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The Sycamore Chamber of Commerce has a crucial mission. We seek to make commerce happen through business expansion and attraction, as well as the advocacy efforts that help improve business in our area.

Funded by our membership investments, we work for a healthy economic climate of good jobs, capital creation and honest, efficient government. Our strength lies in the number and diversity of our membership.

Because we collectively embody the vast experience of the many businesses and professionals in our membership, we have the knowledge and insight to identify issues of importance to our business community, and the combined means to devise and implement strategies to address them.

Our Chamber members are the most responsible, innovative and conscientious business and professional people in DeKalb County. We accomplish collectively what no one business or professional can do alone.

There is power in the partnership with and commitment to members of the Sycamore Chamber. An important part of the Chamber’s commitment is to prepare our young professionals and empower them with the confidence and the knowledge to be our future business and community leaders.

These young professionals will play a critical role in seeing that Sycamore continues to be a thriving and strong community.

The Chamber’s first Leadership Academy was created in 2011 as an offshoot of the Young Professionals of Sycamore, YPS. The Chamber started YPS in 2004 as a networking arm of the Chamber and has over 150 young professionals, ages 21 to 40, as members. The group was created with the goal to offer opportunities for young professionals to network and connect with each other. They host networking and professional development lunches, after hours socials,

opportunities to volunteer for our community and champion the Chamber’s Leadership Academy.

The ultimate goal of the chamber’s Leadership Academy is to strengthen the economic vitality of the Sycamore area by cultivating young professionals into community leaders by using these four pillars:

  • Develop and enhance leadership skills to create strong engaged leaders.
  • Deliver programs that inspire young professionals to further develop and strengthen our community.
  • Empower young professionals with the expertise to partner with current community leaders.
  • Create a heightened awareness of the needs and challenges that affect the Sycamore community.

“Our academy is dedicated to providing professionals with a foundation of knowledge about our community and create strong engaged civic minded community members,” said Rose Marie Treml, Chamber executive director.

The Academy, which is presented by Foster, Buick, Conklin, & Lundgren LLC, is a 13-month program that meets for five hours once a month. The Academy provides opportunities for professionals to converse with business and community leaders which creates a heightened awareness of the needs and challenges that affect our community.

“We promise to deliver monthly programs that inspire attendees to further strengthen and develop the community; that increase and enhance leadership skills; that advocate the relationship between businesses and the community; and that build professionals into leaders with a vested interest in community stewardship,” Treml added.

To date, the academy has graduated just over 100 professionals. One of those is Jon Kuhn, owner of Banner Up Signs. The business was started in 1986 by his father, Ed, who helped inspire in him a desire to be involved in the community.

“Growing up, I was surrounded by role models who demonstrated the importance of participating in community events and volunteering,” he said.

As a member of the academy, Kuhn toured the local schools and learned about them from the superintendent, visited the nonprofit Opportunity House that helps people with disabilities work, live in homes of their own choice and enjoy community life and attended a Sycamore City Council meeting.

“How many people go to city council meetings?” Kuhn asked. “We went and learned about how that aspect of local government works.”

He said the variety of opportunities to meet new people and learn about different institutions in Sycamore expanded his mind and knowledge base.

“It opened my eyes to what is out there in town. The average person isn’t going to go to all these different places.”

Being in the academy also put Kuhn in situations, such as interviewing local leaders, giving speeches in front of large groups and networking, where he could enhance his skills.

“It enabled me to become much more comfortable networking at various functions around town,” he said. “I used to dread attending various social functions and having to network, but now it’s exciting to get out and see many people you know well, as well as meeting new people.”

He said the relationships he built with other academy members remain strong.

“The relationships that were created from being in that group have continued to this day,” he said.

The Leadership Academy helps foster ties with the community and helps young professionals understand that Sycamore is a community where they can not only succeed in business, but put down roots, Treml noted.

“Our goal is to help them feel a part of the community,” she said. “We want them to understand and believe that they can not only succeed in their chosen profession here, but they can also raise a family here.”

Kuhn said the academy is achieving that goal as he has witnessed young professionals coming back.

“People may want to go away for a few years. But it is funny how many people come back because other places don’t have the same sense of community participation,” he said.

The chamber, which is 500 members strong and represents more than 10,000 individual employees in the Sycamore area, was founded in 1915 by a group of business owners committed to growing and making a difference in the community.