GERMAN AMERICAN BUSINESS CHAMBER OF SOUTH FLORIDA
Spring 1988. Five business executives in Miami, Florida, were discussing whether, when and how to break away from a German American group in North Miami and establish a similar institution more business-oriented. The one “to the North” resembled a Schuplattler culture – a “social club.”
Many more meetings ensued. The decision was not easy but necessary to advance German American commercial relations. On one point there was agreement: No new organization could function effectively without a full-time Executive Director (ED) and her detailed responsibilities therewith.
Finally, in June 1988 the German American Trade Council was founded and the by-laws adopted on March 22, 1990. Initial officers consisted of a president, vice president, two secretaries and a treasurer. The ED had also been hired. A Board of Directors did not yet exist. Membership was virtually nil. Seven purposes of the organization were clearly spelled out. Abbreviated herewith, they are just as relevant today –- possibly expressed in more distinctive words –- as 30 years ago:
Foster peace and understanding between individuals and institutions worldwide. Promote trade, commerce, and facilitate investors’ goals, especially between the USA/Florida and Germany. Provide links and educational opportunities of German-speaking nations. Solicit individual memberships to finance the above ideals on a non-profit basis.
To stimulate the above objectives, in addition to small networking sessions, one major avenue was to invite prominent guest speakers from abroad as well as nearby. On most occasions international or bilateral topics were pursued, which also served as a platform to recruit new members. No easy task.
In order to unify two other German American associations in Florida: one in Orlando, the other in Tampa Bay -– each one with a different name yet same objectives -– a merger took place on March 1, 2000, under the auspices of the German American Business Chamber of Florida. Purpose: To integrate existing and future Florida organizations under one umbrella and achieve uniformity of goals.
It was a lofty ambition but for numerous reasons, primarily because of Florida’s size, not workable. Miami had always been the major German American business hub, largely because of its commercial and related infrastructure – including adjacent Fort Lauderdale – and most likely will remain so.
In the GABC’s 30 years of existence, irrespective by whatever name, five presidents were at the helm (including one today). Together with their executive directors, all-volunteer Board of Directors and on a rotating basis interns from Germany, they took pain to heed the organization’s mission statements. Worrisome almost consistently was the struggle to increase or retain membership. (Other bilateral organizations and customer-service-oriented businesses fared no better).
The world of 30 years ago has changed. So have aspects of the GABC. The German American Business Chamber of South Florida –- in association with the German American Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta –- should have a welcome future: New ideas and young blood have joined the GABC Board, and it will be interesting to observe how their concepts are meshed with older and more experienced helmsmen. I firmly believe that the current leadership of the GABC is in the best of hands.
Walter A. Loy, GABC Founding Member, President Emeritus, Honorary Member of the Board (2/2018)