Foyo steps down as Miami chamber's CEO
By Marilyn Bowden
Eighteen months after taking over as president and CEO of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, George W. Foyo announced this week that he is leaving to become market president for South Florida at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida.
"This is really the best of both worlds for us," said Barry E. Johnson, chamber executive vice president of communications. "He will be continuing his involvement through a business already committed to the chamber."
Upon his departure at year's end, Mr. Foyo said Mr. Johnson will become interim president until the executive committee names a successor.
He said Mr. Johnson, a former chamber chairman who joined its executive staff in June 2004 after a 25-year career at AT&T, is considered a frontrunner for the permanent job.
"Our executive committee will evaluate the situation," Mr. Foyo said, "and determine whether a search is necessary. Even if a search is conducted, I'm sure Barry would be the top candidate. He has strong leadership qualities and would provide continuity for our members."
Since the retirement of William O. Cullom in fall 2003, the chamber has had two chief executives and faced fiscal challenges. Mr. Foyo succeeded Isilio Arriaga, recently appointed to the state Public Service Commission, in May 2004.
Mr. Foyo said he's confident the chamber will weather the transition with ease.
"We're not a hole-and-spokes organization," he said. "Our management style allows for decisions to be made in subject areas. People know what they have to do and understand their accountability.
"We have a new financial structure in place with all the appropriate internal controls. I expect our financial condition will be totally clean during this process."
Mr. Foyo will manage Blue Cross Blue Shield's business operations in Martin, St. Lucie, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties from a Miami office.
"Blue Cross Blue Shield is a premiere organization," Mr. Foyo said. "It's the state's No. 1 provider of health services and insurance, representing about 40% of the total health-care market. I will be focusing on growth and service in South Florida."
Nick Stam, a senior vice president at Blue Cross Blue Shield who said he recruited Mr. Foyo, said it is a post created by the Jacksonville company.
"Most of our corporate folks are in Jacksonville," he said. "This change comes from the realization that we need to have more local leadership and presence in our key markets.
"The South Florida metropolitan area is key. We needed a dynamic local leader who understands the culture. I looked at what George Foyo has accomplished, and it's pretty remarkable."
Mr. Foyo, who was named president of the chamber in May 2004, formerly was president of DirecTV Latin America and previously spent 30 years with AT&T, where he served in corporate leadership positions in the US, Spain and the Caribbean-Latin American region.
"In the chamber," Mr. Stam said, "he has been very impressive. He has tremendous business acumen. As part of the local market for more than 10 years, he understands the different customer segments and has developed relationships in the business community. He has the credibility and the trust on the part of the community that is essential to what our brand is all about."
Chamber chairwoman Rosa Sugrañes, CEO of Iberia Tiles, said in a statement that while the chamber will lose a "tremendous president" when Mr. Foyo departs in January, "we are gaining a terrific corporate leader for our community. George has assured me that both he and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida will continue to be active and involved in the chamber."
"We've made a significant turnaround from where we were 18 months ago," Mr. Foyo said. "We have the organization in the best shape it's been in in years. It has a strong financial position and a strong market position, a new infrastructure and business processes and a top-notch, talented staff.
"We've built a state-of-the-art Web site that's now being emulated by other chambers within the US. We're in a strong advocacy position where we've established good connections with local governments, Tallahassee, Washington and the White House. So the chamber is really in an enviable position right now."
Recently, said Barry Johnson, executive vice president of communications, the chamber was selected by Gov. George Bush to perform a study on disaster preparedness for Miami-Dade County.
Mr. Foyo said Mr. Johnson will become interim president until the executive committee selects a new president and CEO. Mr. Foyo said Mr. Johnson is a candidate for the permanent post.
"I would strongly recommend Barry," he said.
The executive committee has note decided if a search will be initiated, as is traditional, Mr. Foyo said, but "we want to move to minimize disruption."
Disruptions in recent years in what has been the community's mainstay civic organization have included a financial loss of millions attributed to staff members who are no longer with the organization and the unrelated resignation of Isilio Arriaga as president. The chamber has had to rebuild its membership ranks as a result.
Among initiatives for the new year, Mr. Johnson said, is a mission to promote the export of services to Asia and Europe as well as Latin America.