The Illinois Business Journal recently met with Leadership Council Chairman Dennis Wilmsmeyer, its president, Mike Riley, and Executive Director Ellen Krohne.
IBJ: It appears that the Leadership Council has undergone a transformation over the last three years. Membership, the number of committees and the activity of the committees are all up. What’s triggered the change?
Krohne: The executive committee undertook a strategic planning effort in 2012. I was hired that year and I did a lot of interviews with the organization’s past leaders and founders, about 50 business and civic leaders, and we surveyed the Leadership Council members to find out what they wanted from the organization. We pulled all of that together and, building on the strong reputation the Leadership Council had earned from its prior successes getting things done quietly behind the scenes, we developed a growth strategy for the organization that we’ve been implementing since.
Riley: As we worked through what’s important for our five pillars (Business, Government, Education, Industry and Labor), we established goals for each. It became apparent that we needed to focus on our committees and on our members’ needs in order to work as a group, as our group is very diverse. We’re one of the few groups that have business, labor and government sitting at the same table talking. Members range from top leaders in multi-billion-dollar companies to CEOs heading $500,000-a-year companies. It’s really an opportunity to bring issues up and work together to try to better the area.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
Ronald Reagan, an Illinois native and no fan of government overreach, could well have had the Land of Lincoln in mind when he uttered one of his more famous statements:
“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
With almost 7,000 local units of government, the most of any state in America, almost everyone agrees there is plenty of taxing, regulating and subsidizing to go around.
But can that largesse be reined in? Can the size of government be reduced in Illinois? Gov. Bruce Rauner is intent on finding out. In March, he appointed a 25-person bipartisan panel to explore ways to consolidate taxing bodies as well as reduce the number of unfunded mandates the state imposes on local communities.
He named Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti to chair the task force.
“Illinois has an excessive number of local government units and the state severely limits local governments’ ability to control their own costs,” Rauner said earlier this year. “Consolidating local government and reducing the burden of unfunded mandates imposed by the state will reduce costs, increase efficiency and improve delivery of services.”
Or, at least that’s the theory. Consolidation and unfunded mandates have been topics for decades in Springfield and government is more expensive and complex than ever.
The consolidation panel has so far held at least five meetings around the state, the latest on June 24 in Springfield. Members attend in person or via telephone. At least one meeting was canceled by lack of a quorum. The panel is mostly a cross section of past and present elected leaders at several levels of government.
The committee is charged with coming up with a set of recommendations by year’s end. While some recommendations may go nowhere, others are likely to become legislation, quickly or over a period of years. The committee discusses and votes on individual recommendations at each meeting, said state Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, a committee member and a longtime advocate of consolidation.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
SWANSEA — From the outside, it looks pretty much like a standard, single-story, brick-and-glass building at the back of a modern-day office park.
Inside, though, you’d be hard pressed to ignore the accoutrements. The Darth Vader prop. The basketball scoreboard. The bar. The pool table. The massage room. The barber shop.
Oh, and don’t overlook the full-size race car that gets creative juices roaring in the main work area.
Welcome to the crowd at CrowdSource, a Juggle.com business that relies on the talents of hundreds of thousands of individuals, coordinated by 47 well-treated employees.
“We’re all about a work hard, play hard culture. We want this to be a comfortable environment,” Erin Steinbruegge, chief operating officer, said.
Despite its comfort-cozy approach to its office, CrowdSource expects a lot of its team members, who until recently were part of one of the most under-the-radar tech businesses in Southern Illinois.
That’s quickly changing. The four-year-old company just announced its second business acquisition, one that aims to give it a bigger piece of the estimated $715 billion on-line freelancing market. It entered a definitive agreement to acquire St. Louis-based SideraWorks, a management consulting firm focused on assessing and scaling organizational culture.
The acquisition will strengthen what CrowdSource says is a goal of building the best online workplace for freelancers. Its client base already represents a who’s who of the enterprise world, companies like eBay, Overstock, Facebook, Orbitz and Amazon.
CrowdSource is a cloud-based platform that helps companies find, curate, train, manage and pay freelance contractors. Businesses use the services of CrowdSource as an alternative to traditional employees or suppliers.
CrowdSource is based in a former suite of doctor’s offices at 33 Bronze Pointe, Swansea. But its efforts extend around the globe. In a recent 30-day stretch, freelancers logged in from roughly 110 countries.
Simmons Hanly Conroy has announced that the Simmons Employee Foundation has raised $25,000 to support two area charities that respectively help young adult cancer patients and children of workers harmed by serious work-related accidents.
The money was raised during the foundation's 11th Annual Golf Tournament on June 12 at Spencer T. Olin Golf Course in Alton.
Foundation board members presented the checks June 25 to the recipient charities, 3 Little Birds 4 Life, based in Collinsville, and Alton-based Kids’ Chance of Illinois. Each charity received $12,500.
“This year’s tournament was an all-round wonderful event thanks to the support of our generous sponsors, employees and volunteers,” said SEF President Amy Fair. “Because of everyone’s generosity, these two charities will continue to be a credit to our local communities.”
Kids’ Chance of Illinois awards college scholarships to children whose parents have either been killed or seriously injured in work-related accidents. David Galanti, Kids’ Chance of Illinois board member and fund-raising chair, said the foundation’s donation will fund five $2,500 need-based college scholarships for Illinois students.
“While workers’ compensation pays the family’s bills, the families are not in the same financial situation as before the serious injury or loss of a loved one,” he said. “We are grateful for the support of Simmons Hanly Conroy employees because it does make a difference, especially when the family has multiple kids in college.”
Kids’ Chance of Illinois was started three years ago as a chapter of the national organization Kids’ Chance of America. Galanti, a workers’ compensation attorney, said he hopes the charity will soon rival Kids’ Chance of Missouri, which awards approximately $100,000 annually in scholarships. Nationwide, the charity has given out over $5 million in need-based scholarships to more than 2,000 students since 1988.
Ashley Swip, founder of 3 Little Birds 4 Life, said she expects the foundation’s donation to fund eight to nine wishes for young adult cancer patients ages 18 to 40. Since 2010, the charity has granted over 70 wishes in 15 different states for 25 different types of cancer.
Upcoming wishes the group plans to grant include a trip to the ESPN ESPY Awards, a family camping trip, installing a fence, and throwing a “thank you” party for the hospital staff that cared for one cancer patient.
“Every wish is 100 percent different,” Swip said. “Thanks to the support of the Simmons Employee Foundation, we are going to be able to make a big difference in the lives of cancer patients around the country.”
Swip, a Collinsville resident and Granite City high school teacher, started 3 Little Birds 4 Life in 2010 after her brother Guy “Tyler” Gifford passed away from malignant melanoma at the age of 28. She worked with the St. Louis Cardinal’s to grant Tyler’s wish to attend a game and sit in the press box after she learned he was too old to qualify for Make-A-Wish’s services.
“We are the only organization in the country that grants wishes for young adult cancer patients,” Swip explained while telling a story about a recent call she received from an Omaha, Neb., hospital on behalf of a cancer patient there. Hospital staff told Swipe they were referred to 3 Little Birds by Make-A-Wish.
“SEF board members were impressed by both these two charities because of how much they currently do to help others,” Fair said. “As a law firm that helps both workers and cancer patients, supporting their work was something the SEF board felt strongly about.”
Information about this year’s charities can be found by visiting their websites here and here.
About Simmons Employee Foundation
In late 2004, the employees of Simmons Hanly Conroy, a national law firm headquartered in Alton, came together to create a single, streamlined way for them to give back to their communities. As a result of the employees’ commitment, the Simmons Employee Foundation has provided more than $1 million of financial support and countless volunteer hours to local charitable organizations around the country.
SIMMONS HANLY CONROY LLC represents clients throughout the country on issues involving consumer protection rights, class actions and contingent-fee commercial litigation. With 70 attorneys in six offices across the country, the firm has pledged nearly $20 million to cancer research. Additionally, the firm focuses on intellectual property infringement, pharmaceutical injury litigation and toxic exposure. For more information, visit http://www.simmonsfirm.com.