NATO summit provides opportunity for local economic growth - Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

NATO summit provides opportunity for local economic growth

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Gov. Quinn and Mayor Emanuel have been hobnobbing with world leaders this weekend. But it's behind the scenes where the most important local work of this international meeting is underway.

They've both promised to use the NATO summit to help generate jobs and economic development.

Some local retailers and others are taking a financial hit this weekend. Disruptions related to the NATO summit caused some to close. Some who remained open report disappointing sales, including a restaurateur who joined FOX Chicago Sunday.

"I've noticed definitely a little decline in business," Lock Down Bar & Grill's Jason Slimack said. "But we do have a local following around the neighborhood."

But Slimack said he thinks the loss will be worth it in the long run, because the NATO summit is good for Chicago.

Such optimism won't be rewarded immediately. But luring Europe's top leaders here makes eminent economic sense.

The state's counted 723 companies based in Europe doing business in Illinois at 3,476 separate locations with 183,137 employees in Illinois.

At least 500,000 Illinois jobs depend directly on international trade, and it's growing fast, jumping some 17 percent in just the first three months of 2012.

Two of the area's top economic development officials said that for them, the weekend's most important work is being done at parties and receptions.

"We're going to be out meeting with business leaders, business people that are visiting here," Illinois State Director of Trade Adam Pollett said. "There are lots of private sector folks that are representing their countries. We're making sure they know this is a world-class place to do business."

"The mayor's doing the same thing, a whole series of meetings," World Business Chicago's Rita Athas said. "There's lots of card exchanges going on at all the receptions we're going to. We're getting the names of those business people."

They said they hope to schedule follow-up meetings as soon as possible.

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