Chris Hembrough, the president and CEO of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce (GSCC) since July 2014, has announced that he will be stepping down on Nov. 30 to take a new strategic and business development role with Peerless Cleaning & Restoration Services.
“I am extremely proud of the work the Chamber team, including staff and board, has done over the last seven years. Recently, I was presented with an opportunity to work with a local business that aligns with my core values and is owned and led by someone I greatly respect. Brad Wike is like family to me, and I could not say no to the opportunity to work alongside him,” said Hembrough. “I’ve been inspired by our member businesses every day, especially through the pandemic, so it’s exciting for me to jump into the trenches and help grow the strong entrepreneurial culture and world-class service experience that Brad and his team have developed at Peerless.”
Hembrough said that during his tenure, he is proud of the Chamber’s singular achievement of taking on a downtown development project to transform the former First United Methodist Church at Fifth and Capitol into 25 apartments, including affordable units, and the Chamber’s new headquarters.
“My hope is that with our leadership on the Centre@501 project, we created a roadmap for more $10 million mixed-use projects to come to fruition in downtown Springfield,” said Hembrough.
Under Hembrough’s leadership, the Chamber also moved quickly to assist small businesses in March 2020 after the pandemic forced an early shutdown, by creating a Chamber Business Relief Fund. The GSCC seeded the fund with $15,000 and then raised additional dollars. Ultimately, the Chamber provided financial assistance to more than 80 area businesses in 2020, mostly before governments put together their own relief programs.
The Chamber is currently part of a Navigator Outreach program managed by the Illinois Public Health Association to provide one-on-one assistance to help small businesses apply for the state’s new Back 2 Business (B2B) grants, which are opening on Wednesday. Hembrough will be providing dedicated office hours to assist small businesses to apply over the next two months.
“Chris has been a steady, strong leader during his tenure and the Chamber as an organization is much stronger because of him,” said Brady Smith, GSCC board chair. “We are grateful for his dedication and leadership over the last seven years and wish him nothing but the best in his new role.” Smith and incoming 2022 GSCC board chair Mark Donovan said the search process would start immediately.