100yearold Chamber Must Adapt Proven Methods To Changing Climate Officials Say
By Eric Kalis
As Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce members celebrate the organization’s 100th anniversary, top officials say the chamber must adapt to the changing economic climate in South Florida while applying familiar principles in its second century.
Miami-Dade County is in the midst of a business boom with a growing population and increasing emphasis on international commerce, said chamber President and CEO Barry Johnson. The county combines with Broward and Palm Beach counties to form the sixth-largest Metropolitan Statistical Area in the United States, he said. Because of that, chamber staffers are reaching out to neighboring counties to help the chamber serve as a catalyst for global business.
"The next 100 years will certainly take a different course because of the course our community is on," Mr. Johnson said. "It is a global marketplace in South Florida with a large stable of international companies. The chamber wants to be a launching pad for the international market."
Chamber officials took a strong step toward accommodating the global market trend by launching a remodeled Web site last year, Mr. Johnson said. The chamber earned Best Web Site honors at the August Association of Chambers of Commerce Executives conference in Cleveland.
"The Web site is not only important for Miami business," Mr. Johnson said. "It is a source of information for our events and allows members in other parts of the world to do business here. There is an opportunity for businesses everywhere to be part of the virtual chamber."
More than 5,000 members and affiliates worldwide use the Web site, said Maria Acosta, CFO and executive vice president. The site provides ample sponsorship and advertising revenue for the chamber, she said.
Besides the Web site, chamber officials are working to enhance programming for their members by offering more networking events and inviting a slew of prominent speakers to address the chamber, Ms. Acosta said. Highlighting this year’s fall and winter season are speeches by University of Miami President Donna Shalala in November, Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey in December and NBC Universal Chairman and CEO Bob Wright in January.
While chamber officials expand services for members, some say it is important to remember how the organization thrived in its first century. Bruce Jay Colan, counsel to the board of directors, said the chamber must form more strategic alliances and lobby for significant causes that have impact on the region’s business.
"We need to work, as we have in the past, with the community to contribute to the economic vitality of the county," Mr. Colan said. "Besides helping attract new businesses, we have been a cheerleader for a lot of things, like the [Carnival Center for the Performing Arts], Watson Island and the Port of Miami tunnel."
A back-to-basics approach is ultimately what the chamber needs to prosper in a new century, said First Vice Chairman Carlos Fernandez-Guzman.
"I think the chamber has once again found its course," Mr. Fernandez-Guzman said. "We are beginning to do what we did before & be an incubator of ideas, taking an active role in advocacy. We should not deviate from what we did well for the first 100 years." Advertisement