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Business leader proved right about NATO preparations

Workers boarding up windows 2037 S. IndianAvenue preparatifor NATO Summit  Thursday May 17 2012.  | John H. White~Chicago

Workers boarding up windows at 2037 S. Indiana Avenue in preparation for NATO Summit , Thursday, May 17, 2012. | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times.

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Updated: June 29, 2012 9:14AM

On Jan. 24, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Roper was ridiculed for daring to suggest that downtown businesses beef up security, put board-up services on stand-by and offer their employees the option of working from home to avoid commuting hassles and conflicts with demonstrators during the NATO Summit.

Nearly four months later, Roper’s controversial warning has a prophetic ring.

With the U.S. Secret Service closing parts of three major expressways and countless local streets and Metra severely restricting what passengers can carry onto trains, scores of businesses are allowing their employees to work from home on Friday, Monday or both. That includes Boeing Corp., target of, what could be a massive Monday protest.

And retailers, banks, residential and office buildings are either installing bulletproof glass, boarding up their windows or having plywood delivered to their locations just in case there’s trouble.

“There’s definitely a fear-factor involved here,” said Steve Trzaskowski, director of operations for Chicago-based Buzy Bee Board-Up Service, which has seen a 30 percent surge in business tied to the NATO summit.

“Some people don’t even want to deal with it. We’re gonna show up on Friday and board them up. Others are doing staging. We’ll deliver the plywood and framing sticks, put it in back somewhere and have a worker available at the site” to install it in the event of damage.

Trzaskowski said he has installed bullet proof glass known as “Lexan” on the outside of several downtown banks, retail stores and residential high-rises near McCormick Place.

“For some of the bigger buildings, you’re looking at $30,000-to-$40,000 worth of glass on the first floor. We’re boarding up their windows and replacing the doorways with Lexan to provide a visual for the doorman,” he said.

“For other places without large storefronts — like the Foot Locker on State Street — the concern mostly is the amount of stuff they have inside. They’re worried about people running in and grabbing shoes.”

Water Tower Place and one of its tenants, the popular look-alike doll retailer American Girl, have set up emergency plans to board up their windows if the NATO Summit turns rough, contractor Bill DiSanto, president of Englewood Construction of Lemont, said Wednesday.

He said he has agreements with both sites to keep a truck loaded with plywood and other board-up materials downtown for the weekend just in case. He is paying for two workers to stay in a downtown hotel with the tools to act quickly, and carpenters and tradesmen on call from Saturday through Monday.

Spokesmen for Water Tower Place and American Girl did not return a phone call seeking a response.

DiSanto said the preparations could cost from $25,000 to $50,000 for each client depending on the amount of labor and materials needed.

“I’m not convinced it’s going to be as big (an issue) as they think, but what do I know?” DiSanto said.

He said local companies that put up protective glass and glass film on windows have told him they’ve done bangup business in May.

“They’ve been hired by several developers, and had office and condo buildings putting up the protective film,” he said.

Also on Wednesday, the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago (BOMA) complained about the city’s decision to evict the business organization from the “emergency operations” center at Chicago’s 911 building during the NATO summit.

To make room for federal agencies and additional police personnel, BOMA will be moved to a business communications center at a secret downtown location. Instead of real-time information and live feeds from cameras on the street, BOMA will have to rely on selected “web” feeds and hope they get the information fast enough to alert impacted businesses.

The business center will be staffed by the NATO Host Committee and its security consultant Hillard-Heintze, whose partners include former Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hillard.

“It certainly raises the concern as to the currency, detail and quality of information that will be passed on to the private sector,” said Michael Cornicelli, BOMA’s executive vice-president.

“It’s very important that we have correct, prompt and unfiltered information about anything significant … that impacts transportation and the conduct of business. It’s a role we have played in the past during other large scale events that have created temporary disruptions and … small cases of vandalism.There should have been room made at the operations center for key representatives of the business community. That would be the most effective way to get accurate and prompt information directly to building managers, their security personnel and engineering staff.”

A Hillard-Heintze spokeswoman said the city’s emergency operations center just didn’t have enough room for BOMA.

“Because of so many public agencies coordinating with OEMC, there is not enough space for all the public agencies, let alone private agencies,” said spokeswoman Lissa Druss Christman. “For that reason, OEMC has allotted two spaces for the Business Communications Center representatives to relay critical information for businesses to operate effectively during the summit.

“BOMA, and many other similar private agencies, are working in conjunction with the Business Communications Center.”

Contributing: Sandra Guy

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