Chicago's New Treasurer Says He Has Big Plans for the City

Kurt Summers

CHICAGO–Chicago’s new City Treasurer, Kurt Summers has big plans to show the world that all of Chicago is worth investing in, not just downtown. He said economic development progress has been made, but not enough.
“I think there has been some here and there throughout the South Side, but there needs to be more, particularly in the city’s South and West Side and in the under invested neighborhoods,” Summer said, who grew up on the city’s South Side.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Summers to replace City Treasurer Stephanie Neely after she resigned to take another job. Once the city’s Finance Committee unanimously approved Summers for the position, there was nothing to hold him back. Now the new treasurer says he is anxious to start. His appointment begins Dec. 1st.
He said he is qualified for the job because of his extensive background, which includes serving as senior vice president at Grosvenor Capital Management and being a member of the Office of the Chairman. This role allowed Summers to be a leader of the Emerging and Diverse Manager business.
Before that he served as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s chief of staff, as well as the appointed Trustee for the Cook County Pension Fund. And in 2000 he gained experience in the public service sector by becoming an aid for Congressman Bobby Rush in 2000. Later on, he became a James H. Dunn Fellow and an aide to the Chief of Staff in the Illinois Governor’s office. In the private sector he served as a managing Director at Ryan Specialty Group, an insurance services firm. And at the Balton Corporation, a Chicago wholesale distribution company, he served as director, chief financial officer, and head of business development. The list goes on.
Summers received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with Management Distinction High Honors in Finance and International Business, with a minor in East Asian Studies, from Washington University in St. Louis in 2000. He received his Master of Business Administration in 2005 from Harvard Business School. That’s where he met his wife, Helen.
Not excluding all of the Chicago is on the top of the list for Summers, who said he will work on ensuring that all communities receive some kind of investment.
“It’s the City Treasurer’s job to do that so if the City Treasurer is not looking to invest in Chicago, what does that say to the rest of the world?”
Investing right in his backyard is a smart move, Summers said because there are plenty of opportunities right here. Some of the ways he will go about bringing more opportunities to Chicago is by looking closely at the capital that is managed in the Treasurer’s office.
“A lot of that money gets put into commercial banks and so it starts with linking the money that we invest in banks to be invested into the communities,” he said.
“Are they just being being invested downtown or are they invested throughout Chicago? If they aren’t then they should be,” Summers said.
The second thing is giving each investor an equal chance, including the non-traditional ones.
“There are great investments in our community, there are great minority and female entrepreneurs out there that deserve the same access to capital,” he said.
And the third thing is to provide direct help to community residents and business owners. Those opportunities must exist, Summers said, for there to be positive growth in underserved communities.
He said that Neely created a strong foundation for him to work on and he has plans to expand what she started. To make any of his ideas happen, it’s important that people have the financial literacy needed to be successful business owners or entrepreneurs. He said that he wants to offer the educational program that was geared toward youth to be extended to adults and families and to small businesses. He wants to help them plan and budget growth.
“It is my job as an economic steward for the city to help,” Summers said.
His plan is to be as accessible as possible and to do that, he has started meeting with with community residents. He plans to visit 77 in 77 days and it began in Chatham on Nov. 13th. He has been to Lakeview, Washington Park, North Center, Auburn Gresham to name a few. The goal is to listen to residents’ concerns and ideas for their  neighborhood.
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