President and CEO Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
“I’ve been doing this for a few years,” Jerry Roper says with a laugh. “You can tell by the color of my hair.”
“This” is advocating for the growth of commerce in Chicago through the development of small and mid-sized businesses. Mr. Roper is president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, a membership organization he joined in 1993. In nearly two decades, the changing of the mayoral guard has been particularly significant in the way that the Chamber interfaces with the mayor’s office. In a January 2011 interview with Fox Chicago, Mr. Roper noted that “Businesses have always wanted to be at the table to fix the problems,” implying that, at the time, they weren’t.
Today, he says, “Mayor Emanuel has worked with the business community through World Business Chicago to develop a Chicago Growth Agenda…the short of the story is that we’re at the table.” He continues, “I wish I had another 20 years. This mayor is moving pretty fast. It’s nice to be on his train. I don’t know if I’m in his caboose or if I’m up front, but…we know where we’re going.”
For Mr. Roper, that direction must involve an emphasis on women business owners. “Women-owned businesses are critical to the growth of our city,” he states. “The big issues of what we deal with in the city, in all categories, is if we’re not creating demand for our businesses, they will struggle…There are two things we stress: you’ve got to have clients and you’ve got to have finances. We think we’re well-positioned to provide those resources to women-owned businesses in our region…There are resources beyond just getting certified with the city or the state. Connecting with big businesses, mid-size businesses in Chicago, that’s the most important thing in the growth of business.”