Its mission is to establish DuPage County as a premier global business location by attracting and growing new business—not necessarily an easy task in a very competitive business environment. This past fall, Choose DuPage named John Carpenter as its new president and CEO, a move it hopes will help strengthen the public-private partnership even further. Naperville Magazine spoke with Carpenter about his new role at the organization and his strategic vision to grow DuPage County.
In September, you were named President and CEO of Choose DuPage—the driving force for economic development in DuPage County. What are your goals for the organization?
As President and CEO, my job is to carry out the mission and vision of Choose DuPage—to establish DuPage County as a premier global business location by working to expand and diversify the DuPage County economy. In order to do this, it is my goal that we continue to generate opportunities that will grow, retain and attract office, retail, industrial, and commercial businesses.
DuPage County has the second highest population in Illinois. What makes the County unique in terms of attracting new businesses and economic development?
In terms of population, it is not only our size but the highly-skilled labor force. DuPage County ranks first in the State in educational attainment. 46 percent of the population 25 and over have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, and 92 percent have a High School degree or higher. The labor force in DuPage County is 515,781, and our low unemployment rate of 5.1 percent is among the lowest in the region.
It’s not just population that makes DuPage County such a formidable economic force. DuPage County offers a business-friendly environment with low commercial property taxes, high quality-of-life for our residents, and proximity to an international transportation system, just to name a few things.
DuPage County is said to lead the State in energy and innovation. What do you see as the greatest opportunity for growth in the County?
The greatest opportunities in DuPage County continue to be our inherent advantages—quality of life, educated workforce, location and access to an extensive transportation network, and the businesses and people that create this diverse and growing economy. Communicating these advantages locally, nationally and globally will be our biggest opportunity for continued growth and success.
Alternatively, our biggest threat is complacency. Someone once said that it’s easy to get to the top, the hard work is staying on the top. In today’s constantly changing business environment, it is imperative we look for innovative approaches to growing our economy, rather than maintaining a status-quo.
What do you like best about living and working in DuPage County?
There is a lot to like about being in DuPage County. We have a responsible, transparent, and strategic local government that is committed to growing our economy. There is a wealth of opportunities to experience arts and culture, and an abundance of open space and natural amenities for outdoor recreation. DuPage County really does have it all.
What has been your proudest accomplishment so far in your career?
I have had many exciting accomplishments in my career. One of the highlights was playing a key role in the enactment of the legislation that allowed the O’Hare Modernization Plan to become a reality. Included in that legislation was language providing Western Access to O’Hare, a major economic development opportunity for DuPage County and the municipalities and towns west of the airport.
Who do you admire as a business mentor or role model?
I have been very fortunate to have worked for some very talented people. Foremost among them is the former Chairman, President and CEO of American Airlines Bob Crandall. He is a great mentor and role model because he was hard working, smart, and honest.
When you are not busy being CEO, how do you enjoy spending your free time?
When I am not working, most of my time is occupied with my family. My wife Leslie and I are the proud parents of three adult children. Our eldest daughter, Britney and her husband live in the Chicago area with their two children, Emma (9 years) and Andrew (3 years). Our middle daughter Elizabeth lives in Dallas and works for a public strategies company. And our youngest, Marie-Louise, lives in far southern Illinois with her husband. Marie-Louise is expecting her first child, and our third grandchild.
Other hobbies include watching sports (go Cubs!) and open wheel and vintage auto racing.Photo by Mike Hudson