Chamber expects state funding for missions, leadership programs
By Charlotte Libov
The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce hopes to expand the reach of its missions abroad and create leadership programs here for delegates from throughout the Americas by using $300,000 it expects from the state.
The funds were included in the $71 billion spending package the Legislature approved last week, said Rana Brown, the chamber's senior vice president for advocacy. The budget awaits Gov. Jeb Bush's signature.
"We had been funded for several years, so we are cautiously optimistic," she said.
Despite past removal of the chamber's Americas Linkage Program from the state budget, chamber delegates returned last week from a six-week mission to six cities in Latin America and the Caribbean. The annual mission was trimmed from its usual 15 cities after loss of state funding.
Maria Masvidal-Visser, the chamber's vice president for international business development, said plans for the restored funding center on expanding the Leadership Miami program to enable businesspeople from countries that have hosted Americas Linkage's Miami participants to come here.
The annual Leadership Miami program targets young executives interested in improving Miami. Ms. Masvidal-Visser said the chamber wants to extend training in the program to those who have hosted Americas Linkage participants and who would come here as part of an inbound program.
"We really want these people to connect with our membership," she said.
Participants from countries visited by the Americas Linkage program, she said, would spend two or three days in leadership training here.
"We would have them tour the Miami Free Zone. They'd have the opportunity to mingle and meet service providers, and they would get to know people face-to-face," she said.
The program would take place in April or May, 2007, she said. She said scheduling would be influenced by the program's partners, including American Airlines and InterContinental Hotels, which offer sponsorships and discounts.
Some of the state funding, Ms. Masvidal-Visser said, would be used to enhance the chamber's Web site and add versions in Spanish and Portuguese.
"We find that virtual connectivity is extremely important in today's marketplace," she said. "People are turning to it, and they are opening their eyes to this opportunity."
In addition to the inbound missions, the program would also send local delegations abroad to visit the countries involved in the US-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement.
In addition to the state funds, Americas Linkage had received $400,000 from the US Department of Commerce, which cut off funding last year. That funding, chamber officials said, has not been restored.