Miami chamber continues rebuilding by adding three vice presidents
By Tom Harlan
The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce is adding vice presidents for membership services, economic development and government advocacy.
All those services are intended to bring value and international exposure to members, said Chamber CEO George Foyo.
Only the third - the vice president for advocacy, who would represent chamber members in state, local and national government - has not been hired.
The new executive will oversee the chamber's advocacy committee and work to give the chamber a stronger role in politics by establishing contact with politicians and informing members of election issues such as Miami-Dade County's General Obligation Bond, said Mr. Foyo.
The chamber is moving away from focusing only on helping members locally, he said. Its new mission is to work with businesses, politicians and chamber members to promote interests around the world.
The new hires mark a continued effort to restructure the organization, which has gone through several changes in the past year. Isilio Arriaga, former chamber president and CEO, discussed changing the chamber's bylaws and leadership structure before resigning March 12.
The move began changes that would modernize the chamber, which had not made significant changes to its rules in more than 20 years. Amendments cut the chamber's board of governors and directors by half, and more than 100 committees from the chamber's administrative group were eliminated. All objectives were organized into four key areas, including member services, advocacy and economic development.
Mr. Foyo and Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications Barry Johnson decided the chamber's staff could be improved with the addition of two executives to lead the chamber's membership services and international economic development divisions. They did an extensive search of individuals in the community who had strength and experience in those areas and could chamber offerings, he said.
"We came up with the two Marias," Mr. Foyo said - new new vice presidents Maria Acosta and Maria Masvidal-Visser.
Ms. Acosta was hired last month as vice president of membership services and marketing. In her new role, she will look at markets in which chamber members operate and look for ways to develop value for them in those markets.
"This is one of our key areas for growth and improving the service we offer our members," Mr. Foyo said. "The chamber exists to benefit its members and create value for them."
Ms. Acosta will establish connections with company contacts and members of governments at all levels so chamber members have a network of contacts to promote their products and services, he said.
In addition, Ms. Acosta will lead the chamber as it adds technology to increase exposure for itself and its members. She will oversee the creation of a new website that will provide companies around the world access to information on how they can do business with the chamber and its diverse membership.
Before building the site, Ms. Acosta will do an assessment of how the chamber can provide offers or bundles of services that help chamber members. The task will be challenging, Mr. Foyo said, considering the diverse chamber members, which comes from banks, not-for-profit corporations, law firms and other professions.
"Her role is to research and do needs assessments for the main categories of membership to make sure we are providing the value they expect from us," Mr. Foyo said.
Ms. Acosta, a former executive who has worked for more than 20 years in financial and marketing positions for corporations like Pizza Hut, Shell Oil and Universal Brands, is well grounded in Miami business, Mr. Foyo said, adding she held a post at the Greater Miami Visitors and Convention Bureau.
"Maria brings all of the skills we need to advance membership services with an eye towards fiscal responsibility," Mr. Johnson said, "A key priority of the chamber is to make sure we are maximizing the investment of members."
In addition, Ms. Masvidal-Visser was also hired last month as vice president of international economic development after serving as the president and CEO of Euro Am Business Group, a business development and public relations company with an extensive list of clients in Europe and Latin America.
Ms. Masvidal-Visser also served a post as vice president of economic development of Europe for The Beacon Council and has held several different positions in the local real estate industry.
At the chamber, Ms. Masvidal-Visser will lead the execution of international growth initiatives, which are in the early stages of development, Mr. Foyo said.
Current plans call for the chamber to work with the US Department of Commerce and the State of Florida to create bilateral exchange opportunities with European, South American and Asian companies.
The chamber also plans to form collaborative relationships with the Beacon Council, Enterprise Florida, and other local and international trade organizations to develop international commerce for greater Miami, Mr. Foyo said.
Initiatives in the development stage include meeting with representatives from countries, like France and China, to find ways the countries can establish companies in Miami, Mr. Foyo said.
Ms. Masvidal-Visser will lead these efforts and work with member committees on international development.
"We have a vision and a strong staff in place," Mr. Foyo said. "Now we're developing strong bridges with other individuals involved to make a go of it."
To promote advocacy, the chamber held a mayoral candidate debate last month, and plans to hold a runoff debate in October, Mr. Foyo said.
The new advocacy head will also work to establish links with other chambers interested in advocacy to build a stronger networking system for lobbying government.
"We're looking for a top notch candidate who can hit the ground running and knows all levels of government," Mr. Foyo said, adding that the individual will work within the chamber's plan and vision to meet the needs of its members.
"We want members to have a voice in matters that impact business."