Alumni Profile: Carolyn Kae Phillips '82
Casting Chicago as a global business destination
By Rachel Farrell
Lately, it seems, all eyes have been on Chicago.
President Barack Obama is a longtime resident. The city's pursuit of the 2016 Olympics further raised Chicago's global profile. And two years ago Fast Company magazine named Chicago "U.S. City of the Year."
Carolyn Kae Phillips
"It's a whole new ball game," says Carolyn Kae Phillips '82, director of strategic initiatives for World Business Chicago (WBC), the city's award-winning economic development firm.
At WBC, Phillips executes strategic initiatives that communicate the benefits of doing business in Chicago. Touting Chicago's central location, high-quality work force, prestigious business schools, quality of life and low cost of living, these initiatives aim to convince executives to relocate their firms to the city, which in turn bolsters economic development. The organization works closely with Mayor Richard M. Daley, chairman of the board, and has successfully recruited firms including Boeing, Miller-Coors, Temple-Steel and Veolia. Since 2005, WBC has been ranked among the top 10 economic development firms in the nation by Site Selection magazine.
Shortly after joining WBC in 2001 as director of marketing and public relations, Phillips realized that, as a nonprofit, WBC had limited resources for developing a branding strategy. So she e-mailed Dean Dipak Jain in the hopes that the Kellogg School could provide pro-bono assistance.
"Dean Jain immediately responded," says Phillips, sitting in a sun-filled conference room at WBC, located above the Chicago Theater building in the heart of downtown. "He was very interested in aligning Kellogg with Chicago."
Jain put Phillips in touch with Scott Davis '89, a Chicago-based marketing consultant, who offered branding advice. Then he connected her with Raj Gupta, lecturer of international business and markets and executive director of the CEO Perspective Program at Kellogg, who developed a year-long market research study for students that focused on executives' needs.
"It was so well-received," says Phillips, "that the Chicago Council of Global Affairs wanted to partner with us and reach out to Kellogg for another year-long study focused specifically on China." This study was spearheaded by Tim Calkins, clinical professor of marketing at the Kellogg School. Study results were shared with several outside parties — including the Chicago 2016 committee — to aid in their development of marketing strategies for Chicago.
Building on that momentum, in fall 2008, Phillips gathered Jain and the deans of the business schools at four area universities — the University of Chicago, DePaul, Loyola and the University of Illinois at Chicago — and asked them to serve as "ambassadors" for Chicago. She has welcomed international executive MBA students to Chicago and offered a presentation on the benefits of living and working in the city. She also took an inventory of the universities' professors and identified their geographic area of expertise; these professors have served as expert panelists and speakers at international conferences, translated WBC materials into different languages, and served as consultants to WBC when the organization has approached businesses in cities outside the U.S. "When you have an insider, it really showcases the city as an international point," Phillips says.
Born in Michigan City, Ind., Phillips attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where she majored in communications and psychology. She enrolled at Kellogg immediately after graduation and was one of the youngest students in her class.
Post-graduation, she joined advertising firms Leo Burnett and Foote Cone & Belding, and then moved to The NutraSweet Company and Coca-Cola U.S.A. Later, as vice president of marketing at One-On-One Sports, she managed all marketing and public relations responsibilities — including the 1996 Olympics — for the national sports talk radio and its on-site broadcast division.
But her current role at WBC may be the most exciting thus far.
"Our board of directors includes Mayor Daley and more than 20 of Chicago's top CEOs," Phillips says enthusiastically. "The partnership between the mayor and these leaders is truly remarkable. I am thrilled to be a part of their team."