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New Chinatown Chamber of Commerce Director Breaks Down Borders

By Casey Cora | April 24, 2013 8:09am

CHINATOWN — The new executive director of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce doesn't want you to think of the neighborhood's South Side boundaries.

"Let's be beyond Chinatown. Let's be global. There's opportunity," Yin Kean said.

Kean, of Bridgeport, started her new job at the chamber on April 1. She replaced Jessica Q. Lee, who said she departed to pursue higher education and to take a job with an accounting firm.

Already, Kean has outlined a new strategy for the business group, which includes "rebranding" the chamber as an advocate for all businesses in Chicago's ethnic Asian communities. Half of the business group's existing membership, she said, comes from outside the neighborhood.

She's also thinking bigger.

Kean said she wants to overhaul the group's website and dedicate one page of it into a commercial hub for business relations — think real-time videoconferencing — between Chicago and China. The website, she said, should be a "platform for people and businesses to connect."

Kean holds two master's degrees, one in statistics and mathematics, and another in computer science.

According to her LinkedIn profile, she's worked for health care companies, a real estate company and been an adjunct professor at the University of Phoenix, Argosy University and the City Colleges of Chicago. She's also served on Asian-American advisory councils for Secretary of State Jesse White and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill).

In 2008, Kean was asked by former Mayor Richard Daley's deputy chief of staff Gene Lee to help lead an effort to gather the city's Asian-American communities for a rally supporting the city's Olympic bid.

Lee said he selected Kean "because she seemed to be almost everywhere" and was able to unite a culturally diverse group under one umbrella.

Tony Shu, past president of the chamber and current chairman of the group's board, called Kean  "well-experienced in business, nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations."

Even while keeping the chamber focused outside of Chinatown, Kean said she's hoping the group has a more visible presence in the community, which will soon have its own freestanding, state-of-the-art Chicago Public Library branch and Ping Tom Park Field House.

Community leaders earlier this month also unveiled a Chinatown vision plan, which aims to set priorities for the neighborhood for years to come.

Kean said she's hoping to start Chamber-led restaurant and river tours and help spread the word about all of Chicago's Asian-American businesses.

Together, she said, is the only way forward for the city's business community.

"I'm not going to separate anyone," she said.

In a blog post on Tuesday, the group announced the hiring of an associate chamber director, Jing Lerch.