Study: NATO summit to give Chicago a $128 million boost

SHARE Study: NATO summit to give Chicago a $128 million boost

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joins Lori Healey, NATO Host committee executive director, at Kelly High School, 4136 S. California for a classroom-to-classroom concert between students at Kelly High School and the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, Thursday, April 26, 2012. | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times.

The NATO summit coming to Chicago later this month will give a $128 million short-term boost to the city’s economy, according to a projection released by the head of the host committee Monday.

That does not count any long-term benefits of raising Chicago’s profile.

City officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel insisted Monday that taxpayers will not be on the hook for a single dime of the $55 million cost of the summit.

A study by the group World Business Chicago, which is affiliated with the host committee, predicts 21,200 people will come to Chicago because of the summit.

That includes 7,500 delegates; 5,000 foreign ministers, support staff, security details and spouses; 2,300 members of the media and 6,400 other staff and attendees.

That will translate into 49,300 hotel stays and 2,200 temporary jobs, said Lori Healey, executive director of the Chicago NATO Host Committee. Most delegates are expected to stay four nights but some will stay as long as 15 nights, the report said.

Healey called the estimates by the Deloitte consulting firm “so conservative,” not counting the amount of undisclosed money federal officials are spending in Chicago for safety precautions.

Summit critics called the projection inflated and said other summits end up costing cities money when juries award protestors judgements against over-reaching police departments.

“Oh what a joke – I wish I was smoking what they’re smoking,” said Andy Thayer, an organizer with the Coalition Against NATO/G8. “You look at the history of these summits and cities usually end up paying out millions of dollars because of the excesses of city officials on protestors.”

The Canadian government concluded the costs of the 2010 G8/G20 Summit in Toronto were $857 million.

But Healey and Mayor Emanuel re-emphasized Monday that the NATO Summit May 20-21 will cost only about $55 million and Chicago taxpayers will not be on the hook for any of it.

Healey’s committee has raised $36.5 million from corporate donors and identified $19.1 million in federal security grants to cover the cost of hosting the May 20-21 summit.

“Taxpayers will not pay anything for the summit – That’s why we raised private money and I secured the federal money,” Emanuel said.

The city of Chicago will take in about $3 million extra in taxes because of the event, Healey said the study found.

Side activities – such as the Nobel laureates gathering in Chicago last week – are expected to add another $5 million to the economy, she said.

With less than three weeks remaining until the summit, Healey, appearing Monday before the City Club of Chicago, also said seven Chicago restaurants will be preparing food for visiting reporters and photographers to try to help sell them on Chicago as a vacation destination for their readers and viewers around the world, which should bring longer-term benefits to Chicago.

“I want to know why Ms. Healey and the city of Chicago is promoting NATO, the most efficient killing machine the world has ever known,” Purdue University Sociology Professor Steven “Kim” Scipes shouted from the back of the room at Maggiano’s as a moderator threatened to have him escorted out. “Why are you bringing war criminals like Madeline Albright and Condoleezza Rice to Chicago? Why are we losing our human rights?”

The moderator ignored the question, and gave Healey a commemorative City Club mug as Scipes shouted, “Why don’t you let her answer?”

Scipes said he served as a U.S. Marine from 1969 to 1973, and he plans to protest during the summit even though he said the city has unfairly limited protest rights.

One questioner asked Healey about the impact protests might have on North Michigan Avenue businesses.

“Right now there is nothing permitted for North Michigan Avenue,” Healey said, referring to parade and protest permits. City officials will allow “Peaceful expression of first amendment rights,” for those who have obtained permits, she said.

When will boat owners be allowed to dock in Burnham Harbor, another attendee asked.

“It is a minimal, minimal impact and as soon as the summit’s over, it’s my understanding the boat owners will be able to return,” Healey said.

Healey downplayed miscommunication between her office and the federal government after her office was surprised to find them creating a “red zone” around federal buildings in the city.

“I think it was overblown in the press,” she said.

“It’s not May 1 – It would be three days before NATO comes. And then, they’ll immediately leave the federal facilities, which is what their responsibility is,” Emanuel said at another event. “Trust me, when the [2008] Democratic convention was held in Denver, when the [2012] Democratic convention is being held in Charlotte, when the Republican convention is held in Tampa, they’ll be doing the same thing. It’s standard operating procedure.”

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