Miami chamber to have annual meeting in Fort Lauderdale
By Sherri Ranta
Regionalism is in vogue, and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce will meet for its Goals Conference this summer in Fort Lauderdale - a sign that Florida's largest business organization is committed to crossing borders.
"We're punctuating that fact. We're clear about promoting regionalism as a chamber. Our members live and do business throughout the region," said Barry E. Johnson, the chamber's executive vice president for marketing and communications.
The conference will be June 17-19 at Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.
Most of the chamber's 2,000 members and more than 5,500 representatives are based in Miami-Dade County, Mr. Johnson said, but conduct business as far north as Palm Beach County.
The Miami chamber is the fourth-largest in the US.
This year's gathering will include elements of past Goals Conferences with a new focus on the chamber's three-year strategic plan, said George W. Foyo, chamber president and chief executive officer.
Unlike last year's annual chamber event, which it called a Members Meeting, this year's will again be called a Goals Conference, Mr. Foyo said.
"People have shared with us that they liked the previous format," Mr. Foyo said, "but at the same time, we have restructured the chamber in a significant way. We'll find an appropriate balance between past and future."
The chamber last year reduced its number of committees to 26 from the previous 100, Mr. Foyo said. The restructured chamber focused on implementing the group's four strategic pillars - revenue and value enhancement, economic development, advocacy and membership services.
"We'll have the opportunity to listen to our members and see how well we've done," Mr. Foyo said. "It's not about changing the strategic direction but more about how to improve the execution of strategy."
Chamber Chairman Allen Harper, head of EWM Realtors in Miami, said the chamber has shown improvement in the past year in business-advocacy activities on the local, state and federal levels. The chamber hired a full-time lobbyist and formed three committees spearheaded by economist Tony Villamil, a member of the Governor's Council of Economic Advisors, to ramp up advocacy activities.
"We want to make sure we're the voice of business and we're protecting business on the legislative side," Mr. Harper said.
The chamber will face a leadership issue. Chairman-elect Adolfo Henriques - recently named CEO, chairman and president of Florida East Coast Industries, based in St. Augustine - may delay his chairmanship, Mr. Harper said.
"We may shift the order," he said. "He may still be chairman, but maybe not the next one. We don't know that yet. The executive committee is working on that."
Mr. Foyo said the decision belongs to Mr. Henriques. "I don't want to speak for him. He has a great deal of interest in becoming chair. Whichever he decides, we will be flexible. We believe he is a great community leader, and the chamber will be honored to have him as chairman."
Mr. Henriques is scheduled to begin work at FEC later this month.
Iberia Tiles Chairwoman Rosa Sugrañes is next in line to be chamber chairman.