Greater Miami Chamber presents leadership awards
By Jacquelyn Weiner
It could have been another dry business-awards banquet, but award winners at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's "A Salute to Miami's Leaders" on Saturday evening came out dancing.
"How about a quick step?" asked co-master of ceremony Mark Trowbridge, president and CEO of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, as a pair of energetic dancers shimmied on stage to the beat of "Dance with Me."
The more than 150 in attendance at the reception and dinner at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa cheered on their peers in an awards ceremony that mixed a business function with "Dancing with the Stars" — yet still kept it classy.
The awards event, in its third year, honors outstanding Leadership Miami alumni who have excelled in their fields of business, have been actively involved with the chamber and display exemplary community involvement.
Leadership Miami is an annual program sponsored by the chamber and other Miami-Dade County companies that aims to educate up-and-comers in the local business community on leadership and community issues.
Eric Levin, vice chairman of Gold Coast Beverage Distributors, knows the value of participation in Leadership Miami first hand.
Mr. Levin, who is a graduate of the most recent Leadership Miami class, said he valued the experience because it helped him learn more about the Miami community and forge valuable business connections with other chamber members.
Eduardo Padrón, president of Miami Dade College, said the professionals he met in his beginning years with the chamber became his mentors.
"That has been the gift that I've received," he said.
Mr. Padrón was awarded The Henry M. Flagler Award for visionary leadership at the event.
Michael Lewis, editor and publisher of Miami Today, agreed that Leadership Miami has played an integral part in his business.
"We could not have started Miami Today if I hadn't gone through Leadership Miami," he said while accepting the 24th annual Bill Colson Leadership Award. Bill Colson is the founder of the Leadership Miami program. Mr. Lewis launched the newspaper 25 years ago.
"A Salute to Miami's Leaders" also marked the end of the chamber's 2008 Goals Conference, which was an "exceptional success," said Barry Johnson, president and CEO of the chamber.
More than 1,000 attended the conference, its best turnout in three years, Mr. Johnson said.
Major issues tackled during the two-day conference included finding solutions to the issue of workforce housing and small business advocacy, he said.
The chamber plans to launch new "recession buster" services by the end of June, such as discounting membership fees to help small businesses.
"We hope it will be a stimulus and help them do better business," Mr. Johnson said.
Hank Klein, who became past chairman as the 2008-2009 board was install at the Goals Conference, also was pleased with how the conference turned out.
"It was extremely well attended and there was great excitement and enthusiasm," said Mr. Klein, executive director of business development for Cushman & Wakefield.
Mr. Klein said he was especially pleased with the chamber's continuing work on the revitalization of downtown.
Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess, who was honored in the Government category, agreed that revamping downtown Miami remains a key issue.
"I think we all need to have a vision," Mr. Burgess said. "A city is only as good as its urban core."
In addition, the Workforce Housing Committee has "very interesting things on the table," said new chamber Chairman Carlos Fernandez-Guzman, senior executive vice president for the Neighborhood Banking Group of BankUnited.
"The 34 committees have done a spectacular job of framing the goals," he said.
Others honored at "A Salute to Miami's Leaders" are:
nMaria C. Alonso, senior vice president and market development manager of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties for Bank of America, in the Banking/Finance category.
—Basil M. Bernard, president and CEO of Apricot Office Supplies & Furniture Inc. and Office Furniture U.S.A. in the Entrepreneurial/Professional category.
—Susan Potter Norton, a principal at Allen, Norton & Blue P.A. of Coral Gables in the Legal/Law category.
—Guarioné M. Diaz, president and CEO of the Cuban American National Council Inc., in the Nonprofit/Cultural category.
—Otis O. Wragg, a founding partner of Wragg & Casas Public Relations Inc., in the Public Relations/Marketing category.