Drew Kern knew exactly what he was getting himself into when he agreed to become chair of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce.
He knew it would be at least a three-year commitment. (Kern was appointed to the chamber’s board in 2008, elected in 2009, named chairelect in 2010, and started his one-year term as chair in September.)
Kern, a Realtor with EWM Inc. and a resident of Palmetto Bay, happily committed for the long haul. He said his role with the Coral Gables Chamber not only has benefited hundreds of businesses in and around Coral Gables but his business, as well.
“Community engagement and involvement has complemented what I do for a living very well,” said Kern, 38, a graduate of Westminster Christian School and Florida State University alumnus who has run DrewKern.com, his real estate business and website alongside EWM for nearly 15 years.
“You don’t sell real estate sitting behind a desk,” Kern continued. “You have to go out into the community and engage with the public, determine what their wants and needs are. For a small business to survive today, you have to network.”
Kern said networking is what the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce is all about. With about 750 businesses consisting of 1,600 members, the chamber holds several events a year for participants to network and promote their businesses.
For example, on the third Thursday of every month, the chamber hosts the Good Morning Coral Gables networking breakfast at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave.
On the first Wednesday of the month, the 20/30 Group — a committee consisting mostly of young professionals — hosts Wind Down Wednesdays, a cocktail reception held at a different restaurant or hotel monthly. While this event is meant to engage younger members, Kern said it usually attracts members of all ages.
“The point of the 20/30 events is to introduce the newer, younger folks in business to the older, more seasoned veterans,” Kern said. “The younger business owners can maybe learn a thing or two from the longtime professionals and apply some of that learning to their business.”
Aside from the events, the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce works alongside the Coral Gables City Commission to develop projects that will help improve the quality of life in the City Beautiful.
Kern said he has four initiatives in the next year he wants to help accomplish:
• Completing the StreetScape redevelopment project on Miracle Mile and Giralda Avenue. The aim of the project is to make Downtown Coral Gables more pedestrian-friendly by widening sidewalks, adding more landscaping and sprucing up areas that need renovation.
• Concentrate more on small businesses. Kern wants to give a platform for small businesses to be heard and attract more customers. On Nov. 26, the Coral Gables Chamber helped host Small Business Saturday — in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In partnership with American Express, the goal of the event was to encourage residents to visit the small retailers for their holiday shopping and refrain from shopping at the big box stores.
• Continue to promote arts and culture in Coral Gables. Kern wants to support live theater and cinemas throughout the city. The chamber is sponsoring the grand reopening of the Coral Gables Museum, which recently underwent renovations, and also recently helped promote the opening of Hairspray at the Miracle Theater.
• Assist the Beacon Council with their One Community One Goal Targeted Industry Strategic Plan. The initiative’s goal is to develop a plan to increase employment opportunities and strengthen economic development in Miami-Dade County.
“There’s a lot to accomplish in 2012, and I’m looking forward to leading the Coral Gables Chamber with these initiatives,” Kern said.
Viviane Coriatt-Gaubil, a former Coral Gables resident, business owner and chamber member who now lives in Miami Beach, said she is confident Kern can do the job.
“He’s very committed, straight-forward and involved in his community and the work he does,” said Coriatt-Gaubil, 63, who has purchased four properties with Kern’s realty business and dealt with him regularly on the Coral Gables Chamber.
As for becoming involved in the Chamber of Commerce, Coriatt-Gaubil said,“I did business in Coral Gables for 15 years [running a furniture store]. If you’re going to do business in Coral Gables, become a member of the Chamber of Commerce. It’s important and beneficial to the success of your business.”