Those who own or manage a business or run a nonprofit agency have an obligation to pay attention to what our elected officials are doing at all levels of government and to advocate for outcomes that benefit their enterprise, employees and customers.
Similarly, it is the responsibility of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce (NACC) Government Affairs Director Colin Dalough to keep an eye on what is happening at the local, state and national level and to ascertain the effect proposed legislation would have on NACC members, both businesses and non-profit agencies.
“We have a diverse group of members and they don’t always agree on everything, but we all want to see the economy continue to grow and we want to make sure that our voices are not lost in the noise,” Dalough said.
If the NACC would like to get a new law passed or a regulation reversed, for instance, Dalough and his Legislative Committee connect with legislators and others in government to make their viewpoints known.
“Last year we weren’t able to salvage the state budget for our non-profits, but we were able to cut through the red tape at the Treasurer’s office to find out how and when they would be paid,” Dalough recalled. “We often help members connect with the right people at the state and help them tailor an approach or a solution to meet their individual needs.”
Judie Caribeaux, Executive Director of Family Shelter Service, and Katy Leclair, Chief Executive Officer of 360 Youth Services, are among the nonprofit representatives who have kept in close touch with Dalough and asked the assistance of the Chamber during the state budget impasse.
“I attended meetings of the Chamber’s Legislative Committee and made sure that they understood the importance of nonprofits to the fabric and overall health of our local community,” Caribeaux said.
“Our agency, for instance, handles domestic violence issues for all of DuPage County. I have made sure they understand that domestic violence costs DuPage County businesses $18 million a year in lost productivity and wages and have made them aware of how local laws impact our victims and survivors.”
The Chamber staff has helped Caribeaux draft more effective statements and letters to advocate on behalf of Family Shelter Service and has kept her abreast of meetings that are coming up and legislation that is being considered that might affect her agency.
“They sound the alert when something is coming up that might be of interest to us because it is difficult to boil down all of that information and react quickly,” she said.
Leclair agreed, praising the Chamber for stepping up to educate her and her colleagues and make them aware of legislative changes that might impact 360 Youth Services and other social service agencies.
“During the ongoing state budget impasse we have needed the Chamber’s support and they have balanced their competing interests very well,” she stated. “Membership in the Chamber has been of incredible value to us because they keep us linked to information about the issues that impact us and have also made phone calls and sent letters on our behalf when we needed their support.”
360 Youth Services serves more than 26,000 middle and high school-age children, providing substance abuse prevention programming in the schools, assisting homeless children and counseling both youths and families.
The NACC also advocates for local businesses that are experiencing specific challenges. Dalough either leads the charge or discusses with businesses how they can advocate for themselves.
“Recently, for instance, we had a group of members who wanted to speak before the city council. So I sat down with them, explained how the meeting would go and helped them craft their argument because standing before a board like that can be tremendously intimidating. I do a lot of coaching,” Dalough said.
“We help our members in whatever capacity works for them, as long as it remains within our mission,” he added.