Seven-hundred business and community leaders attended Wednesday's opening session, and they were all on hand because they are pledging to help create jobs, and in many cases they are using novel ways of matching the unemployed to the 3 million positions that are out there in America waiting to filled.
President Clinton unleashed some of his old passion in describing how new thinking can help pull the country out its economic troubles quickly.
The president said there is a disconnect between the fact there are 3 million available positions in the country and jobless rate above 9 percent. Creating incentives for businesses to use retraining money to get people earning paychecks would have swift and dramatic effects, he said.
"The capacity of lending is $20 trillion," Clinton said. "If you had $20 trillion in new economic activity it would end the American and global economic slowdown in 15 minutes."
His former senior advisor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, proudly strode across the stage to say government can't solve America's jobs problem alone.
"We in the public sector, we don't create jobs, we create the conditions so that you can invest in creating jobs in our city," said Emanuel.
This recession has cut deeper and affected the less educated more deeply than previous downturns. Conference goers heard how that has resulted in the startling statistic that America's median income has essentially stayed flat over the last four decades.
Marie Trzupek Lynch heads Chicago Career Tech, a non-profit that specializes in retraining workers for opportunities in the health care field. She is pledging at CGI America to expand their "Bridge Pathway to Technology Training for Unemployed" program and help 80 displaced Chicagoans get the basic math, English and computer skills necessary for industry-recognized certifications.
"We provide three days of hosting at businesses and not-for-profits for six months, so they actually get the ability to not only be in a classroom but also at a business that gets to see them, who gets to work with them. That individual becomes invaluable," said Trzupek Lynch.
Rich Gengler is pledging much the same thing but his focus is in on veterans. The former Navy F-18 pilot's Prevail Health Solutions -- founded to help address deployment-related mental health issues -- is pledging to expand its online mental health programs.
"What we are here for is partnerships," said Gengler. "We want to look to other entities that are out there, attacking different portions of the holistic problems that returning service members are facing."
President Clinton said Chicago is a model for recovery due to such initiatives as the city's green roof program and retrofitting buildings with clean energy technology. He said that spurs construction and is paid for through lower utility bills.
President Clinton says Chicago's experience has shown that a $1 billion green energy retrofit program would create 7,000 jobs.