Finding New Business Opportunities Across Illinois

Posted by: Ernie Watts, Global Chamber Chicago on Sunday, March 10, 2019

Global Chamber® Chicago co-hosted a first ever event in downstate Illinois in collaboration with member ZG Worldwide. The event brought together business and community leaders from across Illinois to discuss the latest trends and opportunities for Illinois exporters.

Historic Springfield, IL was the backdrop for a lively discussion in the immediate wake of the high profile mid-term elections nationwide. The State of Illinois faces serious challenges, yet it was quite clear that there is a deep pool of resources, talent and passion for global growth that extends well beyond metro Chicago.

Leading off the discussion, we were honored to have Springfield, Illinois Mayor Jim Langfelder share the new developments going on in the local community within the medical and academic institutions that are banding together to attract foreign investment and provide services that benefit both local residents and global visitors. Of particular note were his comments highlighting Abraham Lincoln as truly a global brand that draws visitors and investors to central Illinois and can open doors for Illinois exporters worldwide.

Quick snapshot – picture the Chinese student contest winners that come to Springfield every year to recite the Gettysburg address in English at the Old State Capitol and you can quickly grasp the impact of the Lincoln name and the ideals it represents!

Dr. Ron McNeil, former Dean of the College of Business at U of Illinois Springfield then led the group though a review of manufacturing opportunities and export trends in Illinois. Key takeaways included a discussion of the diversity of manufacturing going on in Illinois beyond traditional industrial products and the real leverage these companies and industries have to compete and expand globally. Medical devices, cancer research, pharmaceuticals, healthcare are just a few examples of the industries with the need for talent and new markets for expansion.

No discussion of Illinois export trends and opportunities would be complete without a review of agricultural trade and its significant impact on Illinois and the world. Fortunately Tamara Nelsen of the Illinois Farm Bureau was on hand to guide us through the big picture when it comes to agricultural exports vis a vis economic impact, population growth, GDP forecasts, free trade agreements and the impact of tariffs and disputes. Illinois farmers continue to increase their productivity at a rate that is 2 x domestic demand pushing agriculture exports to 30% of Illinois production and rising. Export markets are critical to absorb yields and the trickle down effect to the non-ag economy is significant. Free trade and open markets are the agricultural sector’s life blood

Infrastructure and logistics are additional key components for Illinois exporters and there are some exciting trends developing downstate to offset the inevitable choke points in metro Chicago. Nicole Batemen of the Midwest Inland Port in Decatur, IL, highlighted the many advantages for both Illinois and global companies looking to improve supply chain efficiencies.  A multi-modal hub, the Midwest Inland Port delivers domestic and international flexibility for companies through a well-positioned transportation corridor connecting the Midwest to the East, West and Gulf coasts of North America. Convenient truck access to rail terminal facilities facilitate trade and access to 95 million consumers and businesses with same day delivery.

Lothar Soliwon of ZG Worldwide wrapped up the event with an overview of the Central Illinois Technology Triangle. In the conceptual planning phase, the CITT connects key downstate cities with each other and the world by leveraging technology in marketing, logistics, economic development  and know-how to maximize regional resources and build critical mass.

ZG Worldwide is an innovative professional services, software, technology, healthcare, media, and management consulting firm. Hundreds of small to large clients have connected with their associates for many hundreds of projects. Since many companies want less full-time staff and seek more on-demand experts, ZG's management consultants augment their clients' needs with business growth and more.

For more information about the event or anything discussed here, please contact me at

Be Global and Unstoppable!

Ernie Watts - Executive Director, Global Chamber Chicago®



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