IBJ: What is your background coming into this job?
Maisch: Twenty years ago, I started out as a junior lobbyist and built myself up to bigger roles. I eventually became executive vice president and will make the final transition to president and CEO on July 1.
IBJ: Where are you from originally?
Maisch: I still call Peoria home, but I went to high school in Decatur. I got my undergrad at the University of Illinois and my MBA at Illinois State University in Normal.
IBJ: How about your family?
Maisch: My wife Kimberly is a lobbyist; she’s the NFIB state director. But more importantly she’s the mom to my two boys, who are 11 and 7.
IBJ: Tell us about the chamber’s basic structure.
Maisch: The president and CEO is at the top. Then there is a COO who is in charge of internal processes, making sure that small business is thriving and do well. My role is to head up our advocacy, overseeing membership and our business services division. Beyond that are our lobbyists, our Government Affairs staff, or Membership and Marketing staff and our issue councils. We have 25 employees and the largest number is on the advocacy side. Our structure tends to be much more membership driven.
IBJ: How important are members to the Chamber?
Maisch: Without membership no Chamber would exist to support them. Members tell us the priorities instead of us telling them. That’s why the council model is in place. (The Chamber has created policy councils to provide members with peer forums to discuss issues and concerns. The policy and advocacy councils are devoted to the economy, employment law, energy, health care, infrastructure and taxes.)
IBJ: What sort of strengths do you bring to this role?
Maisch: I get up every day feeling energized by the core mission of helping business. I feel very, very committed. I feel I know what works and what doesn’t work and have the vision to make sure we best serve our membership.
IBJ: What are some of the upcoming priorities?
Maisch: Well, the elections are rapidly approaching and the board is considering endorsements in the governor’s race. And we are not prejudging anything yet. Also in Congress and the legislature. Our core problems are a very stark testament to the fact that elections matter. Elections are a turning point, and the status quo is not acceptable. (The state) has to move a different direction.
IBJ: What about after the election?
Maisch: In 2015 (after the new legislature is seated) we’ll get back to key issues, re-establishing financial stability, working on worker’s compensation reforms.
IBJ: Were there any victories in this past session?
Maisch: We were close on a lot of issues. But the biggest ones were the bills that we killed. We were instrumental in getting the progressive income tax defeated and in the failure of the “millionaire’s tax, “ which really was nothing more than a tax on small business. And so far in getting the extension of the income tax increase from getting passed. And we were very pleased to get the $1.1 billion capitol bill approved at the end of the session, which will take care of some desperately needed road and bridge projects. And more importantly to get it paid for by money that’s coming from existing sources.
IBJ: What do you think will happen to the extension of the income tax (set to expire in January)?
Maisch: In all likelihood it’s going to come down to the governor’s race, which is going to be a referendum on the issue. If Pat Quinn (who favors it) wins, it will still be up for discussion. If (Bruce Rauner, the Republican) wins, the Democratic leadership may let him look at the budget and see if he can reform spending or if they have to take action on the revenue side. And so, we shall see what happens on Election Day.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Prior to joining the Chamber in 1994, Maisch worked for the General Assembly as a research analyst for the House Republican staff. While working for the General Assembly, he staffed the House Revenue and State Government Committees. He also served as a policy analyst for the House Republican Campaign Committee where he managed political campaigns