Leaders Converge in Chicago to Help Frame the Midwest's Response to Globalization

Fri Oct 3, 2008 10:56am EDT

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Leaders Converge in Chicago to Help Frame the Midwest's Response to

Embargoed Until: October 6, 2008

A new effort kicks off to design strategies for an economically competitive
and socially healthy Midwest that is being rapidly transformed by the forces
of globalization

An emerging partnership of Midwestern government, research universities,
businesses, and nonprofits has come together to form a Global Midwest
Initiative (GMI) -- a multiyear effort designed to examine how to best
position the Midwest for success in the era of globalization. 

200 business, civic, and government leaders from across the Midwest, will
attend the inaugural Globalization and the Midwest conference on Monday,
October 6, 2008 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago to launch the Initiative. The
Initiative is spearheaded by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

According to new research produced for the launch of this initiative by World
Business Chicago, the 12-state Midwest -- ranging from Ohio to Kansas and from
Missouri to North Dakota -- has an annual gross regional product of $2.8
trillion. If the Midwest were a nation, its GNP would rank fifth in the world
-- behind the United States, Japan, Germany, and China, and ahead of Great
Britain and France.  Its productivity (its gross product per capita), would
rank 14th in the world, ahead of Germany.

Despite these robust numbers, "Midwesterners are concerned about globalization
and what it means for their future," says Marshall M. Bouton, president of The
Chicago Council on Global Affairs.  "The goal of this initiative is to take
seriously these concerns, and develop a path forward on which Midwesterners
can remain committed to global engagement. If we lose support for
globalization in the Midwest, we will lose it nationally. Our nation cannot
afford this. The Chicago Council is delighted to join with distinguished
strategic partners to engage in a hard-headed conversation about globalization
and the Midwest."

The GMI is a strategic partnership among renowned regional and national
organizations such as the Big Ten universities' Committee on Institutional
Cooperation, the Farm Foundation, CEO's for Cities, the Millennium Project at
the University of Michigan, the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human
Rights, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. The Initiative counts
on support from affiliate partners across the region including economic
development associations, city foundations, world affairs councils, emerging
industry centers, and civic organizations.

The 2008 Globalization and the Midwest conference will feature keynote
speeches by Thomas Dorr, under secretary for rural development at the U.S.
Department of Agriculture; John Engler, president and CEO of the National
Association of Manufacturers and former governor of Michigan; and Thomas
Vilsack, former governor of Iowa. Panels throughout the day will examine the
Midwest in the global economy, industries of the future, the impact of
immigration, and the importance of thinking regionally. The conference is
sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Cleveland Foundation,
Navistar, and Barnes & Thornburg.

"Globalization presents a unique challenge for business and workers alike.
However, part of the culture in the Midwest is accepting big challenges. No
one state, business, or worker can do the job alone, but by working together
we can make the most of the opportunity," said Thomas Vilsack, former governor
of Iowa.

The Initiative builds on the book Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in
the Age of Globalism, authored by Chicago Council senior fellow and former
Chicago Tribune senior foreign correspondent, Richard C. Longworth. In it, he
calls for regional rather than state-based action.  Longworth spent a year
interviewing local executives, government officials, and civic leaders to
identify the dramatic changes in the Midwestern way of life caused by forces
beyond the region's control. He discovered a crisis of confidence in the
region's capability to thrive in the global era.

"I've been driving around the great heartland swath that defines the Midwest
and have found towns, cities, and states grappling on their own with the
pressures of globalization, unaware that it's a regional crisis with regional
solutions," said Longworth. "What the Midwest needs is a regional organization
bringing together officials, universities, and businesses to generate real
thinking -- and solutions -- across state lines."

In addition to the annual conference, the Global Midwest Initiative will
publish a monograph series -- the Heartland Papers -- that will delve deeply
into the challenges and opportunities of globalization and will be presented
to local policymakers and leaders at seminars and conferences across the
Midwest. A Global Midwest Web site also will provide a forum for sharing
knowledge, making connections, and facilitating the growth of a virtual
Midwest online community. The Initiative will tackle a variety of issues such
as infrastructure, transportation and high speed rail, emerging industries,
rural Internet access, energy, education, and immigration.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, founded in 1922 as The Chicago Council
on Foreign Relations, is a leading independent, nonpartisan organization
committed to influencing the discourse on global issues through contributions
to opinion and policy formation, leadership dialogue, and public learning.

CONTACT:  Emily Blum, Valerie Denney Communications, +1-312-408-2580 ext. 13,
for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs

/PRNewswire-USNewswire -- Oct. 3/

SOURCE  Chicago Council on Global Affairs
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