Down in the lower level of the 1840 Oak Ave. building, past the statues and tapestry left by the previous occupant, the Evanston Chamber of Commerce welcomed city officials to the chamber’s new offices Wednesday evening.

The chamber moved this week from its former space on the 8th floor of the Rotary International tower to the new, larger quarters in Research Park, where chamber leaders say they’ll be closer to many of the city’s start-up businesses.

Mayor Tisdahl with the chamber’s president-elect, Dan Mennemeyer.

The chamber’s President-elect, Dan Mennemeyer, told city officials, including Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, that the local group is completely separate from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and that the national group’s partisan advocacy for Republican political causes is “the farthest thing from what we do.”

He said the local chamber focuses, like most similar groups, on advocacy for business owners and employees and promoting economic development in the community.

Aldermen Jane Grover and Lionel Jean-Baptiste talked about city efforts to aid existing businesses and develop new ones in their neighborhoods.

Alderman Grover with the chamber’s executive director, Jonathan Perman.

Grover said merchants along Central Street in her ward are well organized and have recently hired a marketing firm, with some financial help from the city. She said the street does have two vacant storefronts, but said that given the general state of the economy, that’s not bad. And she has hopes those stores will soon be filled, likely by businesses relocating from elsewhere.

Jean-Baptiste noted that the city is in the midst of approving assistance to Ward Manufacturing, a metal-stamping business in his ward that has been in Evanston for 70 years and is seeking to expand its operations here.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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