One year after it’s inception, The Greater Miami Gardens Chamber of Commerce is struggling to lure local businesses and make an impact.
The chamber was established to be the voice of businesses in the city, but one year later, it’s membership lags and in its short existence the executive director has change three times.
Interested businesses who may want to join the chamber are hard-pressed to find any information about it because there is no website.
The current executive director, Ula Zucker, took the helm in June. She said she hopes to bolster the chamber’s reach into the community and build its membership.
“While I’m working on relationship-building, we want to provide education to businesses especially the small mom-and-pop businesses,” she said.
Of the 3,000 businesses in Miami Gardens, the chamber currently has 35 members.
Zucker said since taking over, some members complained to her that the chamber is not meeting their expectations.
“Because of the turnover, there are businesses that have been frustrated with the chamber,” she said. “Some of them have been upset that I paid my money and I didn’t get much out of it.”
A Facebook fan page to promote the chamber and its activities has not been updated since September 2011.
For now, the chamber is largely supported by city funds.
Miami Gardens contracted with the chamber to oversee the city’s Business Incentive Program, which provides loans to local businesses for façade improvements and upgrades to a store’s physical structure.
From June to September, the city paid the chamber $19,700 to answer emails and phone calls about economic development and the business incentive program. According to an invoice provided to the city, the payment also covered supplies, postal services, advertising and receptionist services to the chamber.
A progress reports shows since Zucker took the executive director role, the chamber processed one Business Improvement Program application.
Zucker, who previously worked for the city as the media and events coordinator, said dozens of businesses have expressed interest, but some want the money for expenses that are not covered through the program.
“What some people are asking for is not feasible, they want money for payroll or to stock inventory and that’s not what this program is about,” she said.
The chamber hosts monthly events for the business community and Zucker said financial planning and other educational training sessions are in the works.
Zucker recently hosted a holiday crime prevention forum along with Miami Gardens police for members of the chamber. Before the new year, Zucker said the chamber’s website should be functioning with tools that will allow members to create mini profiles on the site about their businesses.
“There are going to be a lot of opportunities. Businesses have been very open and excited about the chamber, ” she said.
Some businesses in the city are hesitant to join the chamber.
Former Miami Gardens Councilman Andre Williams owns Liberty Tax in the city, but is not a member of the chamber.
“I understand why small businesses would not want to be a member of the chamber because they don’t see any real value,” he said. “I don’t know of any real initiative the chamber has undertaken.”
Zucker said the chamber is an advocate for businesses and is optimistic it will gain more traction in the coming year.
“We’re building a foundation right now,” she said. “This is a start-up essentially.”
Miami Herald intern Janey Tate contributed to this report.