MPC 2011 Annual Luncheon - Metropolitan Planning Council

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MPC 2011 Annual Luncheon

Photo by Karen Kring

Vice Chair of MPC's Board of Governors Jesse H. Ruiz (left), a partner with Drinker, Biddle & Reath, moderated the conversation with Tom Mars, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, Walmart U.S., at MPC's 2011 Annual Luncheon.

Thanks to all of the sponsors, presenters and, of course, the 800-plus guests who made MPC’s 2011 Annual Luncheon, “What, where and how? Rethinking the retail landscape,” on Monday, June 27, in Chicago, a success! 

Special thanks to MPC Board Chair King Harris, who was honoring a long-standing commitment overseas and could not attend the luncheon in person, but who gamely taped a warm welcome for the crowd; and to Fr. Bruce Wellens, pastor of Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Chicago, whose invocation set the tone for a thoughtful—and thought-provoking—event. 

MPC President MarySue Barrett

Photo by Karen Kring

MPC President MarySue Barrett took a few moments at the top of the program to share what makes MPC a unique and effective organization, and one that has helped shape the region’s growth for 77 years. Her remarks shed light on MPC’s three-pronged approach to policy change: 

  • research to determine what the problem is, who it is affecting, and how to solve it;
  • policy development to create new or improved policies, approaches and laws based on that learning; and
  • advocacy and implementation of policy change, seen through until the problem is solved. 

To bring this “theory of change” to life, Barrett offered some recent “wins:” new legislation approved this spring by the Illinois General Assembly, which enables Illinois to use public-private partnerships to finance new transportation projects; an MPC report to be released in early August, developed with help from the Chicago Transit Authority, which will point to the 10 most promising corridors in Chicago for true bus rapid transit; and our continued expansion of employer-assisted housing, which is helping workers afford homes closer to work and turning local employers into champions for our region. 

Before taking a break for lunch, Barrett set the stage for the luncheon’s keynote presentation by Tom Mars, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, Walmart U.S. “MPC believes all local employers play a role in keeping metropolitan Chicago competitive, equitable and sustainable,” said Barrett. "When employers are at the table as community development decisions are made—we all benefit. Likewise, when community leaders can share their ideas for smart business decisions that create new jobs, support local workers, and build healthy neighborhoods—we all benefit.” 

Magellan Development Group Co-CEO Joel Carlins (left) accepts the Burnham Award from Joseph A. Gregoire, regional president, Illinois, PNC, Presenting Sponsor of MPC's 2011 Annual Luncheon.

Photo by Karen Kring

As guests were enjoying dessert, Joseph Gregoire, regional president of Illinois banking, PNC—Presenting Sponsor of MPC’s Annual Luncheon for the sixth year in a row—queued up a video honoring Magellan Development, winner of MPC’s Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning for the Lakeshore East master plan. MPC has presented the award—named in honor of Daniel H. Burnham, the creator of the 1909 Plan of Chicago—since 1988.  

“The Lakeshore East master plan illustrates the company’s commitment to creating urban communities that feature trend-setting architecture, adhere to high environmental standards, and are rich with amenities,” said Gregoire. “Lakeshore East is a community everyone in our city and region can be proud of, and one that is truly worthy of the MPC Burnham Award.” 

In his 1909 Plan of Chicago, Daniel Burnham wrote that “the lakefront by right belongs to the people.” In that spirit, Lakeshore East is the culmination of more than 40 years of efforts to convert the former Illinois Central rail yard, located on the shores of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, into a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood. Magellan co-CEO Joel Carlins accepted the award on behalf of the company. The award includes a $5,000 honorarium underwritten by PNC. Magellan will match that amount for a $10,000 contribution to the Chicago Youth Program Scholarship Fund

When the lights went up, Andrew J. McKenna, Sr., chairman of Schwarz Supply Source and the McDonald's Corporation, introduced the keynote speakers, Mars, of Walmart; and Jesse Ruiz, vice chair of MPC’s Board of Governors and a partner at Drinker, Biddle & Reath, who served as moderator. 

Mars—who is responsible for asset protection and financial services for the Walmart U.S. division, oversees the company’s supplier diversity, labor relations, and compliance departments, and was one of the authors of Walmart’s national urban retail strategy—shed some light on how the company’s move toward smaller format stores in urban locations will affect community development and the regional economy. 

Of Chicago, Mars said Walmart is not the first urban area the company has entered, but it is a “critically important” market. He noted that this quarter, the company posted returns from its smaller format stores that are on par with its Supercenters, “which makes it that much more attractive to grow [the smaller] format at a faster rate.” 

He also said Chicago would soon become the launching pad for the company’s new minority supplier program, which will be national in scope and focus on professional services, food and general merchandise. 

Mars told the audience that Walmart has learned well how important it is to listen to the communities where they are locating and that the company is willing to be at the table, when appropriate, as those communities make development decisions. Walmart has been impressed with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s action plan for working with businesses, he said, as well as with the mayor’s “decisive” leadership. “It’s clear everyone is on the same page. [Chicago has] an action plan, and we like action plans,” said Mars. 

On the retailer’s sustainability efforts, Mars said the company has learned quite a bit from its international experiences. “Sustainability is highly transferrable from one city to the next. The practices we’re applying in China transfer just as nicely in Africa as they do in Chicago,” Mars said. He also noted that the company shipped 300 million more containers a year in 2010 than in 2007, but drove 200 million fewer miles, an indication that Walmart is constantly questioning how to be more sustainable.   

Read the complete transcript of Mars’ remarks. > 

Listen to the audio. > 

Watch the video. > 

Read the media coverage. >

A special thanks once again to PNC, Presenting Sponsor of MPC’s 2011 Annual Luncheon; and to Co-Chair Sponsors Allstate Insurance Company; ComEd, an Exelon Company; Lester Crown and the Crown Family; and King Harris and the Harris Family Foundation.

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