By M. Dennis Taylor
The economic challenges over the past year have left many organizations shifting their missions and goals, often evolving into something new. In some instances, they are reimagining their purpose and developing a new brand for themselves.
Diversity and inclusion are key objectives for business organizations in recent years. That’s why two of Palm Beach County’s most successful business organizations chose the current era of unprecedented changes as the perfect time for a merger. The Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Palm Beach County have been reformed into a single organization. Since completing the merger last October, the new entity has held a number of virtual events. It will host its first in-person meetings this August.
“We have succeeded in aligning two organizations with similar objectives,” explained Mary Lou Bedford, CEO of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber, which is based in Wellington. “We are really excited to now serve a broader and more diverse group of some 600 businesses and growing all throughout Palm Beach County.”
Former Hispanic Chamber CEO Maria Antuña is now the executive vice president of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber. She will focus on business development and Hispanic affairs, facilitating meetings to allow members to maximize the benefits of the united chamber.
The four-decade-old Central Palm Beach County Chamber traditionally focused on the geographical region, but the merger makes the new organization truly county wide.
“We were already overlapping, but now we mesh as a single organization that creates a further synergy — a perfect storm of resources, current and future — of what were two separate groups before,” Antuña said. “With 30 percent of Palm Beach County of Hispanic background, now is the time to join the group which has even stronger opportunities.”
Antuña believes the merger is a win-win for both organizations.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a trend around the nation for chambers to become more innovative and sustainable by aligning with other chambers and business organizations,” she explained. “Strategically, this agreement makes sense and will bring more success to our membership.”
Antuña added that the chamber has been working closely as its member businesses deal with the problems brought by the pandemic.
“The chamber has earned and has already been operating a COVID-19 Technical Assistance Center from a MBDA [Minority Business Development Agency] CARES Act grant project,” she said. “It is a year-long partnership to help current and future Hispanic and minority owned business members navigate this economic crisis with leadership from the chamber.”
The united chamber serves members throughout the county with a goal to continuously improve the business climate and safeguard the economy by facilitating and assisting business expansion and increasing opportunities for growth of high wage jobs. As things continue to slowly return to normal, programs focused on advocacy, economic development, events and direct services to members will expand.
Along with small and medium business enterprises in the geographic and Hispanic culture area, the united chamber’s focus will be on the top employer sectors, including agribusiness, healthcare, equestrian, IT/telecommunications, business/financial services, manufacturing and aerospace/aviation/engineering in bilingual and bicultural marketing.
Bedford explained that the reasons to join the chamber remain as true now as ever: business growth, networking, advocacy, leadership opportunities, market-wide credibility, community awareness, visibility, corporate responsibility, economic sustainability, professional development, and now in multiple languages and cultures.
“The virtual luncheon discussions will continue and change to in-person over time,” Bedford said.
Bedford added that the in-person workshop this summer will be a perfect opportunity for so many members to meet other members they don’t yet know.
“It is the perfect opportunity for existing and new members to reach out in the hybrid organization with economic workshop activities on useful and interesting topics,” she said.
Other initiatives are on the horizon as well.
“By the third quarter of 2021, we will be hosting our business academy,” Bedford explained, highlighting the many resources of the combined organization. “Now we have grown to be truly county wide. Members will have more influence than ever.”
Contact the newly combined chamber at (561) 790-6200 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Find the chamber on social media @cpbchamber on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or visit www.cpbchamber.com.