New sources of uncertainty for Northwest suburban businesses -- from Cook County rules on minimum wage and sick leave to the impact of President Donald Trump's immigration policies on current and prospective employees -- made the topics for the Schaumburg Business Association's Legislative Summit Wednesday easy to choose.
Such concerns are fueled by business owners trying to earn a living for themselves and their employees, not partisan politics, SBA President Kaili Harding said.
"We're a business association. We represent businesses. These are the questions we're being asked," she said, noting that there are many foreign-run or operated companies in the Schaumburg area.
The summit's speakers were Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider, whose district includes the Northwest suburbs, and Linda Fleener, director of membership engagement for the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition.
Schneider said the new county rules raising the minimum wage and mandating earned sick leave for part-time employees -- both of which he opposed -- are not bad ideas but for the fact they create an unlevel playing field for businesses near the county's borders.
Such regulations, when combined with Cook County's higher taxes, make the county a difficult place for businesses to locate and remain when its population and access to customers should be making it an ideal place to be, Schneider said.
"It's important because we need the jobs, we need the businesses here," he added.
Even though many suburban municipalities are planning to exercise their right to opt out of the new minimum wage and sick leave laws, Cook County's 1 percent sales tax as well as an imminent penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened drinks will continue to drive customers and businesses to collar counties, Schneider said.
"I think it's going to be devastating," he said.
Fleener spoke of the bipartisan platform on immigration reform her organization represents, which she described as business-smart, economically friendly and morally right.
The basic premise of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition's work is that immigrants are integral to the economy -- making up 28.4 percent of Illinois' 8th Congressional District that's centered in Schaumburg.
"There's a strong interest in keeping these people in our workforce and paying taxes," Fleener said.
In these early weeks of the Trump administration, the coalition has been busy researching and passing along advice to businesses on how to protect their employees and prepare for enforcement raids on their workplaces.
Recent legal changes have stepped up the focus of deportation efforts from those with criminal records to all undocumented immigrants, Fleener said.
The coalition is advising businesses to make sure they correctly complete the new I-9 form for immigrants hired after Jan. 22, know their legal rights and have a plan in place for a workplace raid. Many don't know they can legally turn away a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who does not arrive with a warrant, Fleener said.
She also advised employers to reach out to their member of Congress and write letters to the editor of their local newspaper.