Seniors make room for new generation: Revolutionary new board Chamber of Commerce

POSTED: 01/20/13 7:42 PM

GREAT BAY- The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry has a new executive board, described by its vice president Hubert Pantophlet as a “revolution” and shift in the face and image of the Chamber. Newly elected president Tamara Leonard yesterday held her first press conference, where she said that 2013 will be filled with activities that reintroduce the Chamber to the community and strengthen people’s confidence in the entity.
The other members of the board are Cookie Bijlani (treasurer), Arthur Bute (immediate past president), Ludwig Quenniche (immediate past vice president) and members Charlise Philips, Abdul Meyers, Stanley Lint and Ajay Rawtani.
“There is a generation shift where you have the senior members of the Chamber giving room to the younger members who are entrepreneurs. They are projecting what the Chamber should look like. We have a new St. Maarten, everything has to reflect on the new Chamber,” Pantophlet said.
Leonard said that she will do her best to represent the private sector and ensure that there is continuity of the previous board’s projects.
“We will see to it that these projects all come to an end or meet the goals that they were intended to.”
The private-public partnership which started two year ago, should be “up and running” in the first quarter of this year, Leonard said.
The redesign of the Chamber’s website, a rebranding campaign and completing its digital access portal to more efficiently serve the business community and the government, are among the board’s main priorities for 2013.
There will also be more focus on training and development and branding of companies, as well as the reorganization of internal operations. All of these things, Leonard said, will be established and completed in 2013.
They also want to expose the entire community to conferences and trade shows internationally, which is usually reserved for members of the Chamber’s board.
Workshops on family business and the establishment of focus groups, primarily with the government, as well as the hosting of international conferences, are also on the mind of the board.
“We are trying to get as much exposure with the outer world for the private sector, boosting businesses,” Leonard noted.
After serving 8 years, Pantophlet said this is his final term and he is confident that the Chamber is being left in good hands.
Internal reorganization will see an upgrade of the Chamber’s filing system, making it much easier for the entity to liaise with other agencies and also have statistics on the rate of compliancy of businesses.
“Our digital presence is not functioning. In order for us to provide a more efficient service to the institutions like banks, insurance companies, law offices and notary offices, it is good for them to have access to the database via a portal. Just like how you have online banking, they will be able to have access for a fee,” executive director Claret Connor said.
More information on that fee that is regulated by a 2009 ordinance will be made public soon.
In the meantime, the Chamber is calling on businesses that are yet to pay their annual fee to do so as soon as possible.
“We have embarked on a campaign to inform businesses that there fees are due. We will be intensifying that public announcement,” Connor said.
For now, the Chamber has secured space in the print media to have public announcements published 4 days per week. Today and the three following Saturdays, businesses will also be allowed to visit the Chamber from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm for the sole purpose of paying their annual dues.
After this campaign, Connor says that another mechanism would be put in place to get companies to pay their fees.
He emphasized the importance of Chamber registration and being up to date with dues.
“Every company established and operating on the island, must by law, be registered at the Chamber. A registration has an annual fee that you must pay.”
While there is an obligation to pay, Leonard admits that not everyone is educated, hence the need for businesses to become actively involved in Chamber meetings.
She also made a case for the relevance of the Chamber.
“It is difficult in these days to operate a business and not be registered at the Chamber. Everyone is requiring official documents now.”
After the public awareness, will come enforcement, Pantophlet said.

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