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New Southland Chamber chief wants stronger communication with legislators

Ken Jenero is new chairman Chicago SouthlChamber Commerce. | Supplied photo

Ken Jenero is the new chairman of the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce. | Supplied photo

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Updated: March 19, 2013 6:03AM



Maintaining strong communication with local legislators and better cooperation with regional organizations are among the goals Ken Jenero has set for the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce during his term as chairman this year.

Keeping members apprised of legislation that impacts business and soliciting their support or opposition — and tracking how legislators vote on those bills — also are key to Jenero’s broader objective of having the chamber be an advocate in areas such as governmental affairs and business development.

He also wants the chamber to play a strong role in ensuring that area residents are in a better position to take advantage of available higher-skilled jobs in sectors such as manufacturing.

“Work force development will be a major initiative for the chamber in 2013,” Jenero said.

An attorney with the firm Holland & Knight, Jenero is a partner in the firm’s labor, employment and benefits practice and has been practicing law since 1980. He served for several years as the Southland Chamber’s general counsel.

On matters that can benefit the region as a whole, Jenero said that the chamber and other regional groups, such as the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association and the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau, need to be pulling in the same direction.

“We can push at a higher level for those things that are good for the Southland region generally,” he said.

Where there are common interests, the groups’ collective voice needs to be relayed to local legislators in order to “keep pushing them toward the goal we all want to achieve,” Jenero said.

Along with stressing a pro-business agenda in working with legislators, Jenero said the chamber will share with its members the voting records of lawmakers and hold accountable those who have a poor track record on bills that impact the business community.

“We need to make sure we maintain an ongoing dialogue with legislators so they know where we stand on the issues,” he said. “We have to make sure we keep track of how they vote on these issues and communicate to our members what those records are.”

Jenero said many area businesses are still trying to recover from the recession, and continue to face obstacles to growth such as property taxes that he described as “being out of control, particularly in Cook County.”

Some Southland businesses, including some of his clients, are wary of growing too much over concern they’ll trigger certain provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also referred to as “Obamacare,” Jenero said. Depending on the number of full-time employees a company has, they’re subject to different requirements regarding providing coverage for workers.

The federal act also requires states to establish health care exchanges for residents and businesses to purchase coverage through. Jenero said an Illinois exchange was supposed to have been set up by March 1, but “now that deadline has been pushed back indefinitely.”

He said the chamber plans to host an educational session for members at some point this year about the federal law and how it will impact businesses.



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