By John Hood
Wynwood’s always full of surprises; that’s one of the most diggable things about the place. And as goes the ’hood so goes its hangouts, especially Wynwood Kitchen and Bar, which, with its adjoining Walls and adjacent brother Joey’s, more often than not serves as the center of such surprises. So I wasn’t really surprised to find the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce holding a shindig at WKB last Thursday night. But I was definitely delighted.
The gathering was a product of The Chamber’s HYPE Miami committee, which happened to be doing just as their acronym attests — that is, Helping Young Professionals Engage. The well-heeled crowd of go-getters represented not just Miamians under 35, but those of the entire region. And that, says Director of Business Kelly Saks, is no accident.
“The Chamber is regional,” said Saks, “hence the Greater in the name. And our membership list stretches from Palm Beach to the Keys.”
Chartered in 1907 after The Miami Board of Trade merged with the Miami Merchants’ Association, the GMCC has long been at the core of what goes down in our town, in every aspect.
Its first president, E.G. Sewell, who with his brother John opened this city’s very first store, not only spearheaded a slew of tourism-boosting special events, he led the efforts to make the Port of Miami a deepwater port. After the devastating hurricane of 1926, now Miami Mayor Sewell was at the forefront of the city’s economic recovery. From the late ‘60s through the early ‘00s, legendary newspaperman Alvah Chapman, Jr. used his influence as head of Knight Ridder (which he helped combine) to help create a variety of civic organizations, as well as to revitalize downtown after Hurricane Andrew.
These days the Chamber, which is being helmed by President/CEO Barry E. Johnson and Chairman Phillis Oeters, oversees “30 Chamber professionals, [who in turn] support over 400,000 employees of Chamber member companies in South Florida”. HYPE Miami, which itself is chaired by Kaufman Rossin & Co’s Michael Simmons, is just one of 26 committees that are committed to adding ever more greatness to the Greater Miami community.
As HYPE’s Mission statements reads, its goal is “[t]o facilitate business development opportunities among young professionals by providing the perfect environment to meet, exchange ideas, expand and/or learn about new business as well as proactively shape the future workforce of the region and build the next generation of leaders.”
Or as GMCC Vice President of Marketing and Member Services Diana Pubchara so succinctly summed it up: “We’re putting a new spin on an old tradition.” And who can argue with efforts like that?