ST. JOHNSBURY – Representatives from two chambers in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas visited with the Northeast Kingdom Chamber executive director on Oct. 20 as part of a mutual initiative with the Vermont Council on World Affairs and the United States Department of State.
According to Executive Director Darcie McCann, the intent of the trip was to discuss the role of the Northeast Kingdom Chamber in supporting small businesses, economic development and tourism in the region. However, the visit took on a different turn as the representatives from the Bahamas and Northeast Kingdom each discussed the challenges and opportunities their respective organizations face in these challenging times.
“I was very pleasantly surprised at how similar our chambers were in our missions and reach,” McCann said. “They face many of the same issues we encounter, although the Commonwealth is more than 1,300 miles away.”
The 700 islands that comprise the Bahamas are north of Cuba.
McCann admitted that although she has attended thousands of meetings in her 22 ½ years as chamber director, she was actually quite nervous and excited to be introduced to chamber colleagues from another country.
She noted this particular gathering will go down as one of the highlights of her time at the chamber.
“I have met with travel reporters from all corners of the globe, but I had never had such an encounter with fellow chamber colleagues. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to sit down with them and hear what it was like to be part of a chamber in another part of the world,” she said.
The guests included Ruth Saunders and Brenda Jenoure, from the Abaco Chamber of Commerce; Charles Pratt, Grand Bahama Port Authority and Bahamas Chamber of Commerce; and Dawnea Brown and Nadia Williams, from the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation.
The chamber representatives met for more than two hours over homemade chocolate chip cookies and coffee before the group departed for a meeting with another chamber in Vermont.
The Bahamas delegation had already met with five chambers in New York and will leave for meetings in Arizona in the coming days.
McCann was encouraged to hear feedback from the group that they were quite impressed with the scope and volume of work that the Northeast Kingdom Chamber does, despite its small staff.
“It made my month to hear one of the women say this was their best meeting yet and another saying that our time together felt more like home than a meeting. It, sincerely, touched me, and I will keep in touch with this delegation,” she said. “I would love to go down and visit them and hope I can at some point in the future.”
At the end, as is customary, the two groups exchanged gifts. The Northeast Kingdom Chamber presented the chamber representatives with fountain pens, a personal gift from the director, and the Bahamas delegation gave the NEK Chamber a large map of the commonwealth, Bahamian chocolates, literature on their regions and a special presentation on the Grand Bahama Port Authority.
“We started with handshakes and departed as friends, hugging,” said McCann. “Isn’t that the way the world is supposed to be?”