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Jun 05

Celebrating Over 100 Years of Forward Thinking

Business community recognizes Chamber accomplishments from the past year and looks to the future at the Chamber’s Annual Meeting

It has been an extraordinary year at the Chamber, full of tough challenges, key accomplishments, and exciting events. The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting was an opportunity for the region's business community to unite, celebrate these accomplishments, and address how we will tackle these challenges in the future to make Chicagoland the best place to grow and run a business in the country. For a detailed look at the past year, download the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce 2012 Annual Report.

Chicago - While the presenters are all prominent business and civic leaders in the Chicagoland region, each speaker at this morning’s Annual Meeting had another important common element: a commitment to making Chicago the best place to grow and run a business.

When introducing Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Dave Hilfman, the Senior Vice President of Sales at United, made sure to point out his company’s loyalty to the region.

“Chicago is the place to be, and that’s why United’s world headquarters is right here, in Chicago,” he said.

The crowd of over 1,200 rose in applause when Mayor Emanuel took the stage, recognizing the Mayor’s focus on revitalizing the local economy and developing Chicago’s image as a global economic power since he took office last year.

Mayor Emanuel addressed Chicago’s food desert problem, complimenting Walgreens’ efforts to add stores in neighborhoods where jobs and fresh fruits and vegetables are most sorely needed. The latest “Building a New Chicago” economic development program is a prime example of how the Mayor plans to tackle various health and economic issues surrounding the city.

“We need to invest in two essential pieces of infrastructure: one is physical, and the other is human,” Mayor Emanuel said.

According to the Mayor, examples of this include revitalizing our CTA system to transport employees to and from work efficiently and streamlining the city’s business inspection system through technology.

According to Mayor Emanuel, because of its central location in the country, Chicago is the focal point the world looks to if it wants to sell, which makes infrastructure investment so important to the local economy and creating jobs.

“In the next three years we will put 30,000 people to work building a new Chicago,” Emanuel said.

Keynote speaker Greg Wasson echoed the Mayor’s sentiment during his address, stressing the need to adapt to an ever-changing marketplace. He discussed how Walgreens changed its business strategy over the past three or four years to appeal to the “new consumer” by modernizing its stores and customer experience. Walgreens’ new mega-store on State and Randolph is an excellent example.

“Our goal is to create an unmatched experience in the industry,” Wasson said. “We ultimately want to become American’s first choice for health and living.”

Also during this morning’s event, Deb DeHaas, outgoing Chair of the Chamber Board of Directors, passed the reigns over to the incoming Chair, Scott Swanson, President, Charter One and RBS Citizens, Illinois.

Swanson used his time at the podium to salute DeHaas on a job well done and look back on some of the Chamber’s legislative victories as well as job creation and economic development accomplishments during her tenure. Chief among these were worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance and tax reform, the OECD Tri-State Economic Study, and the Emanuel administration’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs.

“While much progress has been made, we will continue to fight for other issues impacting business and the future of our region, including the most important issue facing our state today – pension reform – which will perhaps have the single greatest impact on retaining and attracting businesses to the Chicagoland region,” Swanson said.

Swanson was profiled today in the Sun-Times on his new position of Chairman of the Board.

Another key moment today was the announcement of the winner of the inaugural James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award. Matt Matros, founder of Protein Bar, took home the $25,000 cash and $25,000 of in-kind services prize. The innovative health-conscious restaurant currently has 5 locations in Chicago’s Loop and River North with plans to open at least 4 more in 2012, including two on the East Coast.

You can experience a day of Annual Meeting social media buzz by checking out the latest Chamber Storify.

Click here to view photos from the event on Flickr.

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