Chamber reorganizing as it starts year with new leader
By Susan Stabley
Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce officials are detailing the group's reorganization as it heads into its second century with a new leader for the first time in nearly 23 years.
The chamber will revamp its organization "from top to bottom," said Chairman Peter Roulhac, to become more focused on business issues and less on committee work.
Chairman-elect Allen Harper said that the chamber wants to return to its core values. The chamber's three-year strategic plan was unveiled during the Nov. 5 meeting.
"This chamber is the voice of the business community, and it needs to become a lot louder," Mr. Harper said. "We will be the voice of international business."
While the chamber is known as one of the oldest voluntary business associations in the US, economic uncertainty has pressured the group's membership-driven budget, its leaders said. Volunteers find that their time and money is spread too thin among many different community groups.
As the chamber searched for a replacement for retiring CEO William O. Cullom, its senior leadership - led by Mr. Roulhac and Mark Rosenberg, provost at Florida International University - created the new three-year plan.
Last month, the chamber named Isilio Arriaga to replace Mr. Cullom. Formerly CEO of social-service agency Hispanic Unity of Florida in Broward County, Mr. Arriaga is the first Hispanic in the chamber's top executive job.
Jeff Bridges next week will begin as the chamber's chief financial officer, a new position. As part of the chamber's restructuring, the post replaces the position of executive vice president position. Mr. Bridges was vice president of finance and operations at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce and selected from 75 candidates.
The chamber is working to fill two open slots, chief operating officer and chief development officer, on its 35-member staff.
The strategic plan reorganizes chamber staff around four focal points - membership services, economic development, advocacy and finance.
Changes in philosophy are being contemplated at the top levels of the chamber. Carlos Migoya, Wachovia regional president for Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, is leading a task force that will evaluate how the chamber is run.
"The idea behind the entire conversation is to see that proper governance and proper input go into the chamber by the officers and all the decision makers," he said Monday. The goal is to create a "better balance of governance" among its 56-member executive committee and 123-member board of governors.
"It's difficult for such a large group to make decisions," he said.
His committee will meet Tuesday for initial "fact-finding" before any decisions are made, he said.
One of the chamber's most visible changes this year will be to revise the structure of its annual goals conference, which now will be called an "annual conference." When Mr. Arriaga referenced the event at the board of governors meeting, he told the group to "note we did not call it a goals conference."
Mr. Harper said some "soul-searching" has taken place on the future of the event. In the past, it has been three days of workshops, breakout groups and social events designed to create objectives for the coming year.
The chamber also is contemplating an upgrade to its headquarters at 1601 Biscayne Blvd. The association has launched a campaign to raise $500,000 to upgrade its facilities and information-technology systems and is considering a possible move.
Mr. Harper said the chamber would get more involved in tapping into public funds for some of its programs.