The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, at its Annual Meeting this morning, announced that the winner of the 2018James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award is Cornelius Griggs, President of GMA Construction Group. The Tyree Award is presented annually to a small business that has demonstrated growth, job creation and philanthropic values. It includes a $50,000 cash prize to fuel further business growth and civic engagement. This is the 7th year of the Tyree Award.

GMA Construction Group is a full-service General Contracting, Construction Management and Cost Engineering firm that focuses on people; developing its team members as construction professionals, and serving those in the communities where it works. The firm seeks projects that impact communities in urban areas by renovating and building educational, healthcare and affordable housing facilities.

“I am thankful for this phenomenal Award, dedicated to the namesake of James Tyree, a legendary businessman and philanthropist,” said Cornelius Griggs. “GMA Construction Group strives to develop people who will transform the communities in which we live, work and play. We will continue to positively impact our communities and fellow business owners, and empower the youth to do the same in the underserved communities of Chicago.” 

Griggs served in the United States Army Reserve for ten years, including service as a Health and Safety Inspector in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Qatar. He credits the training he received in the Army Reserve for preparing him for the challenges of owning and growing a small business. 

Jack Lavin, President and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, said: “GMA Construction Group’s mission and track record of positively impacting people and entire communities show it’s a unique business and a tremendous asset to Chicago. Cornelius Griggs is an exceptional person running an exceptional company, while also mentoring young men and women in Chicago.”

Lavin also noted pride in the Chicago-area business community. “The $50,000 cash prize provided by sponsors Mesirow Financial and CIBC is a great example of the Chicago business-ecosystem. Small, middle-market, and large companies all support one another. They know a boost to one level of the economy is good for all levels, all individual companies, and the entire Chicago-region.”

Competition for the 2018 Tyree Award began in March with more than 30 applicants. Twelve businesses advanced to a “Shark Tank”-like pitch event in April (photos of the event can be viewed and downloaded here for use related to this announcement). A panel of judges, including past Tyree Award winners, and a voting audience narrowed the field to six. Judges then chose three finalists, and after private interviews, determined the Tyree Award winner.

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and Mesirow Financial launched the Tyree Award in 2012 in memory of Jim Tyree, who had served as Chairman and CEO of Mesirow Financial, and Chairman of the Chicagoland Chamber. CIBC, formerly known as The PrivateBank, where Jim was a Board Director, became a sponsor in 2016 and made it possible to double the prize to $50,000. More information about the James Tyree Award, including a video that can be seen and downloaded for use related to this announcement, is here.