The Abaco Chamber of Commerce was one of the Bahamas Chamber’s represented at a recent 10 day International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP); held October 15th to 25th 2017, that visited New York, Vermont and Arizona. The Abaco Chamber was represented by Directors Brenda Jenoure and Ruth Saunders. The delegation also included representatives from the Grand Bahama Chamber and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation.
This program is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. It is a short-term structured visit to the United States, for current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields. The participants engage in planned professional meetings that reflect their professional interests and support the foreign policy goals of the United States. One cannot apply to be enrolled in the IVLP. Participants are nominated and selected annually by the staff at U.S. Embassies around the world.
This particular tour, centered around Chambers of Commerce, was arranged by the US Embassy in Nassau who welcomed the opportunity to promote growth for up and coming leaders. In each state visited, Brenda & Ruth, along with the other delegates, attended professional meetings where they collaborated with various Chambers of Commerce, to exchange ideas, learn best practices, and garner knowledge about sustainability and futuristic programs that would propel their respective island chambers, and the Bahamas Chamber as a whole.
The meetings began in New York, where they met with five (5) associations; Brooklyn COC; representing 2,060 business, NY Hospitality Alliance; 2,000 business, Hudson County COC; 600 business, Manhattan COC; 1,400 business, and Harlem COC; 1,300 business. The next stop was Vermont where they met with another five (5) associations; Vermont State COC; representing 1,700 business, Lake Champlain Regional COC; 1,500 business, Franklin County Regional COC; 305 business, North East Kingdom COC; 215 business, and Heart of Vermont COC; 150 business. Rounding out the tour was a stop in Sedona Arizona with Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau; representing 900 business and then in Phoenix with Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce representing 2,400 business, Experience Scottsdale with 400 business and a meeting with the USA Small Business Administration. As the volume of business portfolio varied, so did the staffing; from 100% volunteer to staff of 45 or more. The networking was amazing and will last a lifetime. The lessons learnt ranged from simple tweaks of process to phenomenal initiatives. There were commonalities and there were distinct features amongst USA Chambers, and also between USA Chambers and Bahamas Chambers.
All in all, 14 associations were visited, and at least 60 points of networking contacts were forged. There was a lot to grasp, a lot of engagement from small chambers to very large population chambers; with each adding value. Ruth and Brenda have benefited tremendously from the tour and plan to roll out their plan of how the Abaco Chamber can benefit as it enters a new two year term, (Nov 2017 thru Oct 2019), with an added 3 to 5 year projection of enhanced programs.
We are enthused about the programs we would like to bring on stream and are very excited to have our members be exposed to the things that we have learned, so look forward to seeing more updates from us and possible seminars on small business development, more networking mixers and mingles, all with the goal of adding value to each Chamber membership.
We are ever grateful to the US Embassy they both said, in particular Hank Ferguson, for recognizing a need and meeting that need thru the IVLP.