Thank you everyone. And, thank you Mayor Lightfoot for joining us today and sharing your vision for Chicago. We as a business community look forward to working with you.

Since becoming Chairman of the Board last year, I have been inspired by the energy of our new CEO, Jack Lavin, and the entire Chamber team.

115 years ago, the city’s titans of industry convened to create an organization that would unite the business community in Chicago.  They knew – as we know today – that when one of us succeeds, we all succeed. However, I don’t know if they could have imagined how our city would look today – the vibrancy, culture, diversity and our incredibly strong business community.

I am encouraged by all that our community, through the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, has achieved in just one short year. I consistently hear from members, old and new, how the Chamber team makes purposeful and valuable connections for them. It’s this thoughtfulness that ensures we, as a community of entrepreneurs and business leaders, can all grow together.

But I know as well as you do that our continued growth and success does not exist in a vacuum. The best way to ensure that our businesses remain vibrant and strong is to ensure that economic opportunity reaches every corner and neighborhood throughout Chicagoland. Yes, we are a community of businesses, but more importantly, we are a community of people. A community of the hardworking men and women who have made this city and this region the best in the nation.

When I began my tenure one year ago, I made it clear that diversity, equity, and inclusion is one of my top priorities. There is no shortage of data or studies demonstrating how diversity is good for business, contributes to things like innovation by bringing different voices together, and ultimately helps companies become more competitive and attractive to top talent. But more to the point, celebrating, supporting, and helping to advance the careers of our diverse workforce is the right thing to do. I am committed to that, I know Jack and his team are committed to that, and I challenge you to make that commitment, too.

At our last board meeting, we announced the formation of the Chicagoland Chamber’s first-ever Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Chaired by Robin L. Brown of Ingredion and Stephen Schwab of DLA Piper—both of whom are Chamber Board Members—this newly created body will focus on increasing supplier and vendor diversity, providing education and training opportunities, and recognizing businesses that demonstrate excellence in advancing diversity and inclusion.

In order for the Chicago region to continue being the best place to live and work, we need to support diversity, equity and inclusion for all and I hope you will join us in making that happen.

I also want to acknowledge the next generation of business leaders.  The Chicagoland Chamber’s Emerging Leaders program creates programming and opportunities specific to our region’s young leaders, to ensure they have the tools and connections to grow and thrive in their careers and within their companies.  I encourage you to nominate a young person from your company to join the Chamber’s Emerging Leader program.

Each of us here is involved with the Chamber in different ways and at different levels. Jack shared with us just some of the highlights of the past year and vision for the future, which is incredibly exciting. I want to encourage you today as you to consider how you can deepen your commitment and partnership with the Chamber. The more engaged you are, the more you will get in return from the Chamber and you will watch your business grow. Under Jack’s leadership, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce is more relevant and active than ever.

Encourage your fellow business and civic leaders to join us as we stand united to help Chicago grow, thrive, and continue to be the greatest city in the world to live and do business.

Finally, save the date for the Chicagoland Chamber’s annual Burnham Award Dinner on November 6. This year’s honoree is a man I know well, admire greatly and is a true friend – CIBC’s Larry Richman. I can assure you that Larry makes “no little plans” and is very deserving of our Burnham Award for Distinguished Leadership. I hope you will save the date and join me and our entire business community on November 6 to honor Larry. 

I joined the Chamber and enthusiastically accepted the role of Chairman because I believe in the good the Chamber does for businesses like mine. I initially joined to make connections that add value to me, and that I can add value to them. One such connection I’ve made at the Chamber is Cornelius Griggs, President and CEO of GMA Construction and last year’s winner of the James Tyree award.  We’ve become friends and I have a great respect for Cornelius personally, as well as what he continues to accomplish.

Today, I see the vision our founding members had. I see a city filled with passionate leaders ready to help solve our region’s most urgent needs through economic growth and development and jobs. I see a region filled with culture and arts and entertainment that surpasses any other in the nation. I see architecture that inspires and awes us each day. And I know that together, with the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce amplifying our united business community message and ensuring we have a seat at the table, we will continue to be the city of big shoulders with the most dynamic business community.

Thank you.