Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday appointed his $185,000-a-year deputy mayor and chief neighborhood development officer Andrea Zopp as the new, $375,000-a-year CEO of World Business Chicago.
Zopp’s promotion to run the quasi-public agency that conducts economic development work to attract corporate headquarters frees current World Business Chicago CEO Jeff Malehorn to “focus his time and efforts exclusively” on Chicago’s $2.25 billion bid for Amazon’s second North American headquarters.
“Andy is an incredible asset to my administration and a great partner in our work to make sure that, as Chicago grows, every resident benefits,” the mayor was quoted as saying in a press release.
“This role is the next step in our work towards inclusive economic growth in every neighborhood across the city.”
The chief development officer’s job was created for Zopp in May 2016 to restore deep distrust among black voters who believe their unsafe neighborhoods have been left behind.
Zopp acknowledged that the shift to World Business Chicago that will double her salary will require her to have a bigger-picture focus than just driving development in Chicago neighborhoods with a particular focus on long-neglected neighborhoods on the South and West Sides.
But she also argued that she will be better positioned to bring about lasting and job creating change.
“My focus will be broader. But there still will be people in the mayor’s office working on neighborhood economic development. And what I will do is help World Business Chicago build up its neighborhood development efforts,” said Zopp, 60.
“Yes, there will be corporate relocations [to be concerned about]. But we can bring businesses here that open up facilities outside of downtown. Who better than someone knows what those neighborhoods look like to help have those conversations with our corporate business partners.”
Last year, Emanuel blamed his dismal showing among African-American voters in a recent New York Times poll on “40 years” of disinvestment on Chicago’s South and West Sides.
His frenzied effort to shed that “Mayor 1 percent label” started with the appointment of Zopp, a former Chicago Urban League president who was fresh off a failed campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Emanuel also created a $100 million Catalyst Fund to bridge the funding gap outside the downtown area and created a now-booming Neighborhood Opportunities Fund that has already used $3.2 million in funding to support 32 neighborhood businesses with contributions from developers allowed to build bigger and taller projects in a broader downtown area.
On Tuesday, Zopp argued that the mayor — gearing up for what’s expected to be an uphill battle for third term — has shown that his development efforts are the polar opposite of downtown-centric.D
She noted the mayor’s plan to build a new state of the art police and fire training academy in West Garfield Park and move the city’s fleet maintenance facility from a now-sold riverfront site on the North Side to a newly-constructed maintenance facility in Englewood.
“He is pushing economic opportunity out to the neighborhoods significantly. My move to World Business Chicago is to continue that agenda. It’s the next step, the perfect step to build up what I’ve been doing in the mayor’s office,” Zopp said.
Zopp will be replaced as deputy chief-of-staff for neighborhood economic development by Aarti Kotak, a managing deputy in the city’s Department of Planning and Development who has focused on projects in Back of the Yards, Austin, Bronzeville, Englewood and Pullman.
As for Malehorn, he won’t have a job for long if Chicago doesn’t win the heated competition for Amazon’s 50,000-job economic development prize.
But Zopp said, “He’s gonna be focusing on making sure that, when we get to the next round, he’s gonna be leading that effort for WBC. They haven’t said that. I’m just confident because our bid is impressive.”