Economic Growth

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is dedicated to promoting initiatives that grow our nation's economy. 

Read the Foundation's report, The Growth Imperative, for more information about the importance of faster economic growth.

 

When Disaster Hits Home: A Story of Resilience and Recovery

November 17 was an unseasonably warm and humid day in Washington, Illinois, a small city outside Peoria with a population of about 16,000. It was a Sunday, and that morning many of the city’s residents were attending church. The sun was shining, and Thanksgiving was around the corner. All was right in the world. In the skies above, however, a warm front swept up from the Gulf of Mexico and collided with a cold front descending from the Great Lakes. The conditions were perfect for disaster.

At 10:59 a.m., a half-mile wide EF4 tornado (the second- strongest possible) touched down in Washington. With winds peaking at 190 miles per hour, the tornado zig-zagged through the city at more than 60 miles per hour. Within a half hour, the storm had passed. Three people died, dozens were injured, nearly 600 homes were destroyed, and more than 1,100 other homes were badly damaged. The city sign reading “Washington” was found 90 miles away in Streator, Illinois, and residents’ personal possessions were found as far north as Chicago. With 564,000 cubic yards of storm debris, Washington residents faced an apocalyptic landscape.

While the devastation was severe, in some ways, Washington was lucky. Had the tornado struck at night, the number of people wounded and killed could have dramatically increased. There was also rapid response from public and nonprofit groups. One of city’s biggest advantages, however, came from the multinational corporation that calls the Washington area home. 

Future in Focus: Promoting Risk Stewardship

A procurement department, seeing an opportunity to reach their cost-reduction goals, switches the source of a sub-assembly to another supplier. This seemed perfectly logical; the quality and specs met the requirements. Unbeknownst to procurement, this supplier was noted for delivery outages due to poor infrastructure and transportation systems in its country. So, while the procurement department hit its financial targets by driving cost out of the supply chain, it may have inadvertently also increased the overall company’s exposure to supply chain risk and undue threat to profitability.

The Future of American Success

Success has become a tricky word again in the business world. Robert Reich, a former secretary of labor and professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, considered the paradox of success more than 14 years ago. He saw that the notion of success triggered polarizing reactions in American society, and he argued that both the critics and optimists were right.

The topic of success has resurfaced today. Since 2011, the Occupy Wall Street movement has spurred the social cry of “We Are The 99%,” causing a backlash against the top income earners in the United States and leading to an uneven yet heated debate on questions of opportunity, privilege, and power.

Enterprise Risk and the Board of Directors

Recently, some colleagues and I worked on a board risk oversight project that resulted in interviews with numerous corporate board members about their perspective on the board’s role in enterprise risk management (ERM). During that project, one board member suggested that my next risk research project should be called “good, great, going, gone!” —a risk project about companies that thought they were doing well but somehow ended up failing. He was motivated because he served on a board of a company that went bankrupt and wondered, after the idea of ERM came along, could the company have been saved? Could management and the board have seen the risks coming? Could they have seen them sooner or understood them better?

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