A group of French and American business people who often met for lunch in the early 1980’s made the momentous decision to form a French-American Chamber of Commerce. In October of 1983, they filed the Articles of Incorporation of the French-American Chamber of Commerce of Miami, Inc. (the “FACC” or the “Chamber”). The incorporator of the Chamber was Jacques Turner, a retired executive of Air France and honorary consul of France and Luxembourg, who remained active in the organization until his death. Signing the first Articles as initial members of the Board of Directors were Michel Bernard (1st President), Suzanne Purcell and Jacques Turner.
In 1997, the Chamber changed its name to become “The French-American Chamber of Commerce of Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Inc.” and since November, 2005, the Chamber has on file the fictitious name “French American Chamber of Florida”.
Beginning in 1984, the Presidency of the Chamber was occupied by the following illustrious, dynamic and indefatigable members of the French-American community of South Florida: Robert Paul, Ronald L. Levitt, Jean-Pierre Miquel, Joseph Ris, Michelle Mataillet, Jean-Michel Caffin, Xavier Capdevielle, Jacques Brion, Christophe Maincourt, Severine Gianese-Pittman and the president occupant of the post, Gary Birnberg. Officers of the Chamber are elected by the members of the Board of Directors, who in turn are elected by the members of the Chamber. Directors of the Chamber have included many important local members of the business and legal sectors and the heads of the principal French companies doing business in Florida.
The Presidents of the Chamber have always been assisted ably by Assistants and Executive Directors. Among these right hand persons so important to the day-to-day work of the Chamber were Joseph Ris (before he became President), Fabienne Jacquemin-Guillemin (Assistant to Joseph Ris), Jean Derbier, Gunter Kuhn, Eric Even, Selma Fates, Cecile Melanie, Laure McKay and last but not least, Pascale Villet. Finally, a history of the FACC would be mostly incomplete without a mention of the many interns or stagiaires, too numerous to designate by name, who highly contributed to the success of the Chamber’s projects, and who selflessly give their time to support greatly our differents executive directors .
Over its first 30 years of existence, the Chamber has become a key element in the French-American presence in South Florida. The initial activities of the FACC consisted of lunches with noted speakers and yearly wine and cheese festivals. To these were added other types of events such as those organized in connection with the sister cities programs with the Languedoc-Roussillon Region and the city of Aix-en-Provence, educational seminars, networking events featuring business card exchanges and of course our annual Galas, the crown jewel of the French-American social life of South Florida.
The Chamber has never ceased to benefit from the exemplary cooperation with the French Consuls General in post in Miami, all of whom have unceasingly offered wisdom, advice, and assistance to us. The notable achievements of the FACC owe much to diplomats such as Denis Pietton, Pierre Antoine Berniard, Philippe Chatignoux, Christophe Bouchard, Philippe Vinogradoff, Gael de Maisonneuve, Philippe Letrilliart and our present Consul Général, Clement Leclerc, who have been valuable partners to promote French presence in South Florida.
Visitors from the French diplomatic corps and the French and American international business communities have often been the center pieces of Chamber get togethers. Several French ambassadors to the United States have attended FACC events, in particular Ambassadors Jacques Andréani, Francois Bujon de l'Estaing, Jean-David Levitte, Pierre Vimont, who has recently joined the Europen Commission in Brussels as Secretary-General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and Francois Delattre.
Among business and community leaders who graced with their presence Chamber events can be cited Senator Charasse, M. Coupron of Air Grance, Philippe Bourguignon, CEO of Club Med, Serge Bellanger, President of the French Chambers of the U.S., Pierre Salinger, well known immigration attorney Ira Kurzban, and local Mayors and administration officials.
The history of our French-American Chamber is far too rich to summarize adequately in these few lines. We extend our heartfelt thanks to those who have contributed to the Chamber’s success, and to those supporters whose names do not appear above. Present members of the FACC can rest assured that this organization will continue its progress through thick and thin, stimulated as it were by the remarkable human qualities of the French and American members that form an unstoppable synergy.
So Bon anniversaire to the Chamber and its Members, and may the next thirty years continue the glorious tradition of the first thirty.
Steven A. Edelstein
Frederick Woodbridge, Jr.