bill-diggs_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

MIAMI GARDENS — The Miami Gardens City Council turned back a call to reject plans for creating a chamber of commerce for the city and voted to allocate $120,000 to make it happen.
The call came from Bill Diggs, president and CEO of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce. He proposed instead that the council support the creation of a merchants association.

But Mayor Shirley Gibson and Assistant City Manager Daniel Rosemond, the city’s point person on the proposal, disagreed.

Rosemond has headed a team in talks with the business community for more than a year. He said the proposed city chamber would cause little conflict with the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce.

“The Miami Gardens chamber’s focus is to emphasize growing the businesses within our city, as well as to attract new businesses to our city,” Rosemond said.

Gibson acknowledged that starting a chamber would take a lot of effort, but she added that it was a challenge the Miami Gardens business community could handle.

“It can be done and we know that from the history of the city that we take on challenges,” Gibson said. “It was really put together by small businesses. They are the ones who wanted to get this started. They have been very committed to a business environment and they have instructed how they want it.”

The issue was discussed during the council’s meeting on Feb. 9.

Diggs had suggested the Miami-Dade Chamber could create a Miami Gardens Merchant Association in an effort to partner with the city. This would be different from a full-fledged chamber in that the association would be a group of small business owners who meet monthly to discuss issues, generate ideas and give the chamber feedback on the concerns of the community.

But business owners who spoke during the meeting called for a chamber to be set up.

“I believe a chamber of commerce will energize all the businesses within its corridors and deliver new promises and excitement to the city,” said Lourdes Wydra, owner of Lulu’s Car Wash, 17551 NW 27th Ave. “A strong chamber of commerce will ensure that businesses survive and continue to create jobs, therefore providing an incentive for new businesses to open in the city.”

That sentiment was echoed by other speakers.

“It also gives people the opportunity for networking so that everyone knows who everyone is and we all work together,” said Beverly Bachrach, vice president of University Advancement and Marketing and Communications at St. Thomas University. “I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”

The council agreed with Rosemond and adopted a resolution approving the funds and authorizing the city manager and city attorney to take steps to create the chamber. The money will come from Community Development Block Grant funding in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

Photo: Bill Diggs