January / February 2022 Commerce Connection

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for b u s i n e s s - to - b u s i n e s s

p u b l i c at i o n


Volume 29 | Issue 1









PG. 9 Chambers All In for Economic Recovery Announces 2022 Platform Permit No. 29 Champaign, IL


Presorted Standard US Postage

C h a m pa i g n C o u n t y ’ s

t ru s t e d

Black history month

PGS. 12 - 13 Celebrating Black History Month: Business is a Family Affair PG. 14 Incumbent Worker Training Program1

Saving Your Business TIME and MONEY!


There when you need us, online or face-to-face.

To get started on your own SBA Loan, contact a local First Mid lender. Patrick Pfeifer

Commercial Lending 114 W. Church Street Champaign 217-398-0067 ppfeifer@firstmid.com

Scott Grumish

Commercial Lending 114 W. Church Street Champaign 217-403-4435 sgrumish@firstmid.com

First Mid has been recognized by the Illinois SBA seven years in a row for our commitment to small business. * Based on Illinois SBA Lender Performance Reports and the number of closed SBA 7(a) loans.

Look for us in these area communities:

firstmid.com 2

CHAMPAIGN 398-0067 | URBANA 367-8451 SAVOY 351-3526 | MAHOMET 318-3750 RANTOUL 893-8100

303 West Kirby Avenue Champaign, IL 61820 P 217.359.1791 | F 217.359.1809 www.champaigncounty.org

FY22 TOP INVESTORS TOP INVESTORS SILVER Busey Carle University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign BRONZE A & R Mechanical Contractors BankChampaign, N.A. Christie Clinic First Mid Bank & Trust Fisher National Bank Health Alliance OSF HealthCare Heart of Mary Medical Center Ramshaw Real Estate

IN-KIND CONTRIBUTORS CHAIRMAN’S CIRCLE Illini Radio Group - MIX 94.5, WIXY 100.3, Rewind 92.5, WYXY Classic 99.1, True Oldies 97.9, Extra 92.1, Hits 99.7 Stevie Jay Broadcasting - Q96-96.1FM, US105.9, Christian FM 95.3 & ESPN 93.5 PRESIDENT’S CIRCLE NewsTalk 1400 WDWS, Lite Rock 97.5 WHMS, Classic Hits 107.9 WKIO

CHAMBER STAFF Laura Weis President & CEO LauraW@champaigncounty.org

Madeline Herrman Public Policy Director MadelineH@champaigncounty.org

Matt Bradley Business Growth & Development Director MattB@champaigncounty.org

Lindsay Quick Director of Marketing & Events LindsayQ@champaigncounty.org Stephanie Smith-Jeffries Office and Accounting Administrator StephanieS@champaigncounty.org

Mindy Cain Director of Workforce Readiness MindyC@champaigncounty.org


Curtis Orchard, Ltd.

Deb Reardanz Clark-Lindsey Village

Tonya Horn

Nathan Escue

Dr. Jared Rogers

Kyle Emkes

Hamilton Walker’s

Laura Heiser

RE/MAX Realty Associates R.J. Hynds English Brothers Company

Dr. Pamela Lau Parkland College

Janice McAteer Busey

Chuck McReaken TSM Ventures, Inc.

Justin Overstreet Martin Hood LLC

OSF HealthCare Heart of Mary Medical Center

Amie Smith

BankChampaign N.A.

Dr. Dalitso Sulamoyo Champaign County Regional Planning Commission

Bill Walter

Chair, Rogards

First Vice Chair, Maatuka Al-Heeti Emkes LLC

Dan Hurley

Second Vice Chair, FedEx Ground

Dan Kirby

Treasurer, CliftonLarsonAllen

Laura Weis

Secretary, Champaign County Chamber of Commerce

A & R Mechanical Contractors

Andrew Weintraub Health Alliance

FINANCIAL SERVICES Provided by CliftonLarsonAllen

All information contained within this publication is property of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce and cannot be reproduced without prior expressed or written consent. This publication contains paid advertising; the opinions expressed in those advertisements do not reflect the views of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce. For advertising information, contact the Chamber at 217.359.1791.


WELCOME TO THE CHAMBER >> members who joined between November 1 and December 31, 2021 Alto Vineyards

4210 N. Duncan Rd. Champaign, IL 61820 217.356.4784 altovineyards.net Wine Bars Alto Vineyards Champaign is the newest branch of one of Illinois’ oldest wineries, where we offer tastings from our range of award-winning wines. We are an intimate and scenic venue for parties, weddings, fundraisers and business events. Our venue includes a 1,500 square foot Festival Hall, a 200 capacity Outdoor Shade House as well as a 50-guest Outdoor Wine Deck. Some of our accolades include a News-Gazette People’s Choice award for number one winery and a third-place News Gazette People’s Choice award for the best date spot.

Barcom Security

386 S. Koke Mill Rd. Springfield, IL 62711 217.313.0875 www.barcomsecurity.com Security Control Equipment, Systems & Monitoring Get peace of mind today. At Barcom Security, we offer various protection and security system options to keep you, your loved ones, your property, employees and your business safe and secure. Let us help you with your security needs today. Check out what we can do for your home or business at www.barcomsecurity.com. We are available via chat, phone or email for your convenience. We are nearly a 50-year-old family-owned and managed company. Have a secure day.

Bodhi Counseling & Consulting Center, P.C. 206 N. Randolph St. Ste. 432 Champaign, IL 61820 217.731.4638 www.bodhicounseling.care Mental Health Services

Bodhi is a small therapy group practice located in downtown Champaign. We work with all ages and a wide range of mental health issues. Bodhi Counseling and Consulting values evidence-based, quality mental health therapy along with serving our community. The last 4

couple of years have been hard on us all, and we strive to bring healing and growth to our clients. The Bodhi tree is a significant symbol in Buddhism, representing stability, safety and hope. At Bodhi, we value the safety of our clients first and will always be a stable tree for them to rest under. Here at Bodhi Counseling & Consulting, we promote diversity, equality, inclusion and justice. Check us out at www.bodhicounseling.care today.

Brookdale Urbana

1706 Amber Ln. Urbana, IL 61802 217.615.2410 www.brookdale.com/en/communities/ brookdale-urbana-il.html Assisted Living Facilities Brookdale Urbana is proud to serve our community by providing senior living solutions such as assisted living and memory care. Our residents love their cozy apartments, 24/7 nursing care and assistance with daily tasks, including pet care, their delicious meals served by local chefs and activities that defy the standards of senior living. Our residents can play a game of Euchre, learn a new language or even try a martial arts class. Our dedicated staff is here to make life wonderful. We take care of the cooking, cleaning, utilities and anything else you need. Join us for a tour and see for yourself. At Brookdale Urbana, we strive to bring new life to senior living.

The CU Flower House by A. Hunt Design 2006 S. Neil St. Champaign, IL 61820 217.419.1774 www.theCUflowerhouse.com Florists - Retail

The CU Flower House by A. Hunt Design is a unique space that houses multiple businesses and concepts under one roof. The CU Flower House is a flower shop, wedding and special event rental company by A. Hunt Design. We also have a private dinner and event space for parties from four to 50 guests. Our CO-OP space provides other locallyowned small businesses space to sell their products. The CU Flower House is rentable for photoshoots and company meetings as well. Stop by for flowers, handmade gifts, cookies, cakes and so much more.

Follow us for exlcusive content and updates:

Neighbors of Southwest Champaign Champaign, IL 61822 217.586.4147 www.bestversionmedia.com Marketing - Social Media

We allow businesses to micro-target affluent communities of home and business owners who have assets and discretionary income to spend on quality products and services. Offering a network of high-quality print publications combined with numerous digital alternatives, we can help brand your business or organization to the people you want to reach. Founded in 2007, Best Version Media (BVM) is now one of the fastest-growing privately held media companies in all of North America.



Champaign County Chamber of Commerce


We produce private, family-oriented, neighborhood-specific magazines that serve residents, homeowners associations, villages and local businesses. Our goal is to connect businesses directly to their desired audiences in their local area through value-based branding and advertising utilizing print and multiple digital components.

Ribbon Cuttings

>> held between December 14 and December 31, 2021 Interested in hosting a ribbon cutting?

The CU Flower House by A. Hunt Design celebrated the opening of their new location on Neil Street with a ribbon cutting on December 14. At the location, they offer an in-house florist, bakery by Hunny Bunny Bakes, a calligrapher by Apricity Ink as well as a private event space and event rentals.

Chamber members have the opportunity to sign up for ribbon cuttings to celebrate a grand opening or groundbreaking. Along with your team, a Chamber representative will be present and we invite ambassadors to attend to help you celebrate. Thousands will see photographs of your event through this publication as well as the Chamber’s social media pages. If your business is interested in hosting a ribbon cutting, contact Mindy Cain at MindyC@champaigncounty.org or call 217.359.1791.


Grow Your Workforce The Champaign County Chamber and the Champaign Community Unit 4 School District know it’s hard to find employees right now. Employers are asking for a qualified workforce and we will help you build it. The Chamber continues to support our area high schools by assisting their career programs to help prepare students to become future employees. What Employers Need to Know about Saying YES (Youth Employment Services): • Unit 4’s YES program connects employers with students for summer employment and offers direct-hire year-round employment opportunities for employers. •

Employers can get extra meaningful help while providing students with a significant learning experience.

The Champaign County Regional Planning Commission is the employer of record for summer employment, so employers do not have to add the student to their payroll. Could that be any easier?

Companies will benefit from the extra help in the workplace, help shape students’ work skills, and possibly get one of those projects done that never seems to get done.

Employers get full support from the YES program staff to help manage the student.

The YES Program has new options for both students and employers: New program options mean that the YES staff will look for more employer partners for this summer. Employers seeking to hire high school students throughout the school year are needed in addition to summer employers. YES Offers Two Levels of Support • Classic. This is the YES program that employers already know and like. This support wraps fully around the students including curriculum sessions, our annual One Big Career Fair access and a hand-picked summer job placement that comes with added support from a Worksite Coordinator. •

Select. This is YES’ new level of support aimed to reach students who are ready to find work on their own at any point during the year but may need some guidance along the way. The YES program will assist with resume editing, interview preparation, navigating online job applications and preparing students to advocate for themselves in the workplace. Select support students will also have access to the curriculum and One Big Career Fair, but these components will not be required the way they are for Classic support students.

OPEN ELIGIBILITY • YES aims to have specialized outreach efforts to those students who are traditionally underserved or at a systemic disadvantage. The major shift is that YES will no longer turn away students who were previously not eligible in the past. Any student who wants assistance with career exploration and job skill development will be served in the YES program.

We know that COVID-19 has impacted local businesses in various ways, making it difficult for employers to commit to employing a YES student. A request for information does not lock companies in as a participating employer. The YES staff are creative problem solvers and are happy to work with companies to find possible ways to create employer partnerships in this critical program for student career development. If you are interested in getting involved or learning more about the 2022 YES Program, please reach out to Mindy Smith at smithmi@u4sd.org or call 217.531.6857. YES also can be found online on Instagram (@yes.Champaign) and Facebook (@YESchampaign) or by visiting www.champaignschools.org/yes. 6

Advertise in the

2022 Trends Report This publication is a valuable and popular resource for nearly 1,000 businesses that employ over 59,000 people and other organizations in the community. Don’t miss your chance to be included in this publication - there are advertising options to fit every budget. For more information, contact Lindsay Quick, Director of Marketing & Events LindsayQ@champaigcounty.org 217.359.1791

Spring Seminar Series

Records, Snapchat, Google and Sales. What do these four things have in common? They are the topics of our Spring Seminar Series. Mastering these skills will help you take your business to the next level and reach your goals. Seminars will take place monthly, beginning in February and ending in May. Register now or learn more at: www.champaigncounty.org/events/calendar/ 7

Jerris Duncan, MAPS Business Coaching

Strong teams take businesses to the next level. Leadership 2.0 will transform good leaders and teams into GREAT leaders and teams. Leadership 2.0 utilizes self-awareness processes to transform good leaders into great leaders. Our program will help you understand your personality and the personality of individuals on your team, allowing you to form the most cohesive working relationships. As a participant in the program, you will learn simple, easy-to-remember tools to strengthen capacity and improve communication, time management, influence, collaboration. The key to content is learning to execute what you have learned, and this class teaches the execution of your new skills. This program will take place throughout five forums beginning in March and ending in April. This program will be hybrid event. You may choose to be in-person, via Zoom or a combination of the two. In-person forums will be held at the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce (303 W. Kirby Ave., Champaign). Forums* Liberation as a Lifestyle Discovering Your Leadership Voice Mastering Effective Communication Maximizing Influence Becoming Present and Productive *Forums will not be sold separately.

Program Price (for all five forums): Chamber Members: $899 • Non-Members and Guests: $1,099 Discounts applicable for multiple people from the same business.

To register go to www.champaigncounty.org/events/calendar/ 8

Space is limited. Invest in yourself by registering today.



From the start of the pandemic, the Chamber has been your advocate. This work continues for our members as a leader in the Chambers All In for Economic Recovery Coalition.

Nearly 50 chambers from across the state representing thousands of businesses who employ hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans have united in calling for the Illinois Legislature to champion the All In platform and provide more relief to the business community. The Coalition calls on the Illinois Legislature to prioritize economic and regulatory relief for Illinois’ businesses. The Coalition identified a platform that would create a foundation for economic recovery. The four-pronged platform includes ways to diminish the financial hardships companies face amid a labor shortage, spur economic development and recover from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chambers All In call on the legislature to: 1. Utilize American Rescue Plan Act funding to help replenish the unemployment trust fund to alleviate the impending financial drain from the state’s businesses. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, many Illinois businesses were forced to lay off employees to keep the doors open. These mass layoffs, coupled with unemployment insurance fraud, have resulted in a $4.5 billion debt in the unemployment trust fund. Without action to reduce this debt, businesses will experience increased taxes and those who need unemployment benefits will see their benefit period drastically reduced.

increase cost. The Minimum Wage Credit, as initially drafted, allows many small businesses to take a credit to offset their withholding taxes. The Coalition proposes that the credit phase-out be restored to its original level to enable companies to capture the original intent of the credit. This measure would help reduce some of the burden caused by the continual increase of the minimum wage credit amid the pandemic and highly competitive labor market. 4. Extend the EDGE credit sunset clause out for another ten years and utilize the tax credit as an incentive to attract new businesses to the state to allow for the growth and development of existing companies. The EDGE program will sunset in June 2022. While the program is imperfect, Illinois will be left without an economic development tool if it is not extended. This void will limit Illinois’ ability to compete with other states for business attraction and job creation.

The need for the Illinois legislature to act has never been more pressing than now. Businesses of all sizes and industries in all regions of Illinois have faced challenges throughout the pandemic. Illinois leaders will hinder the business community for years to come should the legislature not act. Follow along with the coalition on Facebook @ilchambersallin.

2. Provide legal protections to employers who follow the CDC established safety guidelines from claims that COVID-19 was contracted at the place of business. Without liability protection, there is a risk that the pandemic frontline employees or those cautiously navigating guidelines in their workplace could face expensive, time-consuming lawsuits. 3. Restructure the Minimum Wage Credit’s incremental phase-out to allow small businesses to capture the original intent of the credit. Illinois needs to restructure the phase-out to help small businesses offset the minimum wage


Business | Wealth Management | Personal

Building Business. Growing Wealth. Since 1868.

New to entrepreneurship? The Chamber Has Your BACK. Starting a business can be intimidating, but you’re not in it alone. With free counseling services available and regular educational events, the Chamber has your back. We are here to help you get your business where you want it to be. www.champaigncounty.org/business-advisors-council 10




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Business is a

Family Affair

The pandemic has been tough on businesses, and it has caused many businesses supply chain issues, staffing shortages and tighter budgets. However, despite these challenges, companies throughout Champaign County have shown resilience and tenacity through it all. While the last few years have presented challenges, they have also shown opportunity and promise for the future for four local, black-owned businesses. Neil St. Blues opened in 2019, just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. They established themselves as one of Champaign County’s go-to restaurants for southern cuisine during that year. Owner Gayle Starks and her son Michael prepare recipes that have been handed down through their family for generations. Coming from an entrepreneurial family, Gayle “simply wanted to share those recipes with the community and fill a gap that existed.” The restaurant industry has been subject to many ups and downs throughout the pandemic. COVID-19 mitigation efforts have forced restaurants to reimagine their day-to-day operations over and over. Gayle shares, “I wish people understood how difficult it was to run a business, especially during this pandemic. Every day is a struggle to manage staff, find economically priced and consistent supplies and please our customers. I think that if people knew the magnitude of these challenges, they would be a little more patient and understanding.” The attorneys at Maatuka Al-Heeti Emkes LLC pride themselves on being great problem solvers. “We are a diverse group who care about our community and our clients,” explains Shayla Maatuka, managing attorney at the firm. 12

Written by Lindsay Quick

Like many others, the pandemic caused Shayla and her partners to reflect and reevaluate their operations. That being said, the essence of their business remained intact, “the vision, mission and principles always remain the same. We provide solution oriented legal service in a caring, timely and professional manner.” Shayla further explains that they have been viewing the pandemic as a “double-edged sword.” While the negative effects on businesses can be easy to spot, Shayla shares her insight, “it has really made everyone reevaluate what’s most important in life.” Despite all of her professional accomplishments, when asked what she is most proud of, Shayla responds, “My children.” She elaborates, “Watching their growth, development and success to this point is easily my most proud accomplishment. I have been blessed to have three outstanding children.” Opening during the pandemic in September of 2021, The Joint Chiropractic quickly became one of the fastest-growing clinics nationally in terms of membership growth. Offering chiropractic care with a “no insurance and no appointment policy,” The Joint can provide affordable wellness care for all individuals. Craig Walker, general manager of The Joint, has been utilizing chiropractic care for over 20-years and credits it to be a key element of his wellness. For Craig, the decision to open The Joint was easy, “When I saw the opportunity to become part of a large network of chiropractic clinics, I jumped right on it and secured the rights to Central Illinois.” Craig’s vision for the future of The Joint is to create a lasting legacy of quality care and a business that can be passed down and operated by generations to come.

Participants: Gayle Starks, Owner, Neil St. Blues Shayla Maatuka, Managing Attorney, Maatuka Al-Heeti Emkes LLC Craig Walker, General Manager, The Joint Chiropractic Jon Hale, Owner, 3XH, LLC

Black history month

New to entrepreneurship, Jon Hale owner of 3XH, LLC, focuses on providing quality service to homeowners through energy solutions and roofing services. Currently based out of Westchester, Illinois, Jon is expanding his business to the greater Champaign County area. Jon recognizes that this particular industry can often prove daunting for homeowners who may not fully understand solar power or roofing nuances. For Jon, helping provide clarity feels like he is helping to ‘lift a fog’ for homeowners. Anyone who started a business during the pandemic faced a distinct set of challenges, but as Jon said, “I am proud of making the leap to start my own business. It is both challenging and rewarding, exciting and inspirational. I do this not just for myself, but for my daughters, whom I would love to see own their own business in the future.” These business owners recognize that there can be unique challenges specifically for black-owned businesses. Craig shares, “Oftentimes, the biggest challenge facing black-owned businesses is access to risk capital.” Gayle echoes Craig’s sentiment, “My experience has shown me that black-owned businesses usually start with less capital than other businesses. This could be attributed to several different reasons such as lack of generational wealth or a lack of knowledge on how to access funds.” Shayla offers her advice, “Education is key but barriers still exist at every step. Strength, determination and tenacity are a must.” These challenges, however, have not deterred Champaign County from having a thriving black-owned business community. Our community is home to many notable and unique black-owned businesses from restaurants,


attorneys, chiropractors, solar energy consultants and everything in between. “We are extremely thankful for our supportive community and the personal relationships that we have built,” says Gayle. Jon elaborates, “My advice for anyone looking to start a business? Network. Build relationships. And read.” Each of these businesses are poised for growth and expansion in the coming years. With hopes of serving more customers, these business owners remain steadfast in their entrepreneurial dreams. As a consumer, “the most intentional process to support a black-owned business is to give them a try. Utilize their services. Include them when deciding where you shop, eat, build or use services. It never hurts to try something new. If you like it and it works for you, then keep coming back. Expanding your network to include black-owned businesses may bring a positive benefit that you may not have been aware of,” concludes Craig.

We must be intentional with our support to a people that have historically been unsupported.

Shayla Maatuka 13

Do You Have Employees Who Need Additional Training? We know area employers are having a more challenging time finding and retaining employees. And, we understand that to internally fill your company’s open positions, many of your existing employees may need extra training to advance to those openings. We have a solution. The Champaign County Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission (RPC) to identify employer eligibility for the RPC’s Incumbent Worker Training Grant program. The Chamber will help companies navigate the grant process. Companies awarded the grant dollars will be able to offset training to increase productivity, avert potential lay-offs, improve retention of valued employees and boost business competitiveness.

Program Details: Approved Industries for Grant Funding: • • • • • •

Healthcare Manufacturing Information Technology Green Transportation Distribution and Logistics Green Training (Allowable Across All Industries)

What the Training Grant Provides: • • • • •

Hands On Training Designed by the Business Payment to Offset Training Costs Opportunity to Train Employees Your Way via On-Site and/or Classroom Training Flexibility in Selecting Trainers Less Paperwork

A wide range of training topics and delivery arrangements may be proposed. Training that is closely linked to specific jobs, as well as job advancement, is encouraged.

How Does a Business Qualify? To be eligible for an IWT grant, the business must show that jobs may be retained if current workers obtain in-demand skills. Key indicators include: • • • •

Requirements for Employees Receiving the Training Qualifications: • • •

Typical Training Costs Eligible for Reimbursement: • • • • • • • • • • •

Tuition and School Fees Books Training Materials and Supplies Pre- and Post-Testing Vocational Counseling Vendor/Contractor Training Costs Travel Expenses of Trainers Travel Expenses of Trainees Training Facility Costs (offsite) Fees for Technical or Professional Certifications Refresher Courses for Occupational Certifications

Declining Sales Supply Chain Issues Adverse Industry/Market Trends Changes in Management Philosophy or Ownership

Employed at the Company Meet the Fair Labor Standards Act Requirements for an Employer-Employee Relationship Have an Established Employment with the Company of 6 Months or More • However, if the IWT is Being Provided to a Cohort of Employees, Not Every Employee Must be with the Company for 6 Months or More

Employer Matching Requirement: This grant does require that employers match training funds* based on size of the company: • • •

10% of the Cost for 1-50 Employees 25% of the Cost for 51-100 Employees 50% of the Cost for 101 or More Employees

*Training funds do not necessarily need to be a cash match. Employer match can be recognized in wages and other forms of investment.

Submitting the IWT Proposal/Finalizing the Project

Employers will need to complete a proposal outlining their plans for employee training. The Chamber and the RPC staff are available to assist businesses with completing proposals. Once eligibility has been determined, the RPC Business Service Team will work with the business to outline the training program and assist with identifying and securing a trainer, if needed.

Learn more or apply now at: www.champaigncounty.org/news 14

The COVID-19 pandemic put iRead ● iCount on hold since early 2020. The impact of disruptive learning can have long-term consequences on our youth and community. Starting this spring, we are bringing the program back and we have students who need your help. iRead ● iCount places community volunteers in the primary school classrooms one hour a week to work with students who have the greatest needs to help improve their reading and math skills. Champaign Unit 4 Schools is offering the iCount program for first-grade students. Through iRead ● iCount, young learners will get the extra help they need with basic math skills. If we want a prepared workforce for our future, we need to build the foundation now. It takes the community to build this foundation. Spring 2022 Program Dates: April 4 – May 13, 2022 Can we count on you? All volunteers will be trained, and the reward of helping a child build these skills is immeasurable. If you are interested in becoming an iRead ● iCount volunteer, please visit the link below to learn more. You may also view a list of schools, days and times. The volunteer application deadline is February 11.

Fill out a volunteer application now at: www.champaigncounty.org/iread-icount


MEMBER ACCOLADES & NEWS ILLINOIS AMERICAN WATER Illinois American Water welcomes Jennifer Morrison to its leadership team. She has been named program director of supplier diversity and community outreach. In her new role, Morrison will enhance the company’s relationships with diverse organizations to broaden the utilization of minority, women and veteran suppliers. She will also be a strategic partner to business unit leaders and Human Resources to design and develop Inclusion & Diversity workforce strategies. She reports to Illinois American Water President Justin Ladner and will work from Illinois American Water’s Woodridge, IL office. KEMPER CPA GROUP LLP The partners and staff at Kemper CPA Group LLP are pleased to announce a merger with Yettke & Rapp LLC, effective January 2, 2022. Yettke & Rapp LLC has been serving Champaign and surrounding counties since 1994, and the merger strengthens Kemper CPA Group’s presence in the Champaign-Urbana market. The staff from Yettke & Rapp will join the Kemper team, and the combined office will operate under the Kemper CPA Group LLP name. “The opportunity to merge with a firm who shares in our commitment to helping clients grow and succeed is exciting, and we believe our clients and our team will benefit from the additional resources gained by merging with another successful accounting practice,” said Tony Rubenacker, managing partner of Kemper CPA Group LLP. “We are excited for the future of our Champaign office.” CLARK DIETZ Clark Dietz is delighted to announce that five people were promoted to vice president in recognition of their positive impact and demonstrated leadership: Emily Basalla, Andrea Bretl, Kevin Hetrick, Nirav Patel and Tonia Westphal. 16

AMEREN ILLINOIS Ameren Illinois is number one in customer satisfaction among large electric utility providers in the Midwest, according to the J.D. Power 2021 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study. This is the first time that Ameren Illinois has received top honors in the annual ranking. The J.D. Power Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study measures satisfaction among residential customers of the 145 largest electric utilities across the United States, representing more than 101 million households. Customers evaluate the performance of their utility across six factors: power quality and reliability; price; billing and payment; communications; corporate citizenship; and customer care. “I could not be prouder of the job our team did in the face of significant challenges and business disruptions this past year,” said Richard J. Mark, Chairman and President, Ameren Illinois. “We’re honored and humbled that our customers value our efforts to deliver a superior customer experience.” J.D. Power noted the progress of utilities, like Ameren Illinois, which navigated a roller coaster economic environment to not only help their local economies, but also communicate more effectively about their programs and activities. “Utility customers want to hear about these efforts and, when they do, overall satisfaction is higher,” said John Hazen, managing director of the utility practice at J.D. Power. Ameren Illinois believes that its strong service reliability, implementation of flexible billing and payment programs during the COVID-19 crisis, community involvement, and stable energy rates were also key factors in the company’s top ranking in the Midwest Large Utility segment. “We believe that safe, reliable, and affordable

energy is the main driver of customer satisfaction,” said Mark. “Especially in times of uncertainty, we want our customers to know that we will be here, meeting their energy needs, putting people to work and stepping up to support our communities. We have worked hard to earn the trust of our customers and the recognition by J.D. Power is affirmation that these efforts matter.”




In addition to its overall first place finish in the Midwest segment, J.D. Power ranked Ameren Illinois highest in the categories of communications, and billing and payment. Ameren Illinois is a subsidiary of Ameren Corporation based in St. Louis. REGENCY MULTIFAMILY Regency Multifamily recently promoted seven individuals for their commitment and substantial contributions to the company. Taylor Hackerd was promoted to director of operations, Beverly Martinez to senior community manager and lead software support, Amanda Hughey to senior accountant, Tara Engel to community manager of Red44, Courtney Oldham to community manager of Regency Club Apartments, Amber Rust to community manager of Kimber Green Apartments and Makenzie Click to community manager of Flats at 146. As the Director of Operations, Hackerd will oversee and engage in the overall operations of Flats at 146, The Legends, Windsor West, and Gentry Square. As Senior Accountant, Hughey will help lead the accounting department while continuing to create structure and provide support for onsite staff.

HIRE, TRAIN, AND RETAIN Build a strong workforce with help from East Central Illinois workNet. Find out more at

www.eciwork.net/employers 217-531-8282 | 1307 N. Mattis Avenue, Champaign Additional offices located in Douglas, Ford, Iroquois, and Piatt Counties.

“Each of these individuals is exceptionally driven and hardworking,” said Teresa Kelnhofer, President and CEO. “I have great confidence in their abilities as they begin their new roles.” Have news to share with the local business community? Tell us about it and get featured in the Chamber’s next Commerce Connection. Email Lindsay Quick with your news, LindsayQ@champaigncounty.org.

*“Pay” means eligible employers can apply for funding from the WIOA On-theJob Training program, which includes partial reimbursement of wages for up to six months and the provision of support services such as coaching, transportation vouchers, and uniforms. Federally funded, locally driven, we are East Central Illinois’ workforce development agency operating under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.


Tell your customers where to find you. Customers and Sales Made Possible with Affordable, Effective Marketing Opportunities This opportunity is exclusive to chamber members. Are you taking advantage of it? Website Banner Ads

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Our website directory gets hundreds of views each day. We are like the modern-day version of 411 for people trying to find a business, resource or service. An enhanced listing makes you stand out against your competitors. Turn your standard listing into an eye-catching, search engine optimized marketing tool for just $79 annually.

Commerce Connection Ads

Do you know what happens when you add magazine print to your marketing strategy? According to Magazine Networks, you get the multiplier effect. They say, “people are 3.2 times more likely to identify the brand as one they wanted to find out more about and a 43 percent increase in their likelihood to purchase.” Our bi-monthly publication, Commerce Connection, gets mailed to all chamber members (and then some). Those chamber members employ an estimated 59,000 people. Imagine 59,000 people looking at an ad for your competitor? The Commerce Connection is not only your B2B best bet; it is also a strong force for B2C marketing. Do you really want to be seen? There are a variety of ad sizes available starting at just $100. Member businesses can also purchase the magazine’s cover. You get exposure before readers even open the publication.

Mailing Labels

Sometimes, when you are trying to break through the internet noise, it pays to go ‘old-school’ with good old snail mail. We have names, and we will sell them. An exclusive benefit of Chamber membership allows you to purchase mailing lists containing names and physical addresses of Chamber member businesses to enhance your B2B marketing. Two lists are available for purchase: Long list (approx. 2,000 contacts): $195 Short list (approx. 900 contacts): $125

We can help you maximize your businessto-business marketing strategies. We can put your company in front of consumers. Most importantly, we can do it in the most affordable way to meet your budget.

Let’s do this. Contact Lindsay Quick at LindsayQ@champaigncounty.org or 217.359.1791. 18

calendar of events iRead • iCount Volunteer Application Deadline Friday, February 11 Learn more at: www.champaigncounty.org/ iread-icount Business Success Seminar: Financial Records The How and Why Tuesday, February 15 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. Chamber Office 303 W. Kirby Ave., Champaign First Friday Coffee Friday, March 4 7:30 - 9:00 a.m. Hosted by Champaign Community Unit 4 School District at Edison Middle School 306 W. Green St., Champaign Business Success Seminar: Using Snapchat & Tik Tok for Your Business Tuesday, March 15 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. Chamber Office 303 W. Kirby Ave., Champaign

Business After Hours Thursday, March 17 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. Hosted by First State Bank* (3111 Village Office Pl. Champaign) *Location of this event is TBD Featured:

Leadership 2.0

Registration Deadline Friday, March 11 Program will begin on Thursday, March 24. Forums will be held weekly, for five weeks. This program is a hybrid event. You may choose to be in person, via Zoom or a combination of the two. In-person will be held at: Chamber Office 303 W. Kirby Ave., Champaign

For more information or to register for an event, go to www.champaigncounty.org/ events/calendar/

Fast Facts

3.4% Champaign County Unemployment Rate in November 2021

19 business licenses applied for in Champaign County in December 2021


December 2021 U of I Flash Index for Illinois


rides were taken on CUMTD in December 2021

5,228 visits to the Chamber’s website, champaigncounty.org in December 2021

7,851 number of unique searches on the

Champaign County Chamber of Commerce Online Business Directory in December 2021

2014 and 2021 The year that the Champaign County

Chamber of Commerce was named the Illinois Outstanding Chamber of the Year

REMINDER: LABOR POSTERS ARE IN If you pre-ordered a 2022 Labor Poster, they are available for pick-up at the Chamber Office: 303 W. Kirby Ave., Champaign. The Chamber office is open Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. and Friday 8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.. PLEASE NOTE: The Chamber is complying with the state mask mandate and asks that members follow the CDC Guidelines/State Mandate at Chamber functions. Please remember that people will have differing levels of comfort as we return to in-person events. Handshaking and standing in close proximity may still make people uneasy. So, we ask that all participants be respectful of this. Bring your best fist bump, reconnect and enjoy.

303 West Kirby Avenue Champaign, IL 61820 P 217.359.1791 | F 217.359.1809 www.champaigncounty.org 19




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