Penny Pritzker speaks at 114th Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce meeting in New Eastside

By B. David Zarley | Staff Writer

Published July 5, 2018

Members of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce held their 114th annual meeting on June 5 in the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Upper Wacker Drive.

The crowd included business and political leaders who gathered to hear remarks from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Jack Lavin, the Chamber’s new president and CEO. Penny Pritzker, former Secretary of Commerce, delivered the keynote address.

Mayor Emanuel emphasized in his speech the importance of area businesses working hand-in-hand with city colleges like Harold Washington College, in addition to prestigious private institutions.

“If we make everybody part of that winning circle, we make one city, one future working together,” Emanuel said. “That’s our challenge.”

Lavin presented the Chamber’s new Chamber Connect program. “The idea for this came from something that’s already happening,” Lavin said. “Chamber members meet one another, and they end up doing business together.”

The Chamber will create a formal, user-friendly process to help better connect members.

Penny Pritzker, who served as Secretary of Commerce from 2013 to 2017, was joined by outgoing chairman Steve Ferrera who took part in her keynote conversation. Pritzker touched on a wide range of topics and stressed American businesses’ potential as an envoy for the state.

“Ronald Reagan used to say we’re the ‘Shining City on the Hill,’” Pritzker said. “We can’t forget … how much of the world looks to the United States as an example of providing values and examples, whether it’s around lifelong learning, whether it’s around human rights and other things. Leadership like that requires generosity. It requires us, as a country, to think not just of our own needs, but also how you provide that role.”

Lastly, the Chamber, Mesirow Financial and CIBC presented the seventh annual James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award to Cornelius Griggs. Griggs built himself and his business, GMA Construction Group, from humble beginnings.

He grew up a ward of the state, living in the Cabrini-Green housing complex and other
public housing in Chicago. He went to college and earned two master’s degrees and served overseas in the Army Reserve before co-founding GMA Construction.

In addition to running his business, Griggs teaches at Kennedy-King College and volunteers with the Council for Opportunity in Education.

 

Photo courtesy of The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce

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