Chamber's Goals Conference ready to draw more than 1,000
By Jacquelyn Weiner
With the looming possibility of price hikes in local transportation and the legal drama over local governments' "mega plan," it's safe to say there will be no lack of conversation topics at the 2008 Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Goals Conference.
More than 1,000 local business leaders and community members are expected to attend the May 30-31 conference at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa to celebrate the chamber's accomplishments over the past year, welcome new leaders and formulate the chamber's goals for the future. "It is the one event that allows us to set the direction of the year," said Chairman-elect Carlos Fernandez-Guzman, senior executive vice president of the Neighborhood Banking Group of BankUnited. Looking toward a better future will mean continued work on the issues of workforce housing, transportation, education and downtown revitalization, Mr. Fernandez-Guzman said.
"The reality is that so many of the issues facing our community cannot be solved in one year," said Barry Johnson, president and CEO of the chamber. "The issues just seem to get more complicated.… That leads us to work harder and become more innovative."
When the chamber members gather for their biggest meeting of the year, it won't be all about what has yet to be done.
Their work over the past year is something to be proud of, said chamber Chairman Hank Klein, executive director of business development for Cushman & Wakefield.
Some of the major successes of the year involved improving the affordability of workforce housing and efforts to revitalize downtown Miami, Mr. Klein said.
Mr. Klein said he also thinks that with the progress made on moving forward with the so-called mega plan, improving downtown will remain the core issue for the chamber.
The mega plan, or Global Agreement, as it is also called, envisions using tourism tax dollars and money from an expanded Community Redevelopment Agency to build a new baseball stadium for the Marlins at the Orange Bowl site, a tunnel from the Port of Miami and a downtown trolley system.
Money will also go toward preparing Bicentennial Park for its transformation to Museum Park, where it is to be home to the Miami Art Museum and Miami Science Museum.
Auto dealership magnate Norman Braman has sued to force a countywide referendum on the plan.
Downtown this past year "came to the forefront," Mr. Klein said. "And most importantly, it will continue next year."
Progress on other goals from last year's conference included continuing to build political influence and the formation of a new environmental committee, Mr. Klein said.
At this year's conference, these topics will be among the many discussed over 16 workshops. The discussion is essential in the formulation of the chamber's goals for the year because it "gets a great pulse from our membership," Mr. Fernandez-Guzman said.
In addition to the workshops, conference attendees will have ample opportunities to enjoy themselves.
On Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the best businesses in South Florida will be honored at the "South Florida Good to Great" Awards Luncheon.
The keynote speaker will be Howard Schnellenberger, head football coach of Florida Atlantic University and former head coach of the 1983 national champion University of Miami Hurricanes.
On Saturday, conference attendees will have a chance to learn about the state of local and national politics from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the "Spotlight on Capitol Hill" Luncheon. US Senator Mel Martinez will be the keynote speaker.
Another award event, "A Salute to Miami's Leaders" Reception and Dinner will take place Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. as several outstanding Leadership Miami alumni are honored. The top award of the evening, the Henry Flagler Award for Vision, will be presented to Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón.