The Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has been around for 100 years, serving business and encouraging community development.
The Chamber held its first meeting on Hollywood Boulevard on June 24, 1922, and three years later Hollywood became an official city in 1925. A dozen businessmen, along with some of Hollywood’s first residents, met Joseph Young under the leadership of the first president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. He was one of the city’s founders, its original developer, and eventually its first mayor.
Celebration at princess The yacht leaves Hollywood for a luxurious dinner cruise. The chamber has adopted the fashion and design themes of The Great Gatsby and the flapper era, borrowing from the decade the chamber was founded.
Hundreds of Chamber members and friends dressed in flowy dresses and tuxedos attended the gala event led by CEO and Executive Director Mary Suarez and Board Chair Natasha Yasinte. The event is full of historical memories, food and stories. After dinner, the evening ends with a DJ and dancing on the deck of the boat.
The association’s centennial celebration is seen by the organization’s leaders as the end of one era and the beginning of another.
Suarez has seen the Chamber of Commerce grow during her 23 years of involvement with the organization.
“I’m from Quebec City, Canada. I moved here in 1987, and 12 years later I joined the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce,” she said.
Suarez said that while the group’s 100th anniversary is impressive and historic, her main focus is to look beyond the recent pandemic and see what the future holds for Hollywood.
“In the past, tourism was really a big driver of our economy in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s,” she said. “The Chamber of Commerce is now really focused on the future of the economy, helping businesses network and create business among each other.”
As communities and businesses emerge from COVID, they are trying to figure out how to serve a new way of doing business, Suarez said.
“A lot of people have changed their work habits,” she said. “Because there’s a lot of hybrid work going on, we’re realigning our strategy. I call 2022 and 2023 years of experimentation to see how we need to evolve. We’re also currently working on a five-year strategic plan for We’re going to design roadmaps where we’re going, which we’ve never really done before.”
An annual program that has been running for decades to develop tomorrow’s leaders is the Hollywood Leadership Program, one of the oldest of its kind in the state. The Chamber sponsors 45 annual programs, and each year they bring about 30 to 40 people to participate in personal and community leadership development.
Suarez said she is optimistic about the current state of development in Hollywood. And, she said, the potential for future business growth is huge, given the city’s location, nearby beaches and new apartment complexes popping up everywhere.
“Hollywood is the perfect location between Miami and Fort Lauderdale,” she said. “I think we have the most beautiful beaches and Broadwalk in Florida. We have a real downtown that is very vibrant right now. So much development is happening. For example, the new 1818 building just opened and they are doing a great job.”
Another factor that Suarez said will help attract more tourists and new residents is the future installation of a train station in the city.
“We’re looking forward to building the new Brightline train station in Hollywood. It’s going to be great for anyone looking to commute to Miami, Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach,” she said.
Suarez said the spirit of the Chamber’s 100th anniversary party is actually that people and members celebrate each other.
“The attendees are people and businesses that can come together to reflect on the last century,” she said. “We especially wanted to compare the situation in the 1960s, 70s and 80s with the situation now. We also want to celebrate the next 100 years.”
Suarez said one modern reality she wanted to celebrate was the diversity of the chamber compared to the past.
“In the mid-1990s, the Chamber of Commerce really started to diversify its leadership. That’s when we elected the first African American Chamber President. In 1997, the first woman became the Chairman of the Board. Now we have Natacha Yacinthe, she is our first black woman to serve as president of the Chamber of Commerce.”
“We’ve thrived throughout our history, but we want to continue to do that in a relevant way,” she said.
breaking news alert
when it happens
Get updates on what’s happening with our free breaking news email alerts.
Jacint was not only the first black woman to serve as chamber president, but also the first Haitian to hold the position. Yacinthe promotes this year’s theme as “Sail to Possibilities”.
Yacinthe’s background includes engineering, environmental urban systems and public administration. She has been with Port Everglades for 15 years and is now its Executive Planning Manager, handling capital projects. About eight years ago, she was appointed to represent the port at Hollywood Chamber of Commerce board meetings, which brought her into the organization.
“I’ve been on the executive committee for the past 2 1/2 years,” she said. “Then they asked me if I wanted to be president in 2022, and I said yes.”
For Yacinthe, the 100th anniversary shows how far the Chamber has come. In 1922, the members were all white males. Her position now represents how much the culture and the chamber have changed.
Yassint said she is also proud that the Chamber has weathered the pandemic and is ready to help the community move into the future.
“A lot of people don’t know that there are a lot of chambers of commerce across the country that haven’t survived COVID,” she said. “But we’ve stood our ground and we’re still here. As a chamber of commerce, we’ve been very active in our community.”
Visit hollywoodfl.org/187/History-of-Hollywood and hollywoodchamber.org/.