NATO host touts economic benefit

April 30, 2012 4:23:28 PM PDT
As critics voice their concern about the gathering of world leaders, the host committee focuses on the projected benefits of having the NATO Summit in Chicago next month.

The NATO summit is just 19 days away. Combined with last week's Nobel Laureate events, NATO will have a $128 million economic impact on the city, according to a study commissioned by World Business Chicago. The participants, their staffs, and visiting media will spend more than 49,000 hotel nights in Chicago, pay $3 million in city taxes and generate nearly 2,200 temporary jobs, according to the study.

"While this is tremendously conservative, it's also a huge return on an investment in a very, very short period of time," NATO Host Committee Chairwoman Lori Healy said at the City Club.

The investment includes $36.5 million private raised locally plus $19 million contributed by the federal government. Mayor Rahm Emanuel stuck to his claim that no public dollars -- at least none collected by Chicago City Hall -- are involved.

"Taxpayers will not be, pay anything for the summit. That's why we raised private money and I secured federal money," Mayor Emanuel said.

A retired U.S. Marine sergeant asked why Chicago would accommodate NATO, which he called an organization of "war criminals."

"NATO is the most developed war killing machine that's ever been developed in the history of humanity," Kim Spies said.

Security consultants also attended Healy's address.

"To bring that type of economic power to this city is something that will never happen to us again, so we need to get out there and do what needs to be done... and we'll be OK," Terry Hillard, Hillard Heintze Security, said.

Healy was asked if the summit's estimated economic benefit took into account possible damages or losses caused by protesters.

"This is very limited in scope. What we really wanted to do was look at the expenditures and see how those expenditures in the city of Chicago, what kind of return that they yield . . . And they yield a very large return," Healy said.