Choose Chicago President and CEO David Whitaker today announced the appointment of Ken Bennett as Senior Advisor, Public Policy and Community Affairs for Choose Chicago effective Monday, July 11. In this new position, Bennett will be responsible for fostering and maintaining relationships with local community leaders and state officials to enhance Choose Chicago's role in local and state tourism and economic development. Bennett most recently served as First Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of the Office of Public Engagement for the City of Chicago's Mayor's Office.
"We're thrilled to have Ken join our team, and I look forward to working with him to strengthen Choose Chicago's relationships at the local and state level, reinforcing our ties to the Chicago community," David Whitaker, President and CEO of Choose Chicago said. "Ken will be instrumental in engaging civic leaders, community organizations, labor unions and our elected officials here in Chicago, our region and the State to promote the vital role that Choose Chicago and our industry play in tourism, the state economy and our community overall."
Prior to his most recent role as First Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of the Office of Public Engagement for the City of Chicago's Mayor's Office, Bennett served as Presidential Appointee and Regional Representative for the U.S. Secretary of Labor, responsible for the Great Lake States of the Midwest. Bennett also served as Deputy Assistant to President Barack Obama and Deputy Director of Presidential Personnel. Bennett started his career working as an aide in the office of the late Mayor of Chicago Harold Washington.
"Ken's commitment to public service has taken him from City Hall to the U.S. Capitol to the White House, but no matter where he is, he has always been a tireless advocate for Chicago residents and the City we all love," Mayor Emanuel said. "No matter what the issue, I've always been able to rely on Ken for his thoughtful advice and friendship, and I'm thrilled we'll continue benefiting from his sound counsel as he takes on a new leadership role at Choose Chicago."
Bennett will report directly to Choose Chicago President and CEO David Whitaker. He will act as liaison to key Choose Chicago industry partners advising on public policy strategies, city and state funding, and strategic community partnerships. Bennett will also work with Whitaker to advocate on Choose Chicago's behalf for legislation that impacts both the organization and the State's tourism industry.
"I am honored to join Choose Chicago and to be given an opportunity to continue elevating this great city," Ken Bennett, Senior Advisor, Public Policy for Choose Chicago said. "Tourism is such a critical component of our community's success, not just for economic vitality and job creation, but also for the opportunity to showcase the diversity, culture and drive of our city and its people. I look forward to working alongside David and the Choose Chicago team to expand our partnership with the local community and the State."
Chicago saw record visitation in 2015 with more than 52 million visitors. Since 2010, Chicago's tourism industry has added more than 15,000 jobs, including an estimated 3,800 new jobs in 2015. The city also continues to be a leading destination for meetings and conventions ranking number two in Cvent's 2016 Top 50 Meeting Destinations in the U.S. Tourism to Chicago in 2015 generated $935 million in total tax revenue, $2.2 billion in revenue for Chicago's hotels and $124.1 million in hotel tax revenue. Every dollar invested in Choose Chicago generates $25 in state and local taxes.
With last week's passage of a stopgap budget, Choose Chicago, along with other convention and visitor bureaus throughout the state, will receive its statutorily mandated state funding for fiscal year 2017.