The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce hosted its 119th Annual Meeting of Membership, a premier business event for Chicago’s business and civic community to celebrate the contributions commerce and industry make to a great city. This year’s luncheon, presented by AT&T, was hosted at the Hyatt Regency Chicago on June 6, featuring a keynote fireside chat with DNC Chair Jaime Harrison regarding the arrival of the 2024 DNC Convention in Chicago and a special address from recently inaugurated Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson.
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Chair of the Board of Directors, and President of National Accounts for Health Care Service Corporation Kevin Cassidy, opened the this year’s Annual Meeting of Membership by highlighting the key issues facing Chicago’s business community in 2023: public safety and economic development. Chair Cassidy detailed the connectedness between the two issues, “In the long run, the best way to ensure that our businesses remain vibrant, communities strong, and neighborhoods safe, is to provide more jobs and economic opportunities across the entire city — not only in downtown, but in every neighborhood.” It was announced that the Chamber’s Executive Committee approved a one-year extension to Cassidy’s tenure as Chair of the Board.
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jack Lavin then welcomed Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson to the stage, highlighting his enthusiasm and optimism for Chicago’s future, but also their shared goal of creating a more equitable, prosperous, and safer Chicago. Mayor Johnson shared his vision for a unified Chicago by investing in the city’s youth, “My administration will lead the business community, as we work to offer our young people, not just summer employment and enrichment opportunities, but year-round. We have to love our young people enough to actually invest in them. That’s what my administration will do and we’re going to do it together with the business community.”
Mayor Johnson provided solutions for investing in Chicago’s young people, “One way in which we can [invest in Chicago’s youth] is to build up our Career and Technical Education (CTE) that offers specialized programming for jobs that can build our green economy and serve other sectors of our economy.” His call-to-action continued, “We can do this together. We can. We can unlock the economic potential of our city. That means filling job vacancies. That means a thriving downtown AND neighborhoods. That means corporate relocation AND small business growth. That means rerouting the rivers of prosperity to the drylands to fill the job vacancies in your industry. To ensure our downtown and neighborhoods are prosperous we must invest in our young people.”
Chamber CEO Jack Lavin returned to the stage following the Mayoral Address to deliver the President’s Report, which focused on the historic inflection point that Chicago faces and the challenges that lie ahead including rising costs, persistent labor and supply chain shortages, a mental health crisis amongst Chicago’s youth, and an ongoing fight against crime throughout the city’s neighborhoods. “These factors all combine to create a watershed moment in Chicago’s history. To continue to be a world-class city, we need to look these issues straight on. We need to have a clear-eyed, pragmatic understanding of where we are, while we adopt a bold, forward-looking vision of where we can go,” Lavin continued. His report went on to address the past year’s successes of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, including recent programming that is leading to tangible policy changes and a new Workforce Development and Talent Council that will help develop equitable and diverse employee pipelines.
Lavin finished his remarks by praising the selection of Chicago as the site for the 2024 Democratic National Convention before introducing the event’s featured keynote speaker, Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison, “The DNC could’ve gone anywhere in the country, but they chose Chicago — and it’s clear to see why. Because Chicago is second to none. We have a diversity and depth of talent that no other city can match. We are a centrally located cultural metropolis with world-renowned restaurants, outstanding hotels, beautiful venues, and a stunning lakefront. Our dual airport system and transportation infrastructure are world class. But above all, it’s the people. We are a place that prides itself on our inclusive and welcoming spirit. Chicago truly stands at the center of everything.”
DNC Chair Harrison was joined on stage by moderator Val Warner of ABC 7 Chicago for an exciting discussion about Harrison’s background, his preference of the Cubs over the White Sox, and of course, the arrival of the 2024 convention and its expected economic impact to the region. When asked about developing partnerships within Chicago, Chair Harrison stated, “We have to transform ourselves to be a community organization.” He continued by ensuring Chicago’s business community that the convention would rely heavily upon their participation, “The business community is going to be a core component of [the convention]. It’s going to be really important. We want to make sure [businesses] have a seat at the table in terms of making this convention [their] own and to makes sure the benefits of this convention are long lasting.”
Since its beginnings as the Chicago Commercial Association and Industry in 1904, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce has worked tiredlessly on delivering value for its members and the region’s economic prosperity by fostering connections, advocating for reform, and developing critical thought leadership, making Chicagoland a world-class place to live and work.
Get involved by checking out the full list of upcoming Chamber events!