Naperville business leaders react to State of the Union speech
By David Sharos For The Sun February 12, 2013 9:36PM
Mike Evans, 30, recently was named the new president and CEO of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce. | Submitted
Updated: February 13, 2013 12:29PM
Naperville business leaders kept a close eye on President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, and the nation’s leader got mixed reviews for his address.
Scott Wehrli, chairman of the Naperville Development Partnership and principal for DuKane Precast, said Obama’s speech touched on some issues that could impact Naperville.
“The president offered several ideas on the economy, including government investment in manufacturing hubs, R&D, bridges, skills and training that all could drive continued stimulus in the United States,” he said. “In Naperville, we’ve found our strong infrastructure and hub of research and technology companies attract a well-equipped workforce with good paying jobs so that does make sense.”
Wehrli spoke about forces that drive the country and how they might be impacted
“I truly believe that small- and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of our country so I was disappointed that they were not specifically addressed in the speech,” he said. “So many of those companies continue to struggle and are worried about health care, more regulation, and increased taxes. We work hard to attract and retain our Naperville businesses so any challenge they face is important to our community. At the end of the day, the consumer is the one who pays.”
Michael A. Evans, presidents and CEO of the Naperville Chamber, said he was glad Obama concentrated on the economy.
“The president made some great comments regarding his focus on the economy,” Evans said. “Especially in regards to reinvigorating manufacturing, health care and science research, and attracting foreign investment. Making the world smaller for our business community is critical to our economy.
“I also appreciate that the president acknowledged that you can’t grow the economy, yet cut education. They are reliant upon each other for any chance of sustained success,” Evans said.
The Chamber leader also liked Obama’s “call to action” regarding “quit the politics and get to work.”
“The Chamber has consistently requested this of our leaders in Illinois and D.C.,” Evans said. “The election is over and we all agree on many things. Inaction is causing political reactions and all the while the stakeholders of the system, businesses and residents, are paying the price.”
Evans, though, found other areas of the president’s speech worrisome.
“However, like our governor, believing increasing the minimum wage to an arbitrary number is shortsighted and serves only a political agenda,” he said. “Nine dollars, as suggested by the president, is not a living wage and just like the governor’s proposal only pushes business away. Closing ‘loopholes’ and other political rhetoric was also prevalent in the speech. We must look past this and focus on how we can come together to improve the economy.
“Now I again am alarmed by the fact that the ‘solution’ to economic issues seems to rest on supporting only the ‘hardest hit parts of our country,” Evans said. “Where is the governments focus on helping areas like DuPage County? Our region has been fiscally responsible, is a center of innovation, home to global economic influencers and politically, culturally, and ethnically is as diverse as anywhere, yet we are left out of the solutions. We are consistently left to ‘help ourselves.’”