that's in mentorship ways for younger children whether that's an internship or job or support opportunities at the health department. Medicine is about treating sick individuals. Public health fundamentally is about trying to prevent disease and create strong and healthy communities for all. And I hope that out of this pandemic, we really take the opportunity to look at our own internal practices and think about opening those up further.

And then just the last thing I would say is that we need everybody to continue to wear face coverings and keep your six foot distance and protect vulnerable folk. Because doing that is what is going to be the main difference between whether we continue to have the success that we've seen here in Chicago and as a region. Thanks.

CHARLES EVANS: Thank you. Those are great messages. Participate, venture out, respond the way that we were taught in civics class, hopefully. Listen to more people. Wear your face coverings, be safe. Thanks so much. This has been a terrific conversation. Jenny, Helene, Samir, and Allison, on behalf of myself and my colleagues at the Chicago Fed, I want to thank you so much for taking your time sharing your viewpoints. So insightful.

At the Chicago Fed, we're committed to actively working to bring the vision you laid out of a thriving and more equitable Chicago to fruition. We're going to do this by gathering people purposefully and inclusively throughout our district and by investing in our own research and thought leadership. And then your comments are just a great beginning for us. So thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

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