Conversation with Former White House Economic Adviser Austan Goolsbee

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 5.25.55 PMWorking Capital Conversations: Leading thinkers, practitioners and experts discuss the ideas that drive global business.

We face no shortage of extraordinary headlines and timely issues that will affect not just our domestic economy but the economy globally. The question, of course, is how?

The Greek bailout package. An historic nuclear deal with Iran. A collapsing Chinese stock market.

Domestically, other questions: Rising inequality. Job growth without wage growth. The minimum wage battle inside city limits. The pending first Fed rate increase in years.

Any one of these alone would have a significant effect on the global economy – and the businesses that compete every day. All of them at the same time, well, we need some help to make sense of that.

To provide that help, Austan Goolsbee, former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and current Gwinn Professor of Economics at The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Goolsbee is well-known not only for his insights and intelligence, but also his humor and wit. He’s been called one of the 100 Global Leaders for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum, one of the six “Gurus of the Future” by the Financial Times, as well as D.C’s Funniest Economist. He released several must-see White House YouTube videos on the economy and made six appearances on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. We’ll get to the funny, but let’s start with the substance…


Conversation on Innovation: Turning the Lights Back On in Detroit

We all know the headlines that Detroit, its leaders, and citizens lived through: In 2013, the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history by debt. The largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy. The debt numbers, staggering: $18-20 billion.

We also know what the decades leading up to bankruptcy were like in Detroit: Businesses closed; infrastructure crumbled; crime rose – homicides at their highest rate in 40 years; about half the population left the city limits.

But perhaps no image stood more starkly as a symbol of Detroit’s decline more than the city’s lights. Some 40% of them didn’t work. Literally as well as figuratively, Detroit was going dark.

So how do you flip that switch back on? How do you let there be light in a place where it seemed no one wanted to invest? And why would one of the world’s largest banks find value in helping a bankrupt Midwestern city turn the lights back on?

Our two guests today can explain. Odis Jones is CEO of the Public Lighting Authority of Detroit. Tom Green heads the U.S. Public Finance Infrastructure Group at Citi and led the deal that brought light back to the Motor City.

Conversation with Dean Sippel: CEO, Jack Welch Management Institute

imageWorking Capital Conversation: Leading thinkers, practitioners and experts discuss the ideas that drive global business.

The road to business success is obviously a challenging one — indeed, there’s no proven straight path. Or if you have one, please let us know.

But one path many try to take is to learn from the masters — the successful leaders, entrepreneurs or managers that came before us. If we’re lucky, we find such a mentor in our own company. But what if you can’t? Or, better, what if you could learn from one of the true masters of the craft — former GE Chairman and CEO Jack Welch?

Odds are, you don’t have his number. But one place that does is the Jack Welch Management Institute. Instead of a traditional MBA, this successful organization delivers qualified participants an online MBA. And while Welch serves as Executive Chairman, they deliver access to other CEOs and instructors and successful business leaders as well. How does it work? Why is this different than a traditional MBA? And does getting admitted also provide you with Welch’s phone number?

Dean Sippel is Chief Executive Officer of the Jack Welch Management Institute.

Conversation on Innovation: How Private Markets Can Bring Clean Energy Solutions to Your Home

Americans’ interest in energy efficiency can be seen in the numbers: The vast majority of us believe in it. In one recent national poll: 87 percent said renewable energy is important to the country’s future. In another, 57 percent said the best way to solve our nation’s energy issues was conservation.

However, one of the hardest places to implement a clean energy lifestyle just may be the place where most of us spend most of our time: Our homes. And one of the biggest reasons may also be among the hardest to solve: Cost.

While we know that clean energy solutions will save us money in utility bills over the long run, the initial short-term investments stop many from making the necessary infrastructure changes.

But a new partnership is actively attacking this public policy problem, and the place they’re doing it just may surprise you: The private markets.

The partnership is called WHEEL: Warehouse for Energy Efficiency Loans. It’s a combination of non-profits, state leaders and agencies, national associations, a specialist in innovative renewable energy financing and even one of the world’s largest banks.

The group started by leveraging public funds with private capital to provide loans that help home owners invest in energy efficiency changes. And now, new headlines that should allow the program to truly scale and help a wider number of home owners reach their energy efficiency dreams: The recent announcement of the creation of the first-ever secondary market for these loans.

How does it work? Colin Bishopp, Vice President at Renew Financial and Bruce Schlein, Director of Alternative Energy Finance at Citi, explain.