If you’ve lived in Chicago long enough, you’ve been privy to the Pritzker clan’s squabble over the structure and the division of power at their Hyatt Hotels Corporation and have surely rolled your eyes a time or two.
But Penny Pritzker, Hyatt Hotels heiress, has always risen above her family fray, and on Thursday, her leadership landed her in a position that will surely hold a positive impact for all meeting professionals. She was nominated by President Barack Obama to become the new Secretary of Commerce. Different from Paris Hilton another hotel heiress, who was famous for, well, simply being famous, Pritzker has demonstrated an enduring successful track record as an innovative business leader and entrepreneur making her ideally suited to take charge of a Department focused on issues that directly impact U.S. economic growth.
In announcing Pritzker's appointment from the White House Rose Garden, Obama heralded her as "one of the country's most distinguished business leaders" with more than 25 years of experience in real estate, finance and the hospitality industry. "She's built companies from the ground up," Obama said. "She knows from experience that no government program alone can take the place of a great entrepreneur."
Her unique and direct relationship to the travel and meetings industry through her lifelong affiliation with Hyatt is no doubt a win-win for our industry. Pritzker is certainly aware that our industry supports one in eight American jobs and generated $2 trillion in the U.S. economy in 2012. As the value of face-to-face continues to be scrutinized by government agencies searching for opportunities to trim budgets, we’ll count on her support to champion and advocate for policy for our industry.
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As I travel to a Meetings Mean Business Coalition meeting this week and Pritzker heads for confirmation hearings, I’ll be chanting “go Penny” because I know she’ll have my back.