Miami’s commerce experts turn conventions on their head
Sometimes you have to get a little creative to grow. That’s true with many things, and it certainly has been with helping Miami rebound from an arduous 2020 and into a resurgent, prosperous 2021 and beyond.
Leading that charge are local commerce experts who know all the classic moves of business but possess the gumption to turn conventions on their head for the sake of growth, like Eric Knowles, president of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. Rudolph Moise, president of the Miami-Dade County Medical Association, nominated Mr. Knowles in the category “Creative Recovery: Those creating or promoting jobs, new economic generators and the infrastructure to make Miami’s economy grow.”
“He has done so much in terms of promoting economic development and was able to bring people from out of town to get businesses going. I don’t’ know how many hours he works a day, but he’s always out there connecting people,” Dr. Moise said. “He invited me to meet new businesses to convince them to come to Miami. He wanted the company to meet local people who could share thoughts about opportunities here.”
In addition to fulfilling his regular duties, Mr. Knowles and the chamber worked with other organizations like the Beacon Council and CareerSource South Florida to promote jobs, business opportunities and identify strategies to build the economy.
He also was an active member on the Miami-Dade Covid-19 Economic Recovery Task Force, a local think tank responsible for recommending to elected officials ways to bounce back from the pandemic’s impacts.
Mr. Knowles expressed confidence that the county as a whole will recover quickly, with projects like Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s civic engagement initiative, Thrive305, and investments of time, funds and infrastructure that will continue to attract fintech companies.
But where disproportionate inequities persist, he said, the chamber will be there to help.
“Miami is leading the way in bringing the economy back, post-Covid-19,” he said. “Companies are relocating and impacting our economy in a positive way. Yet the Black business families continue to suffer disproportionately to the rest of our county. The Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce has been at the forefront of advocating to ensure that the playing field is leveled and to change the narrative.”
Dr. Moise also nominated Jerome Hutchinson, founder and chief servant officer of the International Career and Business Alliance, or ICABA, a globally minded, member-based network based in South Florida that helps professionals and entrepreneurs of color attain and build their careers and businesses.
“He is the coolest,” Dr. Moise said. “He connects people from all over the world – powerful businesspeople, women and men, mostly minorities.”
Two other people who deserve recognition are Liliam Lopez, president and CEO of the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SFLHC), and Roland Sanchez-Medina, the organization’s chairman, said Miami-Dade Commissioner Raquel Regalado.
“The SFLHCC took to Zoom and social media and reinvented itself last year,” Ms. Regalado said. “They spent time and resources helping members and non-members navigate the PPP process as well as Miami-Dade County rules on reopening. They’ve also been active in representing small business interests, from curfew to Wayfair legislation in Tallahassee. Lily is a force of nature, and her ability to keep folks engaged in her chamber despite the pandemic has been amazing.”
According to Ms. Lopez, the SFLHCC has been instrumental in supporting small businesses through a very tough year, serving many through its advocacy and guidance. She credited Mr. Sanchez-Medina and his predecessor, Felipe Basulto, South Florida retail marketing president for TD Bank, for their support and commitment.
More so than it had in the past, the SFLHCC turned to digital platforms to reach its members. Ms. Lopez launched and continues to host an online show called “A Business Minute with Lily Lopez,” which has showcased more than 50 companies.
“We have been the voice for many and provided PPP application assistance through educational webinars, awarded 15 micro-grants to impacted companies and organized a petition in favor of reopening businesses,” she said. “It’s been extremely important to be resilient and able to pivot.”
When the going got tough this past year, Mark Trowbridge doubled down on the work he’s done for 15 years as president and CEO of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, Coral Gables Mayor Vince Lago said.
“Mark has worked hard with the City of Coral Gables’ Economic Development Department to address Covid-19 issues with business and help with the distribution of funding acquired from the Cares Act,” he said. “He has also worked with me on allowing outdoor dining for restaurants in Coral Gables.”
Mr. Trowbridge called the past 14-plus months “incredibly challenging” for the Coral Gables business community but said he is proud of how the chamber stepped forward as a leader toward collective recovery.
As jobs return, the economy grows stronger and new companies choose Coral Gables as a place to open shop, he said, the “City Beautiful” will flourish.
“Whether it be our work as a community connector, essential resource and advocate, tireless cheerleader, or as a creative problem solver, I believe this will be our finest hour as a chamber,” he said. “I am extremely bullish on a robust recovery and know that, from the ashes of this global pandemic, we all shall rise.”