Federal Reserve makes contingency plans for summits
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com February 9, 2012 5:56PM
Updated: March 11, 2012 8:51AM
The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago said Thursday it has “extensive contingency plans” that would allow its employees to “work from home” or from an “off-site location” in the event that demonstrations turn ugly during the NATO and G-8 summits.
The bank is located at 230 S. LaSalle in the heart of Chicago’s financial district. It is the first major business to raise the possibility of relocating its employees during the May 19-21 summit expected to draw President Barack Obama and other world leaders to McCormick Place.
The Federal Reserve’s carefully-worded statement talked about the “threat of possible disruptions” without mentioning the tens of thousands of protesters expected to descend on Chicago.
It was released in an attempt to put to rest speculation that the bank would close down during the summits to avoid becoming a target of the demonstrations.
“During the summit, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago will be open and will continue operations. [But] as always, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago has extensive contingency plans in place that allow the bank to continue operations in a variety of different emergency situations,” the statement said.
“These could involve staff members working from home or working from an off-site location that we maintain on an ongoing basis for contingency purpose. We stand ready to implement our contingency plans as needed. We are closely monitoring developments related to the summit. We will make decisions on the degree to which we will implement contingency plans based on information about the threat of possible disruptions gathered closer to the date of the summit.”
Jennifer Martinez, a spokesperson for the NATO and G-8 Host Committee, responded to the Federal Reserve statement by saying, “Chicago is open for business. We take our direction from federal and local law enforcements agencies and haven’t received any direction to the contrary.”
Earlier this week, United Airlines employees worried about how they will get to Willis Tower during the summits questioned Mayor Rahm Emanuel during a roundtable about the $40 to $65 million event expected to turn the world spotlight on Chicago.
The mayor played down the inconvenience by describing the summits as a “weekend” event, conveniently ignoring the fact that protesters and world leaders are likely to arrive days before the meetings begin.
Emanuel also portrayed the summits as a rare opportunity to raise Chicago’s standing as a destination for international tourists.
Chicago currently attracts 40 million annual visitors, but only 1.2 million of them come from overseas.
Emanuel’s goal is to raise it to 50 million visitors by 2020 and to move into the top five cities for international tourists. Chicago currently ranks tenth among U.S. cities.
“We’re fighting way below our weight class. … If we move up a point, that’s $1.3 billion” in additional annual revenue, the mayor said.
Last month, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Roper suggested that downtown companies offer their skittish employees the option of working from home to avoid commuting hassles during the back-to-back summits.
Roper also said he expected retailers on State Street and North Michigan Avenue to have “24-hour security on the street” to discourage “people coming in to disrupt our city” and to “give customers a feeling of security.”
Lori Healey, executive director of the NATO and G-8 Host Committee, responded by saying that all the doom and gloom talk was unproductive for Chicago. She further argued that was too soon to give downtown businesses any advice.
A large security perimeter is expected to prevent motorists from driving and parking on downtown streets during the McCormick Place summits, but specific boundaries dictated by the U.S. Secret Service will not be released until two-to-four weeks before the event.
At the time, Roper argued that downtown businesses cannot afford to wait that long to do their contingency planning.
“You’ve got 700,000 people coming in and out of the city on a daily basis. We’re not talking about Pittsburgh here. Companies have to make decisions about their employees. They need to know who is going to be close to the closed zones,” Roper said.
“We’re gonna force the issue. Mrs. Roper didn’t raise a bashful child.”