The Commercial Club of Chicago is a membership organization of senior leaders in the region. We represent the business, education, cultural, and philanthropic sectors and we believe cooperation and an open exchange of ideas are fundamental to success.

As a leader behind initiatives in the areas of economic development, fiscal policy, business climate, transportation infrastructure, educational reform, technology, and cultural institutions, the Commercial Club of Chicago and our affiliated organizations have played a key role in making Chicago the world-class city it is today. Our work spans the economic and social issues facing Chicago. At our nine annual lunches, we bring together business, government, and civic leaders to catalyze robust conversation about the key issues of the day. Our work continues through our affiliated organizations: the Civic Committee, Civic Consulting Alliance, Kids First Chicago, and P33.

The Commercial Club has a long tradition of tackling the most pressing issues confronting Chicago. Commercial Club undertakings throughout our history have had a profound and lasting impact on our region.

  • 1990s to Today


    The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club issued a statement in response to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Please read our statement here.


    The Civic Committee and its Tax Policy Task Force produce analysis and recommendations to address the state’s growing fiscal challenges.  The Civic Committee recommends adoption of a comprehensive plan to restore Illinois’ fiscal health, promote job growth, and enable the state to provide critical services to all residents on a sustainable basis in the future.  The Civic Committee encourages adoption of such a comprehensive fiscal plan rather than a strategy solely reliant on a constitutional amendment changing the state’s income tax structure.

    Civic Consulting Alliance answers calls from the City of Chicago, Cook County, the State of Illinois, and the philanthropic community to mobilize rapidly for a comprehensive and inclusive approach to COVID-19 crisis response and recovery. Between mid-March and the end of June, Civic Consulting Alliance redeploys about 75 percent of their staff and secures 16 pro bono teams to serve these units of government and engage non-government stakeholders through nearly 20 projects, organized into 10 distinct workstreams, enabling an unprecedented investment of nearly $10.6 million in pro bono services in the region in just 15 weeks. One of these 20 projects is facilitating Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s COVID-19 Recovery Taskforce.

    In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kids First Chicago spearheads the launch of Chicago Connected, a groundbreaking $50 million initiative to bridge the digital divide, designed to provide more than 100,000 students and their households with no-cost, high-speed Internet. 

    Kids First Chicago supports the third release of the Annual Regional Analysis (ARA), now in a more user-friendly online format. ARA spurs an $18 million investment in high-quality programs in 22 schools.

    In response to rising unemployment tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in partnership with Discovery Partners Institute and Illinois academic institutions, P33 plans, designs, and launches TechReady Illinois, an online upskilling initiative.

    P33, Open Commons Consortium (OCC), and MATTER launch the Chicagoland COVID-19 Data Commons, a centralized data platform to support scientists and clinicians studying the virus in Chicagoland.

    The Civic Committee helps launch the Metropolitan Civic Leadership Alliance, a group of CEO-led organizations in nine metropolitan regions, to coordinate efforts for COVID-19 relief from Washington and to align big city priorities for the next federal transportation bill.  The group’s work is focused on ensuring federal policies are responsive to the needs of the major metropolitan regions responsible for much of the nation’s economic output.

    The Civic Committee joins the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Metropolitan Planning Council in initiating a review of transit spending in the Chicago region.  Some formulas used to distribute funding to CTA, Metra, and Pace have not changed in over three decades.  The Civic Committee joins several other groups in helping the RTA and transit agencies promote a more efficient and transparent distribution of funding and adapt to the significant challenges transit has faced due to the pandemic.

    The Civic Committee leads an effort to realign and improve the investment strategy at the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) by adopting a modern, data-driven, and transparent performance-based planning and project selection system.  The Civic Committee emphasizes the importance of targeting investments in ways that will help Illinois achieve an inclusive economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.


    The Tax Policy Task Force of the Civic Committee issues Restore Illinois: A Foundation for Growth, which calls on State leadership to take specific, decisive actions to immediately put Illinois on a path to fiscal stability and strengthen confidence in our State’s economic future.

    After two years of extensive research and planning phases with a coalition of over 300 Chicagoland tech, business, and community leaders, the Commercial Club and Civic Committee establish P33 as a non-profit entity to work to transform Chicago into a Tier 1 tech hub and promote inclusive economic growth.

    In collaboration with CPS, Kids First Chicago supports the release of the second Annual Regional Analysis (ARA), promoting data-driven decision making and district-wide transparency to advance the goal of providing every student a high-quality education. Supported by ARA data, CPS announces a $32 million investment in high-quality programs in 32 schools districtwide. 

    The Civic Committee’s Transportation Task Force helps launch a statewide coalition to support a new state capital bill.  The coalition’s advocacy is instrumental in helping to pass Rebuild Illinois, a $45 billion capital program that will support investment in transportation and other public infrastructure throughout Illinois.   The coalition is particularly helpful in securing the first ever dedicated funding source for mass transit from the state by setting aside 20 percent of new fuel tax revenues for public transportation.

    The Civic Committee’s Transportation Task Force convenes a diverse set of stakeholders to support the development and launch of an innovative pilot program to improve mass transit access on Chicago’s South Side and South Suburbs.  The Fair Transit pilot program is designed to test the impact of lower fares and more integrated service along Metra’s Electric District and Rock Island Line.

    Civic Consulting Alliance facilitates the transition of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.  The Civic Consulting Alliance, in coordination with pro bono partners, both candidates’ transition teams, and other support, helps the mayor establish a strong foundation for taking office as Chicago’s 56th mayor.  The transition includes over 400 Chicago residents deeply engaged through 10 diverse, issue-focused transition committees—all summarized in a 110-page report of recommendations.


    Working with CPS, Kids First Chicago supports the release of the first Annual Regional Analysis, a transparent source of data on student choice, district enrollment, and school performance information.

    The Civic Committee along with leaders of Chicago's tech community launches the P33 initiative to strengthen Chicago’s status as a leading technology hub and spur inclusive economic growth.

    New Schools for Chicago is renamed Kids First Chicago (K1C), reflecting the organization's focus on direct family support for access, opportunity, and policy change.

    The Civic Committee supports renewed federal investment in the CREATE rail program’s largest project, the 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project (CIP). The project secures a $132 million federal grant, leveraging more than $300 million in local and private dollars to jumpstart the first phase of the project.

    The City announces an $8.5 billion investment for new terminals and other upgrades at O’Hare Airport with the backing of the Civic Committee. The project is the largest terminal building effort at the airport and will solidify Chicago’s position as a leading transportation hub and international gateway.

    Collaborating with healthcare institutions and community groups, Civic Consulting Alliance launches and begins to provide strategic support for West Side United, with the goal of reducing the life expectancy gap for the half million Chicagoans living on the West Side, following two years of work to help develop Rush University Medical Center's anchor mission initiative to redefine Rush as a community-facing institution rather than just a healthcare provider.


    The Civic Committee’s Tax Policy Task Force issues Bringing Illinois Back: A Framework For Our Future, outlining a comprehensive plan to restore Illinois’ fiscal integrity.

    Chicago Public Schools (CPS) implements a universal enrollment system at the high school level, GoCPS, which provides 26,000 8th graders better access to high-quality schools each year. K1C parents play a significant role in advocating for and informing the design of key aspects of the system. GoCPS leads the nation in adoption of universal enrollment with more 90% of students participating and 80%+ matching to top-choice schools -- remarkably high rates for a district as large and complex as CPS.

    The Civic Committee forms the Transportation Task Force to provide focus to the Civic Committee’s transportation project and policy priorities.

    The Civic Consulting Alliance begins working with the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and multiple pro bono partners to enable significant reforms in policing in Chicago. Starting with implementing Next Steps for Reform, CPD's initial commitment to reform in 2017, Civic Consulting Alliance / CPD / partner teams develop a long-term strategic plan for the Department, develop and implement in-service training for more than 12,000 officers, develop a blueprint for revamped community policing, and help CPD prepare for implementing requirements of the consent decree, among other efforts.

    Members of the Civic Committee welcome former President Barack Obama at a special dinner meeting, where he outlines the plans for the Obama Foundation and Presidential Center in Chicago.


    The Civic Committee launches its LOL Illinois campaign to draw attention to the need to pass a responsible State budget.

    The Civic Consulting Alliance helps to build and support the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, a coalition of more than 35 funders and foundations committed to aligning their funding to promote proven and promising responses to reducing gun violence in Chicago.

    NSC launches Kids First Chicago (K1C) as a campaign to directly support families of students in Chicago schools.


    The Civic Committee forms its Tax Policy Task Force to examine the fiscal challenges facing Illinois and to propose solutions.

    After helping to open 81 new schools between 2004 and 2014, New Schools for Chicago "reboots" to focus on school quality, working with families to design a world-class education system for Chicago.

    The Civic Consulting Alliance staffs the Police Accountability Task Force, which was charged by Mayor Emanuel to review police practices in Chicago. After releasing the Task Force report in early 2016, Civic Consulting Alliance begins to work with a group of philanthropic organizations to ask what role philanthropy could play in addressing Chicago's crisis in gun violence. The result was the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, which launched in 2016 and continues today. Now with more than 35 members, Civic Consulting Alliance continues to support the Partnership, whose members are aligning their grant making to support proven and promising approaches to reducing gun violence.

    NSC works with CPS to create a charter school accountability policy, ensuring charter schools are held to high quality standards.  


    The Civic Consulting Alliance begins work with the Cook County Health and Hospital System’s new Chief Executive Officer to transform the delivery and cost of health services after passage of the Affordable Care Act.

    Pension reform laws pass for the State’s major pension systems and City of Chicago with Civic Committee support.


    The Renaissance Schools Fund is rebranded New Schools for Chicago (NSC) following the completion of the Renaissance 2010 plan.


    The General Assembly passes and the Governor signs a pension reform law for new employees, which includes many Civic Committee recommendations.

    The Civic Committee launches its Illinois is Broke campaign to raise awareness of the State's pension problem and encourage elected officials to act.

    The Civic Committee plays a key role in helping to pass new charter school legislation, which increased the number of charter schools in Chicago and the rest of Illinois.

    The Civic Consulting Alliance serves as a key partner in ensuring the effective leadership transition of new Governors, State’s Attorneys, Mayors, and Cook County Presidents.


    To access resources available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Civic Consulting Alliance manages the Recovery Project, a public-private partnership that maximized the impact of Recovery Act funds that came to the Chicago region.

    The Civic Committee publishes Facing Facts 2009. An Updated Report on the State of Illinois’ Fiscal Crisis.


    The Civic Consulting Alliance begins nearly a decade of work harnessing the resources of civic, educational, non-profit, and business leaders across the City to develop and implement the City Colleges of Chicago’s Reinvention initiative, the most ambitious transformation of a community college system in the nation.


    The Civic Committee releases its first Facing Facts report on the fiscal issues facing the state of Illinois.

    The Civic Consulting Alliance begins work with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to rethink and revamp career and technical education at CPS.


    FRAC becomes the Civic Consulting Alliance, a name that reflects its unique approach to working with local government and business partners across the civic landscape.


    In response to Left Behind, the Civic Committee establishes the Renaissance Schools Fund (RSF) to work with the City to open 100 new schools to provide all students, regardless of socioeconomic background, with a high-quality education.


    The O’Hare Modernization Program is signed into law with the backing of the Civic Committee. As the most ambitious airport restructuring in the country, the project’s goal is to solidify Chicago’s position as a leading transportation hub and international gateway.

    More than a dozen additional charter schools for Chicago are approved by the General Assembly.

    The Civic Committee releases its report, Left Behind, which analyzes the academic performance of all Chicago Public Schools and demonstrates that a significant portion of students are not receiving a high-quality education.  The Report leads to Mayor Daley’s Renaissance 2010 effort to establish 100 new high quality charter, contract, and performance schools.


    The Civic Committee formally creates FRAC – a new 501(c)3 organization – in response to the growing need to assist City departments and other government units to run more effectively.


    The Commercial Club publishes the Metropolis Project's findings in a book called Chicago Metropolis 2020: Preparing Metropolitan Chicago for the 21st Century and created Chicago Metropolis 2020 to implement the report's recommendations.

    The Civic Committee establishes World Business Chicago to increase the visibility of Chicago as a global city and recruit business nationally and internationally. 


    The State passes new school funding law in which Civic Committee plays an important role.


    The Commercial Club launches the Metropolis Project to develop a long-term policy framework to keep Chicago a top-tier, global city. The project studies six public policy areas: education, economic development, taxation, governance, transportation, and land use and housing.


    The Civic Committee plays a leading role in shaping and helping to pass the groundbreaking 1995 Chicago School Reform Law. This law puts the Mayor of Chicago in charge of the future of Chicago Public Schools and provides new accountability measures and changes in financial structure and labor-management relations.


    The Civic Committee task force champions the case for a new county hospital and helps to win approval and funding for the construction of John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County.


  • 1940s to 1980s


    The Civic Committee launches Leadership for Quality Education (LQE) to implement the 1988 Chicago School Reform Law. Later, LQE, which helped spur the charter school movement, combines with the Illinois Network of Charter Schools to bring together the business community and charter sector in the support and expansion of charter schools in Chicago.

    The Civic Committee pushes to form the Illinois Coalition, now the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition, to attract innovation and technology-based economic development to Illinois.

    The Civic Committee’s Financial Research and Advisory Committee (FRAC) helps with Richard M. Daley’s transition into office after his election as mayor.  FRAC works with the Daley administration on a variety of projects during the 1990s.


    The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club works in concert with local community groups to push for a major Chicago Public School Reform Law, which is passed by the Illinois General Assembly.


    The Civic Committee organizes the Financial Research and Advisory Committee (FRAC) to improve government efficiency and operations in the City of Chicago.


    The Civic Committee begins publishing Chicago Enterprise Magazine to bring to light important issues overlooked or even ignored by other publications.

    The Civic Committee creates the Chicago Enterprise Center, now the Chicago Entrepreneurial Center, to assist promising entrepreneurs and help small, local businesses.


    Mayor Harold Washington asks for a private-sector review of the City’s long-term budget trends.  In response, the Civic Committee teamed with Chicago United to form the Financial Research and Advisory Committee (FRAC), bringing together more than 70 executives to study the budget, evaluate long-range financial prospects, and make recommendations for strengthening the financial condition of the City of Chicago.


    The Commercial Club commissions its Jobs for Metropolitan Chicago study and then forms the Civic Committee to address the identified needs and to spur economic growth.


    Member Samuel W. Witwer leads the Commercial Club campaign to garner support for rewriting the Illinois constitution.


    The Commercial Club welcomes Vice President and future President of the United States, Richard Nixon.

  • 1910s to 1930s


    Member Julius Rosenwald, President of Sears, Roebuck, and Co., leads the effort to create the Museum of Science and Industry.


    The Industrial Club (organized in 1905) unites with The Commercial Club.


    The Honorable Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Governor of New York and future United States President, addresses the Commercial Club.


    President Calvin Coolidge addresses a special meeting of the Commercial Club.


    The Commercial Club welcomes President Woodrow Wilson as its January meeting speaker.


    Member John V. Farwell, Jr. champions a campaign to reform the Federal Reserve and helps draft the Federal Reserve Banking Act of 1913.

  • 1870s to 1900s


    The Commercial Club underwrites the Plan of Chicago, co-authored by architect and Commercial Club member Daniel Burnham. The plan earns worldwide recognition and inspires a 50-year development and beautification program. Wacker Drive, Grant Park, the lakefront parks, museums, and most of Chicago’s major rail and highway corridors result from the Plan of Chicago.

    President William Howard Taft is honored at a Commercial Club luncheon.


    The Merchants Club (organized in 1896) unites with The Commercial Club.

    Eighty-seven members of the Commercial Clubs of Chicago, St. Louis, Boston, and Cincinnati travel to Panama to observe the construction of the canal.


    The Merchant’s Club welcomes President Theodore Roosevelt to a luncheon in his honor.


    The Commercial Club presents the United States Navy with the land for the Great Lakes Naval Station.

    The Commercial Club forms the Citizens Cleaning Bureau to provide private services for ensuring clean streets in the City’s central business district, unprecedented anywhere in the country.


    Former President Grover Cleveland addresses the Commercial Club of Chicago.


    Members of the Commercial Clubs of Chicago, St. Louis, Boston, and Cincinnati travel by train along the Pacific coast to evaluate the rail system and other sites along the route.


    The Commercial Club hosts President William McKinley at a banquet.


    Fort Sheridan opens following the successful petition by several Commercial Club members to the United States government.


    The Commercial Club opens the Chicago Manual Training School, which combined “book work” and “shop work” in a three-year, secondary school curriculum. Later the School combines with the University of Chicago Laboratory School.


    Seventeen businessmen form The Commercial Club out of the belief that Chicago needs a strong civic force to guide its development.

CONTACT US | 21 South Clark Street Suite 4301, Chicago, IL 60603 | (312) 853-1200 | Fax (312) 853-1209

Copyright ©2019 The Commercial Club of Chicago | Photo Attributions