The Beating Heart of the Bay

The Beating Heart of the Bay

Michael McDonough, President of the Alameda Chamber of Commerce

Eight years ago, when I was the Chairman of the Ambassador Committee, I was asked by one of my new Ambassadors to define the role of the Chamber of Commerce. It was a good question. Being new to the Chamber myself, I asked one of our Board members to attend an Ambassador meeting to discuss the subject.

The result of this meeting formed the framework of our mission as we see it today. That Board member believed the role of the Chamber could be summed up in three words…Advocacy, Education and Opportunity. After a little research, I found that the first Chamber of Commerce was established to advocate for the business community.

When I became President a couple of years later, it was brought to my attention that The Chamber wasn’t doing enough in the Advocacy area.

Many of you probably remember a great Alamedan named Hadi Monsef. Hadi didn’t go to Alameda or Encinal High, in fact he was an immigrant. Friends remember him as a deeply dedicated volunteer who really loved serving our community and a mentor who helped guide others through Alameda’s twists and turns. In addition to serving on the City Council from 1983 to 1989, he served on virtually every non-profit and city commission in town. I only knew Hadi a few years, we lost him in 2014, but he taught me a huge lesson six years ago in my first year as President of the Chamber. I could easily make a case that Hadi played a big part in making the Chamber what it has become today.

I’ll never forget receiving a call from Hadi in 2013 educating me of the Chamber’s responsibility to carry the voice of business at Council meetings. The night before, an issue had been raised at a Council meeting that affected Alameda’s relationship with Oakland and the Chamber wasn’t even there.

He chewed me up one side and down the other. And he was right. It seemed that we needed to be reminded that the Chamber’s primary reason for existence was to advocate on your behalf.

That day, I made a conscience decision to up our game in the advocacy department to ensure that the voice of the business community was heard loud and clear and , of course, I wanted to deliver on a promise I made to Hadi Monsef that no one would ever have to ask where the Chamber of Commerce stands on issues that affect the Business Community of Alameda.

Since that time, we’ve worked behind the scenes and often spoken publicly at City Council meetings to amplify the voice of the business community. Additionally, we’ve started a new program that is a game changer for the Alameda Business Community. It’s called focus@12 where we will bring in businesses, one industry sector at a time, to share their specific needs and concerns with the Chamber and the City Manager so, both the Chamber and the City can better serve them. The first of these meetings will be held in October with businesses in the local Maritime industry.

Equally important is our mission to deliver educational value to our members. Understanding the local economic landscape, knowledge of best practices and awareness of legislative actions are imperative to remaining competitive in the current business climate. Chamber events such as the City Developments Luncheon, City Manager’s Report & Luncheon, Successful Thinkers Network, the Chamber Academy are just a sample of how we address our mission of providing educational programs for our members. Our newest educational effort is the Junior Chamber program, developed in conjunction with the College of Alameda, to work with high school age and above students to help prepare them to enter the business world. This is another game changer for the community of Alameda.

Our efforts to provide Advocacy and Education set the stage for the third leg of our mission which is to provide opportunities that promote economic prosperity for our members. Bringing our members together in networking events, producing major community events and our various marketing programs help our members expand markets, increase sales and promote good-will within the community. Our Island Business Visitors Guide and Membership Directory, available in print and on our website, is another example of how we help our members get exposure in the community.

The Alameda Chamber of Commerce has taken a giant leap in the ways that we deliver Advocacy, Education and Economic Opportunity but we’re not satisfied. We have a vision of becoming a leading Chamber of Commerce and creating the strongest business environment in the Bay Area.

That may sound ambitious, but it’s already happening. The City has attracted top MedTech companies like Penumbra, Exelexis and Abbott Diabetes Care, all public companies. Marina Village is host to the Research Park at Marina Village, Wind River and Cost Plus World Markets. Alameda Point is home to green tech companies Wrightspeed, whose founder also co-founded Tesla, and Makani, a division of Google, not to mention Bladium and all the fine companies of Spirits Alley. The list of great companies who call Alameda home is too long to list in one article but if you are reading this, you are essential to shaping Alameda’s bright future.

Some may say ambitious, I say we’re just getting started. However, for the Chamber to reach its goal of being the best, we need more staff, more volunteers and we need your support. I believe Alameda can become the “beating heart of the Bay Area”. We are the Bay Area’s geographic center and have a thriving economy with room to grow. With our ambition and your support, we can all succeed together.

Our Newest Members

Visit Us!

Alameda Chamber of Commerce
2215-A South Shore Center
Alameda,CA 94501
(510) 522-0414