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Santa Monica Chamber 2009: Year in Review:

Amidst a recession and a tough year for businesses across the nation, the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce gave local businesses a number of opportunities to survive and thrive in 2009. The Chamber hosted a wide offering of events and programs throughout the year and welcomed plenty of new faces.

Kicking off 2009 with a focus on connecting local government with the business sector, the Chamber hosted a “Meet the Mayor” breakfast for new members on January 8. Santa Monica Mayor Ken Genser, who had been sworn in less than a month before the breakfast, hit the ground running mingling with new chamber members at Ocean Avenue Seafood. The Chamber welcomed several new members in 2009, including California National Bank, the Museum of Flying, and SGI Plaza Bookstore, to name a few.

Next on the Chamber’s to-do list in 2009 was the annual Chamber State of the City Reception at the Broad Stage on January 30, featuring speeches by Genser, City Manager P. Lamont Ewell, and one of California’s leading economist forecasters, Christopher Thornberg of Beacon Economics. Thornberg predicted that the economy would begin to recover in 2010, with a housing recovery following in 2012.

The year was full of connections and new relationships between the Chamber, city officials, researchers and policy makers. The Chamber, in partnership with KOOZA by Cirque du Soleil, hosted the annual Taste of Santa Monica. It also partnered with Santa Monica High School on the annual Employee and Student Expo, which links students with jobs and gives them information on the job application process. Another Chamber and Samohi joint project was the annual “AP Challenge,” which pairs students in advanced placement classes with mentors in the business community. A partnership between the City of Santa Monica, The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce and the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau resulted in the Census Complete Count Committee, a group with the goal of creating a more accurate and complete census count.

Ongoing member-driven discussions hosted by the Chamber featured guests such as the late Mayor Ken Genser, Councilmember Gleam Davis, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, State Senator Fran Pavley and City Manager P. Lamont Ewell. The Chamber hosted a panel at the RAND Corporation with Walker Parking Consultants to discuss updates to the downtown parking plan aimed at providing more access for patrons.

In February, the Chamber was all business, hosting the annual Business and Consumer Expo. The event connected businesses with resources and information about how to grow or maintain during the downturn.

In March, the Chamber went to Washington D.C., where Chamber President Laurel Rosen and former Chamber Chair John Bohn met with members of Congress and members of the Obama Administration as local community advocates.

Also in March, two members of the Chamber’s Board of Directors, architect Kristina Andresen and Tom Neary of Morley Builders, saw their newly built and designed park come to fruition in a grand opening event that included a dedication of the park’s central structure, “The Spirit of Santa Monica” DC-3 plane. March also found the Chamber with a new logo, which emerged right before the launch of their newly designed web site. The Chamber was thinking green in late March, and not just because of St. Patrick’s Day. The Sustainable Quality Awards (SQAs), held at the Sheraton Delfina Hotel, was hosted by the Chamber and Morley Builders, with keynote speeches from Sheila Kuehl, former California State Senator, and Andy Lipkis, Tree People founder and president. A new feature to the 2009 SQA’s was the presence of more than a dozen exhibitors from green and renewable companies and non-profit organizations.

Health, wellness, and the offerings of the non-profit business community got the focus in May, when the Chamber presented the Santa Monica Cares Festival at the Third Street Promenade, combining the long-running Health and Wellness Festival with the Non-Profit Festival to enhance the 25-year-old event. This new, larger, and more comprehensive event included a presentation of the annual Jean McNeil-Wyner Volunteer of the Year Award to Gary Loeb, and linked residents with vital services such as blood pressure screenings, body fat screenings, and fitness demonstrations.

June brought the annual Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce Installation Dinner to the Fairmont Miramar Hotel. The Chamber’s top fundraising event, the dinner served as a welcome wagon for new Board Chair Iao Katagiri,of RAND Corporation and a new board of directors.

The Chamber’s Taste of Santa Monica event brought hundreds of people to the 100-year-old Santa Monica Pier in September, featuring cuisine from 60 local restaurants. The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of California set up several chef demos for the event, and Cirque du Soleil partnered with the Chamber to expand the culinary event in anticipation of the Cirque’s show on the Pier, KOOZA by Cirque du Soleil, which kicked off with spectacular fanfare in October.

The Santa Monica Chamber ended 2009 with a look into the future, naming Dodgers owner Frank McCourt the guest of honor for the 2010 State of the City Reception. This year’s reception will be held on January 21 at tThe Broad Stage.

Chamber President Laurel Rosen looks forward to the new decade: “2009 was a challenging year,” Rosen said. “The chamber is a small business, just like many of our members, and the reality is that we faced the same challenges that many of our members faced. Going forward, the City of Santa Monica and the Chamber have created the Santa Monica Business Alliance. We are working together to attract, retain, and help grow our businesses.”

Contact Amy Lyons • copy@smmirror.com

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