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New director named for Commerce and Economic Opportunity department

Gov. JB Pritzker this week named Sylvia I. Garcia to serve as director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, pending confirmation by the Illinois Senate.

Garcia replaces Erin Guthrie, who is stepping down from her role of director later this month to pursue an opportunity in the private sector, after serving as DCEO director since the beginning of the governor’s administration.

“I am thrilled to appoint Sylvia to serve as the next leader of DCEO – her professional background and knowledge across sectors will be a valuable asset to Illinois’ communities and working families as we build a strong economy that works for everyone,” said Pritzker. “Erin Guthrie has worked tirelessly since the beginning of my administration to help our residents and small businesses succeed, and her commitment and work was especially critical throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I thank Erin for her service to the state and wish her continued success in these next steps of her career.”

Garcia (shown) has more than 15 years of professional experience across different sectors. Garcia was previously a principal consultant at WSP, USA where she led a national practice area and advised on the creation of a partnership which identified federal policy opportunities to maximize local benefits and investment in underserved communities.

Prior to that, she served as chief operating officer and chief of staff at the Chicago Transit Authority, where she managed the day-to-day operations of the nation’s second largest transit agency with 11,000 employees, $1.5 billion annual operating budget, and $5 billion five-year capital plan.

“I am honored to serve as director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and want to thank Governor Pritzker for the opportunity to work on behalf of the state of Illinois,” said DCEO Director Sylvia I. Garcia. “I am committed to helping this administration grow a strong economy for our businesses, residents and communities and look forward to building on the successes of the past two years.”

Prior to CTA, Garcia served as chief financial officer and assistant secretary for budget at the United States Department of Transportation, where she managed the federal agency’s $70 billion annual budget and acted as chief liaison to the U.S. House and Senate on appropriations matters. In addition to her extensive government experience, Garcia has completed fellowships with Leadership Greater Chicago and the Presidential Management Fellowship. Garcia earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan and Master of Science in Public Service Management from DePaul University.

Guthrie has been at the helm of DCEO since 2019 and is the first Black woman to lead the department. During her tenure, Guthrie executed a number of programs focused on bringing economic development to underserved areas, expanding job training in growing industries and propelling growth of small businesses. Director Guthrie also led the launch of $1 billion in COVID-19 relief programs for small businesses and communities, including the historic Business Interruption Grants (BIG) program, which provided 9,000 grants totaling $275 million for businesses in every corner of the state.

“Over the past two years, DCEO and this administration have worked to expand economic growth, create thousands of jobs and increase access to tools for businesses of all types and sizes to grow and succeed here in Illinois,” said Guthrie. “The onset of COVID-19 only strengthened our resolve to help businesses and workers, which is why we developed equity centric programs to help the hardest hit businesses and industries recover from the crisis. None of these achievements would be possible if it weren’t for the incredible vision and leadership of Governor Pritzker. I want to thank him for the opportunity to serve in the administration, and congratulate Sylvia on her appointment. I look forward to working alongside her to ensure a smooth transition in the days ahead.”

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