Andrea Zopp steps down as CEO of World Business Chicago

Andrea Zopp

Crusader Staff Report

Andrea Zopp is stepping down at the end of the year as CEO of World Business Chicago (WBC) after three years on the job, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday, December 7.

Lightfoot and WBC Vice Chair Mellody Hobson said Zopp has accepted a position with Cleveland Avenue, a privately-held venture capital firm that accelerates and strategically invests in innovative food, beverage and restaurant concepts and emerging brands.

The firm is headed by Don Thompson, who became the first Black president and CEO of McDonalds in 2012. Thompson’s wife, Elizabeth “Liz” Thompson, serves as the company’s CAFÉ president and office director. It is unclear what role or position Zopp will have at Cleveland Avenue.

“Historically under-represented groups have been held back from advancements in VC and Tech because of money and access,” said Zopp in a statement. “While I am saddened to leave WBC, I am excited for my next chapter at Cleveland Avenue that will not only involve improving access for under-represented minorities, but also lifting up our businesses, communities and neighborhoods. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it has a positive impact that leads to generational change.”

“During her more than three years of leadership at WBC, Andy has been an incredible partner to both our city and business community while executing the agency’s mission of driving inclusive economic growth,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Her dedication to creating, advocating for, and advancing socioeconomic opportunities in underserved communities has truly left a lasting, positive impact on Chicago, and I am confident she will continue to be a driving force of change in her new role. I congratulate Andy on this exciting next step in her professional career and thank her for her years of service to our city.”

“Andy leaves a strong team and board of directors whose collective work and passion for Chicago will continue uninterrupted,” said Mellody Hobson, WBC Vice Chair. “Andy’s leadership of WBC has led to many impactful programs and initiatives and certainly helped guide the organization through the challenges presented by the pandemic.”

Lightfoot said a search for a new president and CEO will begin in early 2021. WBC is a public-private, non-profit partnership that drives economic development, job creation, supports businesses and promotes the city as the place for international businesses to invest.

WBC will continue serving a critical role in driving inclusive and equitable recovery, as laid out in the Recovery Task Force report, with an emphasis on our region’s particular strengths in high-growth areas: expanding the region’s TD&L; strengthening Chicago’s health care and life-sciences ecosystem; and building on the region’s assets in food and agriculture. Michael Fassnacht, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for the city of Chicago, a position currently held within WBC, and who is currently part of the city’s Recovery Task Force, will serve as Interim CEO and President for WBC and will continue the organization’s critical work.

“Now more than ever is a critical time to focus WBC on its core tasks of helping Chicago businesses to thrive and attract new companies to our great city,” said Fassnacht. “We will be diligent in our search to identify a leader to drive economic growth in all of our City’s 77 neighborhoods.”

Zopp was appointed to head WBC in 2017 after serving as deputy mayor and chief neighborhood development officer under Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In 2016, Zopp lost to Tammy Duckworth for U.S. Senator after serving as president of the Chicago Urban League. In 2017, Zopp was appointed to serve on the Chicago Police Board. In 2013, while on the Chicago Board of Education, Zopp voted to close 50 Chicago Public Schools, many of which were in Black neighborhoods.  Now, there are questions of whether Zopp will remain an independent voice on the Chicago Police Board.

WBC is a non-profit agency that operates on public- and privately-raised funds to lure businesses to the city to promote economic growth. That position is expected to play a key role in revitalizing Chicago’s economy after it has been damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and looting during days of social unrest earlier this year.

In August, a seven-figure budget cut reportedly forced World Business Chicago to eliminate nine of its 39 staff positions.

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