Chamber of Commerce Chairman Chester Cooper delivers report on major achievements

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CHESTER COOPER -Chairman BCCEC

Chairman’s Report (2012 – 2014)

Dear Member,

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you for the past two years. As my term ends I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the key achievements during the period 2012 – 2014 as we continued to enhance the value proposition of the BCCEC to its members:

Trade Missions: The BCCEC conducted successful trade missions to Haiti, Panama and South Florida. In addition to the creation of tangible business-to-business partnerships, we were able to strengthen the relationship between our respective Chambers and to promote the Bahamas as being “open for business”. We have also laid the groundwork for a mission to Cuba later this year.

Advocacy: We effectively contributed to the creation of public policy that impact business and the wider society. Most notably, the Chamber in cooperation with other industry partners led a lobby against the proposed changes in the Employment Act that in our view would increase the cost of doing business in the Bahamas. As Chairman, the new brand of “Collaborative Advocacy” resulted in effective influence on public policy and meaningful engagement with the Government and other stakeholders. In addition the Vice Chairman along with a PWC partner was appointed to co-chair the Coalition for Responsible Taxation which led the private sector negotiations on tax and fiscal reform.

Public Private Partnerships: The above approach along with effective negotiation has yielded significant results. Firstly, for the first time in the history of the Chamber we received a program-specific grant from the Government via the Ministry of Finance. Secondly, we have agreed on the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding “MOU” with the Government for the establishment of the domestic arm of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre at the Chamber. Thirdly, we have agreed on the terms of a Technical Services MOU where the BCCEC will be the private sector lead for businesses wishing to access foreign markets, taking advantage of trade agreements.

National Conclave of Chambers: The first ever national conclave of Chambers across the Bahamas was held. During this meeting the forum discussed issues of national importance along with Government and private sector leaders. I am pleased to report that the terms of an MOU between the BCCEC and the Family Island Chambers was agreed upon, in effect laying out how all of the Chambers will work constructively with the BCCEC. This event culminated a significant outreach to Affiliate Chambers through the “Chamber on the Move” series and the outstanding work of the rejuvenated Family Island Division.

International Chamber of Commerce “ICC”:
The BCCEC became a member of the ICC. This will give the BCCEC full access to all of the benefits of the ICC, including access to the technical resources of the International Court of Arbitrators which will be important as we develop and promote the domestic Alternative Dispute Resolution Center. The membership also gives us access to a seat on the World Chambers Federation Council, as well as a seat on the International Court of Arbitration.

Operational & Fiscal Excellence:
During the past two years we have made significant strides in revamping the culture and operations of the Chamber. This involved significant staffing changes and the creation of a new productive, accountable culture. As a result, an entrepreneurial mindset has returned to the Chamber demonstrated by the outstanding financial results. After a history of financial hardship, I am delighted to report two consecutive profitable years and a significant cash balance. This foundation will allow the work of the Chamber to continue in a significant way.

Small Business Mentorship Program “SBMP”: This has been a signature program during 2013 – 2014. We linked small business owners with large businesses in their space to provide training, technical support and practical advice. This initiative was done in partnership with the Government and the Bahamas Venture Fund.

Employment & Labor Desk: This was launched during 2012 to provide products and support mainly to small and mid-sized businesses, including an HR assessment tool. This foundation presents significant opportunity for the future
Re-energized Chamber Institute: With the recruitment of a new manager we have brought new energy and enthusiasm to this product. We have introduced significant technology for eLearning and are in active discussion with the Laureate Int’l Universities to offer degree programs via the Chamber Institute. Again, these developments present significant opportunities for the future.

Networking Opportunities: We continued numerous networking opportunities for members including mix & mingles and the very popular “Meet-the-Minister” luncheon series. In addition, we were delighted to host a very successful Chamber Gala that not only served as a fundraiser but recognized the past forty (40) Chairmen of the modern Chamber since 1935. This was a proud moment for me personally.

My heartfelt thanks to our Members, Staff, Executive & Board whose unwavering commitment to the organization’s ideals help fulfill our promise of creating a more enabling environment for business to thrive, whilst building an even better Bahamas.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve and for your assistance in what I hope will be remembered as a very productive term.

Yours truly,

I. Chester Cooper

Chairman (2012 – 2014)