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posted: 11/20/2012 4:26 PM

Naperville chamber picks new president to lead youth movement

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  • Mike Evans, right, was named Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Tuesday. His first stop was to meet Mayor George Pradel.

       Mike Evans, right, was named Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Tuesday. His first stop was to meet Mayor George Pradel.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • New Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike Evans will take the reins Dec. 10.

       New Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike Evans will take the reins Dec. 10.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer


The new Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO hopes to breathe new life into the organization and be a voice for the city's young entrepreneurs.

The chamber reached into Bolingbrook Tuesday to select Mike Evans, 30, as its new leader. Evans has served as president and CEO of the Bolingbrook Area Chamber of Commerce since 2007.

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"Hopefully they see me as a set example (of young, local talent). We have some of our greatest talent right here within our city and our chamber and we're going to be responsive to the needs and programs to help highlight those young entrepreneurs," Evans said during Tuesday's introduction.

"Millenials and Gen Y's run their businesses and think about their businesses differently than their fathers did. We have to utilize the history and resources from the older generations, but we really want to tap into the new opportunities that are there."

Naperville chamber Chairman Shane Beard said the board sorted through about 70 applicants before deciding Evans was the best fit.

"We are absolutely thrilled beyond belief that Mike is coming on board," Beard said. "He shows a level of enthusiasm, vigor, creativity and a vision that is just huge."

According to Evan's biography, released by the chamber Tuesday morning, the Bolingbrook chamber experienced significant growth in membership, brought new programs to market and developed a reputation as an advocate for the business community.

During his tenure, revenues grew and the chamber created a robust legislative advocacy program and worked with local, regional and state leaders to reduce vacancy rates and attract economic development to Bolingbrook.

He thinks Naperville can take the next step and be a regional leader in those initiatives.

"I think we have a lot of places we can grow in membership. While this chamber is large, it can be much stronger in our values, the size of what we do and how we operate," Evans said. "We are a regional organization and the city of Naperville is going to benefit when the towns and the DuPage County area are stronger as well. We're going to make sure we are that voice of business for the region."

Despite never owning his own business, Evans said his background has been in association management and economic development. He'll officially take the reins Dec. 10, but already gave Naperville business owners some advice.

"First, they need to be steadfast. What the recent recession taught businesses was that they can be a lot smarter and competitive. The folks you're seeing today learned some very important lessons," he said. "When the economy is as good as it was in the early part of the 2000s and late '90s, we sometimes make a lot of mistakes or don't evaluate the decisions we made as good as we should have. We need to be much smarter about how we operate."

The future of Tami Andrew, who served as interim president for the past five months, is unknown. Tuesday's announcement came while Andrew was on her honeymoon and chamber officials say they aren't sure what role she will play when she returns.

"Tami is part and parcel of our chamber family. She has been exceptional in the last five months and we look forward to working with her in the future," Beard said.

Andrew took the interim role when John Schmitt was released from his duties after three years as the chamber's president.

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