Chamber President sends message to business community

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Chester Cooper, President OF THE BAHAMAS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Dear Member,

Happy New Year!

On the dawn of 2013, we take this opportunity to highlight some of the key achievements of our Chamber of Commerce during the past year and to give you a peek at some of the initiatives planned for this year.

Thanks to your continued membership and support during 2012, we were able to achieve much despite the tough economic times. Attached is a full list of activities, but highlighted below are some of the main events:

* Haiti Trade Mission: During September 2012 the BCCEC led a delegation to Haiti. 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”.
* Advocacy: We successfully 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. It is important to point out that our strategy for more meaningful and effective engagement with the Government is to have less public discourse and more direct dialogue. So whilst we have remained active in the press, we have already met with the majority of new Government Ministers to directly discuss matters affecting the business community. In addition, we have met with numerous Ambassadors and Honorary Consuls of major countries to discuss potential opportunities for the business community
* Training Courses & Conferences: The Chamber Institute offered several training programs that were ideal for small- and medium-sized businesses. We co-sponsored a conference with the US embassy on accessing funding in the USA, played an important leadership role in the recent National Symposium on Tax Reform and represented the Bahamas private sector at various international conferences.
* 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.

Whilst we will continue the above, we are resolute in improving the value added benefits we offer to our members. We will be rolling out additional initiatives shortly but provide highlights below:

* Trade Mission to Panama: We will lead a delegation to Panama from January 29 to February 3, 2013. In addition to opportunities for members to have direct business meetings with peers and new supplier we will visit Colon Free Zone, the Panama Canal and Panama Pacifico. We will be joined in this mission by the Grand Bahama Port Authority.
* Small Business Mentorship Program “SBMP”: This will be a signature event for 2013. We will link small business owners with large businesses in their space to provide business support and advice. This initiative, which will be launched on February 4, 2013, will be led by the Chamber in partnership with the Government, Venture Fund, Bahamas Development Bank, Commercial Banks , College of the Bahamas School of Business and Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants.
* Small Business Outreach: To coincide with the launch of the SBMP, we will conduct training sessions in various communities in New Providence and the Family Islands. As access to funding is one of the main cries of small businesses we will partner with the Venture Fund in conducting these meetings. The objective is to improve our value proposition to small businesses which comprises 70% of our membership. We will maintain our advocacy with the Government to continue creating an enabling environment for small business to thrive.
* Networking Opportunities: We will resume our various networking opportunities for members including mix & mingles and business after hours events. There will be sponsorship opportunities for businesses interested in promoting their products & services during these events.
* Meet-the-Minister’s Luncheon meetings: We will resume monthly luncheon meetings, which will give members access to the Cabinet Ministers. The second phase will give access to various business and community leaders to discuss topical issues.
* More Trade Missions: We are currently planning several other trade missions including Jamaica and Cuba with the grand finale being India during November 2013.
* Chairman’s Fireside Chats: Beginning the first quarter of 2013 I will reach out directly to several business leaders each week to discuss the programs of the Chamber and to hear the areas of main issues affecting your business. In future, you should expect quarterly updates on the happenings at your Chamber.

On a personal note, I wish to thank you for your continued support and wish for you and your family an abundance of Happiness and Success during 2013.

Yours truly,

I. Chester Cooper
Chairman