All local businesses. Business and economy will not return to normal until COVID-19 is under control. Vaccines have been shown to be extremely effective against the virus that has turned the trade on its head for the past 18 months. Still, vaccination rates remain frustratingly low, allowing COVID to mutate and fuel a new surge in cases that threaten to disrupt business in the months ahead.
Companies are in a unique position to prevent 2020 from happening again. You can fight the bug by requiring your employees to get vaccinated. The threat of job loss is a strong incentive to get vaccinated.
Some local companies, including United Airlines and some large hospitals, require vaccines for all employees. It is time for all companies to follow suit immediately.
MC Donalds. The big initiative of the burger giant for the second half of 2021 is the start of a long-awaited customer loyalty program. Rivals like Starbucks have shown how lucrative loyalty programs can be, and McDonald’s wants to repeat their success.
The question is, can McDonald’s restaurants offer the level of service that inspires loyalty. Customers won’t come back if McDonald’s can’t fulfill orders fast enough. It is becoming increasingly difficult for McDonald’s franchisees struggling with a labor shortage to meet this expectation. CEO Chris Kempczinski has admitted a slowdown in understaffed stores.
Company-owned businesses have apparently solved the problem with pay rises. This solution may not be financially viable for all franchisees who run 95% of McDonald’s restaurants. The loyalty program will succeed or fail based on customer experience in franchise stores. McDonald’s should make sure that franchisees have the resources they need to generate repeat business.
Abbott Laboratories and Walgreens Boots Alliance. Two of the largest companies in the region have extras in their C-suites. Medical device maker Abbott and pharmacy chain Walgreens have both appointed new CEOs without sending the old ones home. Miles White at Abbott and Stefano Pessina at Walgreens remained in the undefined role of “Executive Chairman”.
Keeping former CEOs in an ambiguous role indefinitely raises the question of who is really in charge. Their continued presence in what appears to be a managerial position undermines the authority of their successors and dilutes responsibility for corporate performance. In addition, they burden companies with another hefty salary package.
You can’t run a multi-billion dollar company like this. By the end of this year, Abbott and Walgreens should at least say when their CEOs are leaving.
Governor JB Pritzker. In the coming months, Pritzker will have the opportunity to advance Illinois in the fast-growing electric vehicle industry. US Senator Richard Durbin recently said Illinois was in talks with Korean tech giant Samsung, which needs a location for its first EV battery plant in the US.
Illinois already has a mainstay in EV manufacturing. Amazon-backed Rivian builds normal electric trucks, and Lion Electric plans to produce plug-in school buses in Joliet.
What Illinois is missing is an EV battery factory. That’s a big loophole. Batteries are the most innovative and lucrative segment in the industry. Without batteries, Illinois could be a net loser in the next few decades as electric vehicles replace the internal combustion engines that have created wealth and jobs in the state for generations.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Lightfoot must stop the car thefts and freeway shootouts that have popped up across town this year. These terrifying, high-profile crimes spread the message that the people of Chicago are at risk of arbitrary, lethal violence anytime, anywhere. This is economic poison, especially for a city just beginning to shake off the effects of COVID-19 on the economy and employment. People, businesses, and jobs will disappear if Lightfoot can’t keep Chicago’s streets and highways safe.