I recently traveled to Washington DC with a group of prominent Chicago business owners and executives to participate in a series of meetings with members of the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the White House Administration. The delegation was set up as a collaborative effort for Chicago’s business leaders to voice their thoughts and share ideas amongst each other, and with top decision makers in our nation’s capital.
The day started with a coffee reception at the U.S. Capitol with U.S. Senator Richard Durbin and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk’s senior staff. Among topics discussed with Senator Richard Durbin were Health Care Reform, China’s influence on the U.S. Economy, SOPA and PIPA legislation, and other important businesses-related issues in the U.S. I must say that many in the room were pleasantly surprised by the Senator’s concrete positions on controversial issues that he openly shared and opened for debate.
Unfortunately, Senator Mark Kirk was not able to participate due to health reasons, so Deputy Legislative Director Andria Winters expressed the Senator’s position on many of the same issues, and took questions from the delegation on his behalf. The meeting at the U.S. Capitol was followed by meetings at the Cannon Office Building with the U.S. Rep. Robert Dold and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky. U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (Louisiana) who is the Chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee lead a fantastic discussion on tax policy.
The White House welcomed the Chicago Delegation with a discussion session and panel consisting of government officials from the President’s Obama administration and other government agencies, including Ari Matusiak, Executive Director, White House Business Council; Jonathan Greenblatt, Director, Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation; Greg Nelson, Deputy Director, Office of Public Engagement; Stephen Leeds, Senior Counselor to the Administrator, General Services Administration; Ann Kalayil, Regional Administrator for the Great Lakes Region, General Services Administration; Jerry Flavin, Assistant Administrator for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Small Business Administration; and Jiyoung Park, Associate Administrator, Office of Small Business Utilization, General Services Administration.
The discussions focused on innovation and social stewardship/responsibility in business, business growth/opportunities, followed by a fascinating conversation on Health Care Reform with Sol Ross, Director of Business Outreach, Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services.
Despite the very packed agenda and a rainy DC weather, the delegation managed to cover most of the capital for meetings with many senior Congressional and Administration officials. At the end of the day, everyone’s voice was heard and every opinion was expressed. Special thanks to Shalom Klein and JB2BN for organizing this amazing event.