When Shaunese Teamer left her role as executive director of the Lake County Chamber of Commerce in 2013, chamber officials were not about to let her fade away.
"I kept getting calls whenever a vacancy existed," said Teamer, who was director of revenue and development for public television station WYCC in Chicago during that time.
But the stars seemed to align this past year, when a chamber board member contacted her about filling the executive director position that had just become open.
"He called and asked if I'd come back and I said, 'You know what? I guess I can do that,'" she said.
Teamer returns to the role she held from 2011 to 2013, and with it comes a new focus to reconnect with members who have left over the years, and provide more opportunities to help members network and grow their businesses.
"We're trying to build a better Lake County," she said. "We want to help businesses flourish and make new connections."
That starts with finding out what business owners are looking for to help them improve and grow. Teamer said the chamber will survey businesses for that information, then develop programs and events that will focus on those needs.
"We can't just do what we do because we think we should be doing it," she said. "We should consider doing what we know businesses need."
Since taking the helm in December, Teamer and the chamber board have adopted its 2020 strategic plan and are close to finalizing a 5-year plan. One of Teamer's priorities is making sure members "maximize their benefits," both in development and networking. One area she stresses is finding ways for businesses to connect with consumers, as well as other businesses,
As an example, she noted an insurance agent was able to set up an auto insurance policy for a local business owner at a chamber networking event. She mentioned afterward that the agent could have looked to see if the business owner would let him share his insurance information with the business owner's employees.
"These businesses are talking business to business," she said. "But that same message you gave to him could be given to 50 other employees, and that's how you get to business to consumer.
"I don't want them to miss those opportunities," Teamer added.
Another priority is finding ways to make Lake County attractive to younger workers, who still focus on living in Chicago and, in turn, are leading suburban businesses to relocate to the city to be closer to that talent pool.
"Companies leave to Chicago because that's where a lot of talent is based," she said. "We have to look at what young people coming into the workplace want -- what businesses they want, what they want to be around, what services do they need.
"We have to do what we can to make sure what happens in Lake County really fires them up about living and working here."
Reaching out to young workers is exceptionally challenging because they are "the ones being employed by the larger companies and they're not exactly the ones that are networking at chamber events," she noted.
Teamer said the relationship between the LCCC and the 19 local chambers in the county has been good, and she advocates keeping communication among the chambers strong in order to help businesses that want to expand their reach out of their communities.
"The Lake County Chamber message is that we encourage businesses to be part of local chambers," she said. "If you have product or service outside your community, we encourage them to be a part of Lake County Chamber.
"It's definitely a win-win," she added.
Teamer has 25 years of marketing and public relations experience in the nonprofit and commercial arenas, primarily in developing community outreach and strategic marketing initiatives. She's also served on the Lake County Community Foundation board, Lake County Partners' micro loan committee and the North Chicago city council. In 2012, she was appointed by the Illinois State Board of Education to serve on the financial oversight panel for North Chicago School District 187, where she served for six years.
She gives credit to influencers, such as former state Sen. Susan Garrett, who continue to motivate her to reach for the next level.
"She was one who said to me 'Shaunese, you should run for office," Teamer said of Garrett. "And I did it, and I got in and learned a lot about Lake County.
"It's that strong background that got me to move forward and taught me how to become more involved."