Update: VIDEO: Team Ford Heads to Chicago on Business Mission
Mayor Rob Ford will lead a two-day business mission to Chicago from Tuesday, September 18 through Wednesday, September 19.
According to the city's press release, the mayor's goal for the mission is to renew a partnership agreement between the two cities and to identify opportunities to grow investment, enhance the business climate and stimulate greater job growth.
"We are taking an all-star team from Toronto's business community with us to Chicago," said Mayor Ford. "Their talents, experience and insight will help us to maximize the opportunities and relationships we will be creating and building upon this week."
Ford took off for the Windy City from Billy Bishop Airport early Tuesday afternoon and was optimistic about the trip.
"I'm really, really excited," he said after stepping out of his black Cadillac Escalade.
"We're sharing synergies with each other," said Ford. "We're going to see their waterfront, we're going to meet a lot of their movers and shakers."
The two cities have an almost identical population and are the two largest cities on the Great Lakes. In press materials distributed for the mission, Toronto and Chicago are described as "near mirror images of each other."
The mayor hopes that pitching Toronto as a "clean, safe, and friendly" city, business leaders can develop relationships to create growth.
"It's jobs. Our leaders meeting their leaders. It's going to be fantastic and it's not costing taxpayers a dime," said Ford.
All those on the trip are paying their own way and the Mayor's Office says it'll cost taxpayers next to nothing.
Although it'll be serious business for those heading to the Windy City, the Mayor admitted he might be able to find the time for a Chicago deep dish pizza.
"Oh yeah, I haven't missed too many. We'll have some fun for sure."
The two Co-Chairs of this Team Toronto initiative are George Cohon, Founder of McDonald's Restaurants of Canada, and Robert Deluce, President and CEO of Porter Airlines.
"The mission is important to solidify growing relationships and inspire new opportunities. I'm proud and excited to be a part of it," said Cohon.
"I'm very pleased with the response from the business community to this mission. This is a real opportunity to build relationships that will ultimately benefit both cities," said Deluce.
City officials joining Mayor Ford as part of the official delegation include:
Councillor Paul Ainslie
Councillor Michelle Berardinetti
Executive Committee Member Councillor Mike Del Grande
Chair, Budget Committee Councillor Doug Ford
Councillor Mark Grimes
Councillor Peter Milczyn
Councillor Jaye Robinson
Executive Committee Member, Councillor Michael Thompson
Economic Development and Culture, Michael Williams,
George Spezza, Director, Business Services, Economic Development and Culture
To date, there are 62 business delegates registered to attend, including former Ontario Premiers Ernie Eves and Mike Harris. Also attending is the Honourable Michael H. Wilson, former federal Cabinet Minister and Canadian Ambassador to the United States. Other delegates include Renato Discenza, President and CEO of Invest Toronto; Janet Ecker, President and CEO of the Toronto Financial Services Alliance; and Carol Wilding, President and CEO of the Toronto Board of Trade. A complete list is appended to this release.
Most delegates will fly to Chicago on Tuesday afternoon. The two-day itinerary includes a Welcome Networking Reception Dinner on Tuesday evening at the Chicago Cultural Center. A full-day schedule of networking on Wednesday includes an official partnership agreement signing ceremony with Mayor Ford and Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Return flights are booked for Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.
All delegates have been given a Team Toronto Business Mission to Chicago booklet to assist in representing Toronto and the mission for those they meet in Chicago. A copy of the booklet is available here.
(City of Toronto)
(With files from Russ Courtney)