The theme of this year’s Chicagoland Chamber Annual Meeting of Membership – “Locally Grown, Globally Known” – is indicative of the goal shared by all of the prominent business and government leaders in attendance: to promote economic development in the Chicago region in order to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel took the stage early in the event, discussing the importance of continuing to strengthen the relationship between the Chamber and City Hall to ensure collaboration between the two groups in working to revitalize the local economy.

To build a successful future for Chicago, the Mayor stressed the need for investment to make our workforce the best trained and educated in the country, the need to improve our city colleges, and the need to improve our transportation infrastructure throughout Chicagoland. He also emphasized the importance of attracting and retaining jobs and companies, noting that his work has begun to pay off as 14 companies moved their world headquarters to Chicago over the past year.

The Mayor also made sure to express his gratitude to Chamber President and CEO Jerry Roper, saying “I’d like us all to recognize 20 years of great leadership from Jerry Roper.”

Roper will retire from his post in August and will be succeeded by Theresa Mintle, who was chief of staff to Mayor Rahm Emanuel until leaving that post in March. Scott Swanson, Chair of the Chamber’s Board of Directors, led a standing ovation for Roper’s accomplishments over the past two decades and expressed excitement about the future of the Chamber under Mintle‘s leadership.

Keynote Speaker Jeff Smisek, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of United Continental Holdings, carried the same theme into his address with a focus on the airline industry and its importance to the business community and the regional economy.

The airline industry is responsible for $1 trillion in economic activity, millions of jobs, and the transportation needs of millions of people and companies. Because of this, Smisek said it is in the interest of all Chicagoland residents that the airline industry is successful. Smisek also fielded questions from the audience during a town hall discussion following his address.

16e4d9e8-3826-485a-8df2-f82d15350a05_zps080e0c7bThe final highlight was the announcement of Jim Alvarez, CEO of Gesture, as the 2013 James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award recipient. Chicagoland Chamber Vice Chairman and Mesirow Financial Chairman & CEO Richard Price presented the award alongside Eve Tyree, wife of late Chicagoland Chamber Chairman and business leader James Tyree.