Arlington Heights chamber wants businesses to take off masks
While the theme of Friday night's Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce annual awards banquet was a masquerade party, the organization's mission is really about getting business leaders to take off their masks.
"We deal in business relationships," said Jason Miller, the operator of Fitness 19 who was installed as 2018 chamber board chairman at the banquet, held at Arlington International Racecourse. "A lot of the times that's behind an email or through a phone call. That's some level of a mask that you have on yourself or on your business. It's time for us to take it off and really get to know one another."
Outgoing Chairman Mike Driskell, interim executive director of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, said ways the chamber helped connect businesses in 2017 included its Business Builders networking groups, after-hours mixers and the downtown Holiday Twilight Shopping event.
The chamber also increased its visibility in the community with its move from a basement office in downtown Arlington Heights to 25N Coworking, the new 11,000-square-foot work and meeting space in the Arlington Downs development on Euclid Avenue.
In early 2017, chamber officials garnered headlines when they lobbied the village board to opt out of Cook County's minimum wage increase -- an effort that ultimately succeeded with the board's 5-4 vote in May. The chamber also worked against the county's soda tax, which later was repealed.
It may have been the contentious minimum wage debate and other controversial issues that led Mayor Tom Hayes to joke Friday that maybe he should wear a mask to some village board meetings: "To make sure angry residents don't know who I am, and to deflect anything they might throw at me during the course of the meeting," he quipped to the crowd.
On a more serious note, Hayes reported that in 2017, there were nearly 80 businesses that opened in or relocated to Arlington Heights, bringing 350 jobs and filling nearly 400,000 square feet of vacant space.
Awards were handed out in five categories.
Arlington International Racecourse, described by chamber officials as the "face" of Arlington Heights in many ways and its largest employer, was named Business of the Year.
Emerging Business of the Year went to Nothing Bundt Cakes, the Mount Prospect-based bakery that supplied its mini Bundt cakes for the banquet's dessert table. "Any day I can get a cake in someone's mouth is a good day," said owner Cindy Adams.
Greg Padovani of PENS Communications Systems was named Business Leader of the Year for his involvement on the chamber board and as a contributor to community events, particularly the Memorial Day parade.
Jim Bertucci, a past chamber board president, was chosen as Volunteer of the Year for his mentorship of new board members and helping organize the Mayor's Community Prayer Breakfast and Rotary Santa Run.
Nonprofit of the Year went to the Special Leisure Services Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Northwest Special Recreation Association, which provides recreation opportunities to people with disabilities.