New programs are never simple:

  • They are built from the ground up.
  • There are multiple stakeholders.
  • They require patience and a willingness to try new things.

The good news is that they can generate exciting and groundbreaking results.

These types of projects are my favorites — structuring new efforts, creating a roadmap in an undefined space, and building off lots of different ideas and opinions.

A new, first-of-its-kind program I’ve been working on just had its public launch. On Wednesday, May 22, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle along with 100 civic leaders, elected officials, industry stakeholders and community partners gathered in River Forest, Illinois, at Thatcher Woods Pavilion to celebrate the formal launch of Tourism Alive. Thanks to all involved, this program is a wonderful example of what can be done when the community works together in alignment to focus on long-term engagement, resilience and growth.

Tourism Alive began as an idea in the depths of the pandemic. An initiative of the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development, funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act, and in partnership with its five suburban convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) — Chicago’s North Shore Convention & Visitors Bureau, Meet Chicago Northwest, Rosemont CVB, Visit Chicago Southland and Visit Oak Park — Tourism Alive began as an effort to align the community in support of the tourism industry as it recovered from the impacts of COVID-19.

Cook County Tourism Alive

What Tourism Alive has grown into is a true partnership between government, destination organizations, and industry partners, resulting in new, measurable and meaningful programs that are making a difference across suburban Cook County. In addition to funds going directly to CVBs for projects they have initiated in their own communities, regional campaigns — Outside Chicago focused on outdoor activities and experiences, This is Your Wake Up Call, centered on workforce development and career growth, and Visit Chicagoland, a leisure marketing campaign — reach across the area.

I am beyond thrilled to serve on the team that has led this program’s development, and excited to keep the momentum going for Tourism Alive! For more information, visit

Cook County Tourism Alive launch

Thank you to all, including: Chicago’s North Shore Convention & Visitors Bureau, Visit Chicago Southland, Meet Chicago Northwest, Village of Rosemont, Visit Oak Park, Cook County Tourism, Cook County Government, Forest Preserves of Cook County, Cook County Bureau of Economic Development, Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, Toni Preckwinkle, Xochitl Flores, Mohammed Elahi, Krista Elam, Irene Sherr, Gina Speckman, Bill Utter, Eileen Figel, Carl Vogel, Lydia Uhlir, Stacina Stagner, Cathy B. Geraghty, Kyle Garmes, Miles Partnership, Envisionit, Tourism Economics, Destinations International, and so many more!

Cook County Tourism Alive launch