JACK LAVIN, PRESIDENT & CEO: In a year when there have been many challenges, the business community has persevered, progress has been made, and the Chamber is celebrating 117 years today.  

A year ago, we faced a global pandemic, an economic crisis filled with unknowns, and social unrest demanding long overdue systemic changes.   

The Chamber convened its own Economic Recovery Task Force chaired by Bruce Lubin, Robin Brown and Joe Dominguez.  Many of you participated in this important work.  The goal was simple: accelerate Chicagoland’s economic recovery and get people back to work. We took the Chicago Pledge to hire locally, buy locally and invest locally, and to listen and learn to make Chicago a more equitable and inclusive City.  

This provided a road map for the past year, and we have made great progress.  

We convened the CEO’s of our transit agencies and conducted multiple surveys and roundtables with you, all to help our workers trust transit and put Chicago’s commuters back on track.  

Our Healthcare Council provided thought leadership on vaccinations, health disparities, and deferred care due to the pandemic.  Our Tech Council discussed the role of tech in reopening. And our Mid-Market Program looked at the future of the Office after COVID19. 

Our talent programs worked with over 100 companies and trained more than 3,300 workers, in industries such as manufacturing, health care, financial and professional services, and cannabis, along with a focus on new protocols due to COVID.  

Our small business programs were resolute in working with the SBA and DCEO to find more resources for our businesses to survive and reopen.  We conducted digital marketing training for black and brown-owned businesses to thrive in a new virtual economy.  We partnered with Facebook for scholarships and training and held a roundtable with Sheryl Sandberg and our small businesses. 

We also listened and learned.  Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force led discussions on banking relationships and protecting your business in uncertain times, as well as, Creating a Culture of Conscious Inclusion.  Thanks to Robert Blackwell, we partnered with the Business Leadership Council on an initiative to Just Do Business and create an ecosystem to connect black-owned businesses with large companies like Mesirow, AT&T, and many others.  And we helped bring together Chicago’s civic organizations for a conversation about Juneteenth. 

The Chamber also hosted Superintendent David Brown who outlined the city’s plan to focus on public safety and rebuilding trust.  We had Senator Tammy Duckworth, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, among many other state and local leaders, to address Chamber members on public resources and policies for economic recovery.  

Our membership team found new technologies to keep us connected in our new virtual reality.  Our Exchange, Connection Clubs and March Matchmaking Madness helped our members make more than 1,000 connections, virtually.   

The Chamber helped lead Mayor Lightfoot’s Task Force on the Future of the Central City, which just released its Central City Recovery Roadmap.   

And we never stopped advocating for you.  We worked with the City, State, and Congressional delegation to provide more financial resources and regulatory relief to help with economic recovery.  In the Illinois General Assembly’s lame duck session, we led the opposition to Illinois becoming a pre-judgement interest state and against the firefighter’s pension sweetener.  This Spring, we led the fight to expand the data center industry and led a coalition to double the size of the film industry in Illinois while diversifying its talent pipeline.  We continue to fight for pension reform and against Assessor Kaegi’s shift of the property tax burden to the business community.   

We have accomplished much over this past year – new connections with virtual technology, thought leadership to move us through the health, economic and social challenges, and advocacy to be the champion of business as it fights for fiscal reforms and to reopen and get people back to work.   

As we enter Phase 5 and work to reopen our economy, there are many challenges ahead and the voice of business is more important than ever and must be heard, especially as we enter an election year.  That is why over the next year, we will engage our corporate leaders and CEO’s on key policy issues like pensions, property taxes, infrastructure, public safety, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. The solutions to these pressing issues will significantly impact the growth of our economy, our population, and our quality of life. 

And, of course, we will continue to focus on reopening the economy.  We will support our industries devastated by the pandemic and we will build new partnerships to help our small businesses and entrepreneurs make new connections and find new resources to grow and create jobs.   

Today, I am doubling down on our commitment to you – to be the champion for pro-growth business policies. To stay in constant communication and make the connections you need. And to provide you with programs and thought leadership to navigate the road ahead. 

I am excited and extremely optimistic about the year ahead and the future of the Chicago business community.  We are strong. We are resilient.  We are innovative.  And we will ensure economic opportunity reaches every corner and neighborhood throughout Chicagoland. We are a community of businesses, but more importantly, we are a community of people. A community of the hardworking people who have made this city the best in the world.   

Thank you for tuning in today.  Thank you for your partnership.  And thank you for your continued investment in the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.  

Every year, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce assembles the business and civic leaders of Chicago to celebrate the contributions commerce and industry make to our great city. The Annual Meeting of Membership has become the premier business event for Chicagoland and, in recent years, has emerged as the showcase event for the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial business and civic leaders.