Chamber Upbeat About Economic Future 2/3/15 02/03/15 3:40:26 PM
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Members of McGrath North, one of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting sponsors, along with Chamber dignitaries and the keynote speaker, took time out to pose for a reminder of the well-orchestrated event. From left are Joan Cannon, Lauren Goodman, David Brown (president and CEO of the Chamber), Steve Seline (immediate past chairman of the Chamber), Mike Corbat (CEO of Citigroup and this year’s speaker), Kris Covi, Autumn Long, Abigail Moland, Patrick Pepper and Roger Wells (McGrath North’s president).
Chamber Upbeat About Economic Future
By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record
The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce pronounced “Game On” at their annual luncheon meeting January 27.
Kicking off the event was Executive Director David Brown’s son, Elijah, who sang the National Anthem. After the invocation by Pastor Mark Ashton of Christ Community Church and a welcome by 2014 Chamber Board Chairman Steve Seline, newly-elected Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts addressed the crowd.
“People in Washington just don’t get it,” Ricketts said. He cited federal business regulations and the Keystone XL pipeline as issues that hurt Nebraska. Because people make decisions based on Nebraska’s tax structure, “we have to be more competitive,” he said.
Keynote SpeechKeynote speaker Mike Corbat, CEO of Citigroup, Inc., told the business crowd that his economists project a 3.5 percent growth of the U.S. gross domestic product in 2015, a number not seen since the year before the Great Recession.
Corbat said global competition is driving America’s economic health. “Globalization isn’t a fad. In my view, it’s a macro trend that’s here to stay.”
He told the audience, “I hope that you will take away from this talk three key points. First, Citi is a much different company than it was before the crisis.
“… Like many firms who have restructured and changed their business models, Citi is a different company than it was less than a decade ago – simpler, smaller, safer and stronger,” he said. “We no longer have insurance businesses, hedge funds, private equity funds and we aren’t an asset manager. We have completely rebuilt our capital base and liquidity.”
He continued, “Second, our firm isn’t big for the sake of being big – we are ‘scaled to serve’ our clients.
“And third, in an era of globalization, America needs banks such as Citi to help our multi-national companies grow, expand and remain competitive in a rapidly changing world.”
While Citi is considered a large bank Corbat said, “The global economy is big, sprawling, complex, and multi-faceted. It takes financial products and services well beyond just lending to service it properly. And it takes banks of all shapes, sizes, scale and scope.
“Lending is the core activity of banking. And, while it’s not quite the fuel that drives the global economy – that would be human talent and initiative – it’s the oil that keeps the machinery running smoothly.
“Nearly everyone knows that, in their personal lives, they need a bank,” he said. “We all need a place to safeguard our money, deposit our paycheck, and from which to pay our bills. Beyond these daily necessities, however, few think about what banks do – and what banks do specifically for them.
“For instance, borrowing and lending enable the building, buying, selling and improvement of homes. And, as all of us who bear the responsibility of meeting a payroll know, the creation and funding of jobs depends decisively on bank lending. I don’t need to tell a room of Nebraskans that even the food on our tables wouldn’t get there without finance – or, if it did, we’d have to grow it ourselves.
“That covers the big three for most of us – our homes, our jobs, and our daily necessities. But the impact of the financial system hardly ends there.
“In reality, there is virtually no aspect of modern life that finance does not touch and help improve.”
Corbat described several projects and programs his company had undertaken in recent years, noting that “It’s important that we, in positions of leadership in finance, continue to inform people about what [Citi’s banks] do, and the value they provide.”
He also pointed out all the close ties Citi has with various “corporate stalwarts” in Nebraska, such as Union Pacific, Berkshire Hathaway, TD Ameritrade and Tenaska.
Annual AwardsDavid Brown then announced the winners of this year’s Cham-ber awards.
First, Bank of Nebraska Vice President Tim Riewer was the recipient of the Chairman’s Award of Excellence as well as the Honorary Life Membership Award for signing up 50 new members in 12 months.
“Headliner of the Year,” given for promoting Omaha nationally, went to Creighton University. Brown noted that there was a lot of stellar competition in the “Headliner of the Year” category.
“From the audible heard ’round the world – ‘Omaha, Omaha,’ to the Omaha Storm Chasers’ second straight national championship and, of course, Terence “Bud” Crawford’s title fight to defend his Lightweight Boxing Championship … they gave us great opportunity to talk about Omaha around the world.”
“It was clear however, that this year’s winner would be Creighton University.”
Brown said Creighton’s move to the nationally prominent Big East NCAA Division I basketball conference was described as “a match made in heaven.” The honor is for promoting the positive image of Omaha. “We applaud not only the hard work inherent in getting to a ‘yes’ in those negotiations, but also the remarkable success of the Creighton Men’s Basketball Team led by a young man with a remarkable story of his own, Doug McDermott.”
First National Bank of Omaha Executive Vice President Clark Lauritzen was introduced as the 2015 Chamber Chairman, succeeding Steve Seline, founder of Walnut Private Equity Partners, whose Walnut Radio affiliate owns four Nebraska radio stations.
Lauritzen was also honored as the Chamber’s volunteer of the year, especially for his “exceptional leadership in organizing and implementing the Chamber’s involvement in the passage of the $421 million Omaha Public School Bond.”
Brown then roamed the ballroom, calling out various groups and individuals for their contributions to the Chamber’s successful year. Several videos punctuated his “walkabout,” featuring various successes including the launch and success of the Chamber’s new brand: “We Don’t Coast.”
New Board Chairman Clark Lauritzen closed the meeting with a promise of more bold accomplishments to come: “We have tremendous momentum. Our economy is strong; it’s vibrant, it’s thriving – and our economic development pipeline at the Chamber has never looked better. We have a lot of exciting things on the horizon that you’ll be hearing about this year.”
The annual report of the Chamber is available online at OmahaChamber.org/AM.
The event was co-sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, Mutual of Omaha and UMB Bank, in addition to McGrath North.