Business Profile | Mike Evans

June 2013 View more

President and CEO Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce

N2013_06_01_106BUSINThe Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce has a history of being first for a number of things. Recently, the Chamber appointed Mike Evans as its new president and CEO, one of the youngest leaders in the Chamber’s history. Naperville Magazine spoke with Evans about his new role and the Chamber’s ambitious plans for the future.

You were appointed president and CEO of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce last year. What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Anytime you come into an organization for the first time, one of the biggest challenges is always assessing what’s going on. This is true as a first time guest when you work your way around a networking event trying to find your best prospects, socialites, and stakeholders. This is true when you sign up as a volunteer of your local service club and orientate yourself through the projects, committees, and social circles. It is especially true when you take the helm of an organization, especially one so prominently regarded and with so many members as the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce. We have 1,500 members, hundreds of events, and innumerable partners and alliances.

Assessing, or otherwise learning about the organization is challenging, but rewarding. While learning about the Chamber, you still have to manage the daily operations. However, in learning about the Naperville Chamber I have been able to appreciate our past and look forward to our future.

It has been equally rewarding to spend time listening to our members, learning from our Board of Directors, and talking with community leaders. We also have a great team in place to serve our membership and learning about each of their talents and perspectives requires focus. Our greatest challenges remain our strongest opportunities. The business community is changing and the Chamber must adapt too, so we will always be in a state of change.

What attracted you to the position with the Naperville Chamber of Commerce?

Before I was a Chamber executive I respected the accomplishments and vision of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce. When I worked in the public sector, the Chamber was regarded as an organization that businesses and government could rely on to advocate for economic growth and for the interests of members’ businesses.

Through policy recommendation, legislative review, and honest discussion, we bring together anyone impacted by business policies and influence those who decide and implement. Being the leader who can drive the organization down the road ahead and offer my contributions was an opportunity I could not pass up. The Chamber of Commerce industry is a unique resource that helps define growth in our communities, region, and country, and I am rewarded daily by working with such a talented team of employees, volunteers and investors to accomplish this task.

The Naperville area business community continues to grow and expand with several large development projects planned for downtown Naperville. What role do you see the Chamber playing in these projects?

First, let me say these developments don’t just happen. They are the result of the visionary leadership of the community, fostered by the collaboration of resources available and built by some very talented owners who are willing to take a chance on Naperville. The Chamber has been and will continue to be a resource to all businesses. We are privileged to have partners such as the Naperville Development Partnership and our elected leaders help us in the Chamber’s mission to maintain effective economic development strategies—attracting new businesses and helping existing businesses. We are committed to being the primary source for business retention through our events, programs, marketing and advertising vehicles and, most critically, our advocacy.

What are your goals and vision for the Chamber in the next few years?

We have had great success over the last 100 years, but our industry, community, region, business environment, and political climate has been changing at a faster pace than we have adjusted to. This presents so many opportunities for continuous improvement. Currently, our board of directors is reviewing our strategic plan, and our leadership team is constantly evaluating our programs and services for effectiveness in accomplishing the Chamber’s mission. I think you can anticipate an organization that is more focused on the business development needs of our membership. Legislatively, we will also be looking at how we strategically have the most effect on advancing a pro-business agenda at all levels of government.

I can also guarantee some new opportunities for personal and professional growth. One of the most exciting things ahead is the Young Entrepreneurs Academy or YEA! This innovative, education-focused initiative will successfully build new generations of small business owners right here in Naperville—and will start with sixth through 12th grade students.

When you’re not busy working, what are some of your favorite things you enjoy doing in Naperville?

Downtown is by far my family’s favorite place to hang around. I have always enjoyed it from the Riverwalk, to the history of Naper Settlement, to the shops and restaurants. I truly enjoy coming here for work every day and I have no problem coming right back with the family. Naperville also knows how to throw a party for the community. From parades to major festivals, there is always something to do with your family and friends. My wife has a big family from out of state and it’s great to be able to celebrate at events like Ribfest and Last Fling. One of my favorite things the last couple years has been the Naperville Wine Fest out by Hotel Arista. It’s simply an awesome event. I’m excited that the Chamber is a sponsor for the inaugural Naperville Ale Fest as well and looking forward to the first Naperville Marathon—as a spectator of course! DuPage Children’s Museum, with a 3-year-old daughter, is a must on rainy weekends, especially. I could go on and on, there is simply a ton of great things for people in Naperville!