Deputy Mayor of the City of Chicago, Mr Mayekar
Members of the Consular Corps
Members of the Swiss business community
Ladies and Gentlemen
Dear friends of Switzerland
Switzerland is back in Chicago! It is my pleasure to formally open the Swiss Consulate General today in your great city and celebrate our renewed presence in the Midwest with you.
This is my first visit to Chicago, and I have to say I’m very impressed by this vibrant city and its people, its thriving business community, its world-class architecture and museums, and—of course—its incredible lakefront. It reminds me of my home canton of Ticino, where we have two wonderful lakes. Although they’re not quite on the same scale, and the wind doesn’t blow quite as strong.
Switzerland had maintained a continuous, uninterrupted consular presence in Chicago since 1864 and was actually the first country to establish a consulate in the city.
But then a few years ago we closed the consulate general. Albert Einstein used to say, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new”. I guess this is also true for governments. During that time, we had an outstanding and very well-connected honorary consul here in the shape of Jörg Oberschmied. Thank you for your dedicated service. It is much appreciated.
Thanks to strong cross-party support in Parliament, we decided to come back to Chicago. And here we are! We have come back for three main reasons: innovation, investment, and people.
We — both Switzerland and the United States — seem pretty good at trying new things, and then correcting and adapting. Our two countries rank among the top three nations worldwide in terms of innovation. The countless innovation and research partnerships that exist between American and Swiss companies, universities, labs, and research institutes are a key feature of our relations.
Our success in innovation is not a given. We have to invest in the future by creating favorable conditions at home. We need reliable infrastructure, a flexible labor market, reasonable tax rates and regulations, and efficient and stable governance. But we must also do what we can to foster partnerships in innovation, especially with our world-class partners in the United States in general, and in the greater Chicago metropolitan area in particular.
Indeed, Chicago plays a key role in the rich bilateral innovation partnerships that exist. For example: more than half of the U.S. particle physics community, some 1,500 physicists, carry out their research at CERN in Geneva. The other half seems to be working here in Chicago at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). New collaborations between Switzerland and the United States in particle physics are developing in the area of neutrino physics. Significant Swiss contributions through the University of Geneva resulted in the discovery of the top quark in proton-proton-collisions (and led the way to a successful start at CERN’s large hadron collider). As a non-physicist, I can get away with quoting Woody Allen, “photons have mass? I didn’t even know they were Catholics!”
As the seventh largest investor in the United States, Switzerland wants to be present with a consulate general in the third most important metropolitan area in America. There are around 100 Swiss companies here. In the state of Illinois alone, Swiss affiliates sustain nearly 22,000 jobs, paying an average salary of USD 100,000, the highest among foreign companies. That means that Swiss companies are the sixth largest foreign job creators in Illinois. Bilateral trade between Switzerland and Illinois alone amounts to over USD 1.7 billion dollars annually. And, of course, there are daily direct flights between Chicago and Zurich.
Swiss companies have consistently shown an interest in the greater Chicago metropolitan area.
That’s why the Swiss Business Hub USA will be organizing an all-day “Swiss Peer-to-Peer Conference” on October 30 at the Mid-America Club here in Chicago.
Switzerland used to be an emigration country, especially in the 19th century, and the United States was by far the most important destination for Swiss emigrants. Today, more than one million Americans are of Swiss descent. Most came to America as workers and farmers, some became famous and influential – like Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin, business tycoon Meyer Guggenheim, and racecar driver and businessman Louis Chevrolet – all were pursuing the American Dream, which still inspires so many across the globe. And Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana have the fourth, fifth, and sixth largest Swiss-American communities in the United States!
Among the first Swiss in Chicago were William Haas and Andrew Sulzer, who established Chicago’s first brewery in 1833. Swiss emigrants actively involved in Chicago’s civic life have included Conrad Sulzer, an early official and benefactor of Ridgeville and Lake View; Brigadier General Hermann Lieb, editor of the “Chicago Democrat” and Cook County Clerk from 1873 to 1877; surgeon Henry Banga, a pioneer in antiseptic methods at Michael Reese Hospital; surgeon Nicholas Senn, also at Rush, who donated a building for medical research as well as two European medical collections that are now part of the John Crerar Library; Rudolph Ganz, the president of the Chicago Musical College from 1933 to 1954, who greatly enhanced Chicago’s musical life; and physician Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the author of “On Death and Dying” (1969).
She wrote, “We need to teach the next generation of children from day one that they are responsible for their lives. Mankind’s greatest gift, also its greatest curse, is that we have free choice.”
That’s why I’m particularly proud of Chicago’s Swiss residents who set up a number of organizations to preserve their national heritage, provide mutual help and teach the next generation the importance of freedom and democracy. A Grütli Verein was set up in 1856, a Swiss Club in 1888 nevolent Society in 1872, a French-Swiss Benevolent Society in 1888, and the Swiss American Historical Society was founded in 1927.
Last, but certainly not least, I would like to mention the very active sister city relationship between the beautiful Swiss city of Lucerne and Chicago.
I am confident that the consulate general will help to further strengthen and deepen ties with Switzerland and with the tens of thousands of Swiss-Americans living in Chicago and beyond.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand the importance of Chicago and the Midwest. It was high time for one of the top ten foreign direct investors in the United States and a key partner in innovation to return to one of the most relevant and dynamic American cities and greater metropolitan areas.
We want to focus on innovation, investment, and people. Consul General Bruno Ryff and his small, but outstanding team will have these three areas covered, and many more besides.
Relations between Switzerland and the United States are excellent and wide ranging, but there’s always room to do more and better. From today on, we’ll do more and better in Chicago and beyond too. In our team here you’ll find a reliable partner, whom you can trust. Switzerland is a partner you can trust.