Days 2 and 3 of the WCC

Wow, where to begin? My first taste of the conference world has been an extraordinarily interesting one. Three days in a row of continuous sessions from 9am to 5:30pm. I apologize for not posting Thursday and Friday as promised, however I’ve been very busy.

The theme of day 2 of the WCC was “identity”. While it wasn’t explicitly stated, Thursday was meant to give Chamber executives a better idea of the people who make up their membership base. Sessions included “Global Mobility”, an explanation of the benefits of immigration, “Youth Entrepreneurship”, and “Metropolitan Cities”. Our very own Jacob Stuart, President of the Central Florida Partnership was a panelist on the latter of these sessions. He gave a wonderful address using best practice examples of chambers throughout the United States and their ability to work with their urban community stakeholders in order to ensure their local economies continue to prosper.

The Orlando travel team took a break from the sessions to hold a meeting with the Director of the World Chambers Federation (WCF), the Chair of the WCF, and the Secretary General of the ICC. This meeting was held in an effort to get a better idea of what exactly should be included in the bid packet for the 2019 WCC.

Members of the Orlando travel team. Note: Not my selfie stick..
Members of the Orlando travel team. Note: Not my selfie stick..

Pictured above is the majority of our team just before our meeting wearing the colors of Orlando City Soccer Club. (Left to right) The Mayor of the City of Orlando, Buddy Dyer, Executive Vice President of Orlando, Inc., Jose Fajardo, President of the Central Florida Partnership, Jacob Stuart, Chair of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Frank Kruppenbacher, Senior Director of Air Service Development and Marketing, Vicki Jaramillo, the Executive Director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Phil Brown, and yours truly.

Day 3’s theme was “vision”, or essentially what’s in store for chambers in the coming years. This was MY day, due to the fact that the majority of the sessions were based around climate change, sustainability, and what businesses and chambers should be doing in order to prepare for these things. The first session of the day was entitled, “Making a Sustainable Economy Happen: Joining Forces for Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals”. These goals, to be released in September, will outline a broad range of economic, social, environmental, energy and governance issues. The ICC has released a Business Charter for Sustainable Development that provides a basic development outline on how companies can set up, expand, or improve their sustainable strategy in accordance to the SDG’s.

Louise Kantrow, ICC Permanent Representative to the UN addressing delegates on the SDG's
Louise Kantrow, ICC Permanent Representative to the UN addressing delegates on the SDG’s

The next session, “Business Leadership on Climate Change Adaptation: Managing Risks and Natural Resources” highlighted the need for adaptation to a changing climate. As was stated, “Adapting to a changing climate and natural resource availabilities adds costs, but lack of adaptation will cost far more”. A major theme was the use of data and technology to work smarter, not necessarily harder.

Maros Sefcovic, Vice President of the European Commission for Energy
Maros Sefcovic, Vice President of the European Commission for Energy

The final session I attended on the final day of the Congress was called, “How Chambers and Members can help Shape Climate Policy”. The two speakers were Andrea Bacher, Policy Manager for the ICC’s Commission on Environment and Energy, and our very own James Bacchus, the Chair of the ICC Commission on Trade and Investment Policy. This session implored the private sector to engage more effectively and through all possible channels, including chambers, to help draft and implement climate policies.

Andrea Bacher and James Bacchus discussing the UN Climate Negotiations
Andrea Bacher and James Bacchus discussing the UN Climate Negotiations

I’d love to go into more detail about each of these sessions but for the sake of both of our time, I’ll let you wait for the completion of my dissertation! Friday was truly an eye-opening day full of ideas on sustainability from all over the world.

The congress cumulated with a gala dinner at La Venaria Reale, or the Royal Palace of Venaria. This palace was built in 1675 as one of the Royal Houses of Savoy. After a walk around the grounds, we were treated to a full four course meal featuring local wines. An awesome reward after three days of hard work.

The garden at La Venaria Reale
The Garden at La Venaria Reale
The Gala Dinner in the Great Hall
The Gala Dinner in the Great Hall

Thanks for reading!

My Travels to Torino and Day 1 of the World Chambers Congress

On Sunday I traveled by train from Milan through the Italian countryside to the city of Torino. Torino, or Turin, was the very first Italian capital and home of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. It is a beautiful town known for its thriving industry and rich history. The city of just under 1 million people is perfectly nestled at the foot of the alps in the North-West corner of the Italian peninsula.

The view from the top of the Mole Antonelliana tower, the symbol of Torino.
The view from the top of the Mole Antonelliana tower, the symbol of Torino.

I have traveled here to attend the 2015 World Chambers Congress (WCC), an event put on by the International Chamber of Congress (ICC) as an international forum for chamber executives, employees and businesspeople alike to discuss pertinent issues facing the business world. I am honored to be here as an employee of the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce, serving as project manager on their host committee for the 2019 WCC. In the coming year, I will assist in drafting a bid that will be submitted to the WCC selection committee in hopes of winning the 2019 WCC for the City of Orlando. I have been brought on board because Orlando would like to theme their congress around the topic of sustainability. I could not be more excited for this wonderful opportunity.

I have joined a traveling team consisting of the Mayor of the City of Orlando, Buddy Dyer, the Chair of our Host Committee and former Congressman James Bacchus, the President of the Central Florida Partnership, Jacob Stuart, and the Executive Vice President of the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce Jose Fajardo. Needless to say, I am in incredible Company.

Myself and Chair of our Host Committee James Bacchus
Myself and Chair of our Host Committee James Bacchus

This year’s WCC is a three day event featuring over 1,500 delegates from all over the world. It is being held in Torino’s Lingotto. The enormous building originally served as one of the first large scale production factories for the Italian car manufacturers, Fiat. In the 1990s it was repurposed into an extremely impressive facility that now plays host to a conference center, a full sized shopping mall, a 4-star hotel, a movie theater, and a polytechnic university.

Day one of the WCC began with an opening ceremony with a very warm welcome from the Mayor of Torino, the President of the Torino Chamber of Commerce, the Chairman of the ICC and the Chair of the ICC World Chambers Federation.

Harold McGraw, Chairman of the ICC, addressing the audience during the opening ceremony
Harold McGraw, Chairman of the ICC, addressing the audience during the opening ceremony

The ceremony was followed by our first plenary session. The session was entitled, “Global Trade in the 21st Century” and was moderated by our very own James Bacchus. In addition to serving in the US House of Representatives, Mr. Bacchus also served as chairman of the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization and is currently the chair of the Commission on Trade and Investment Policy for the ICC. The session highlighted the necessity of global commerce and the role that chambers play in facilitating commerce.

After the first session, we had lunch and then we were given some time to network with our fellow delegates. I met some extremely interesting people from all over the world. Some of these people included the Vice Chair of the ICC World Chambers Federation, the Director of International Partnerships for the Paris Chamber, a Project Manger for the Dubai Chamber, the Chair of the Chamber of Trabzon, Turkey, and the Secretary General of the Barcelona Chamber.

During this time I was also able to check out the exhibition area featuring booths from over 60 companies and organizations.

The WCC's exhibition area
The WCC’s exhibition area

After lunch, I was able to attend two more sessions. The first was a competition for best policy advocacy project. This session featured presentations from the Australian Chamber, the Chile Chamber, the Cork Chamber, and the Dublin Chamber, each explaining advocacy programs they have implemented over the past few years. The second, entitled “Setting G20 Business Priorities”, outlined the goals of the upcoming G20 summit in Turkey that will take place in September and October.

This evening, I’m headed to the Welcome Cocktail at the Teatro Regio di Torino, or Royal Theater of Torino, for networking and a short Opera performance. What a rough life!

Thanks to you all for reading! I’ll be getting back to you tomorrow and Friday for days two and three of the congress.

Expo Milano 2015- First Impressions

The Milan Expo was by far the most impressive event I’ve ever been to. 140 countries represented, each with their own uniquely designed pavilion. Inside each of these pavilions, the countries displayed their history, culture, and their own take on this year’s theme – “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”.

To put this into perspective, the grounds on which the expo took place was larger than any theme park or fair grounds I’ve ever been to. Upon arrival, the sheer size of the entry gate blew me away.

One of three  gates at Expo Milano
One of three gates at Expo Milano

Pictured above is the largest of the expo’s three entrances. It was so large that the top side of it was a fully functioning bridge serving one of the local highways. Also, the only reason this wasn’t a mob scene was because I arrived 30 minutes before the park opened specifically to snap some shots of the exterior.

Once inside, you are met with an almost overwhelming sight, seen below. A beautiful shade structure covering the ‘main drag’ with huge pavilions on either side..

A shot of Expo Milano's main corridor
A shot of Expo Milano’s main corridor

As you can see in the photo, it reaches as far as the eye can see. At the very end was the main expo area where meetings, speeches, and panel discussions take place throughout the duration of the event.

Now, lets dive into some of the pavilions and exactly what they had to offer. I’ll begin with the Italian pavilion. Obviously, being the host country, the Italians had the most grandiose and impressive exhibit.

Italian pavilion (left) next to the Tree of Life (right)
Italian pavilion (left) next to the Tree of Life (right)

While the above photo is a little washed out by the very hot, setting, hot, scorching sun (it has been 90+ degrees all day everyday), you can get an idea of the magnitude of these pavilions.. I’ve even cut out about a third of the structure and the bridge that connects it to its own restaurant.

I waited about an hour just to reach the front door. Due to the fact that the tours of the insides of the pavilions were mostly guided, lines would develop outside of each and every one of them. However, all of them were well worth the wait. So, what does one find inside? I’ll explain the Italian pavilion to give you an idea without wasting your time explaining each and every one.

As explained – first in Italian, of course, then in English – the exhibition was designed “on Italian identity that pays tribute to the extraordinary diversity that distinguishes us while underlining the strength of our unity: all those characteristics that make us unique and instantly recognizable anywhere in the world.” As one can tell by this description alone, the expo is a forum for countries to show off, to strut their stuff, and to explain how they will play a role in sustaining our planet – specifically through future food production.

Italy’s exhibition was split up into 4 main parts:

Strength of Workmanship- We were greeted by a room full of 1/8th sized models of everyday Italians, each of which have a role in the future of Italian food production and procurement. Each offered homage to that person for the commendable work they have done.

Strength of Beauty- We were then moved into a series of rooms detailing the beauty of the Italian landscape, architecture, cuisine, and music. Rooms full of mirrors and hi-def screens displayed images of the alps, works of art, and the many beautiful churches of Italy.

Strength of Limits- The next room shows the natural limits nature puts on unrestricted growth. Images of natural and man-made disasters filled the room. The most striking was footage from inside the St. Francis Basilica as it’s roof collapsed due to an earthquake – a disaster that caused 4 deaths in 1997. But, these limits serve as an engine for creativity which leads to the final section..

Strength of the Future- The final room showed children and their creative nature solving problems and using technology to do so. It showed them planting trees and picking fruit from their school’s gardens. These children – the exhibit suggested – are the future of our planet.

So I hope this gives you a general idea of what I saw in the over 40 exhibits I visited. I wish both of us had the time for me to explain all of them, but I’ll give you some highlights..

USA- Because who doesn’t love America, right?

The front of the USA pavilion
The front of the USA pavilion

The American pavilion featured a huge display of a ‘vertical farm’ as seen on the right hand side. This nearly 10,000 square foot crop wall featured 42 different varieties of veggies, grains, and herbs and represented the future of agriculture (hence the ‘American Food 2.0). Once walking up the steps, visitors are greeted by…. you guessed it, Barack himself. Barry O explained the future of American food and how America plays an integral part in the World’s supply of food. The pavilion’s representatives each dressed in what could be considered traditional garb. So naturally, the Americans were dressed in Brooks Brothers jeans, blazers, button downs, ties for the men, and scarves for the ladies. On the roof of the pavilion was a bar serving traditional American cocktails, beers, and wines. Out back was “food truck nation” a series of 6 food trucks, one serving burgers, one serving BBQ and one that rotated. I was lucky enough to arrive on the days featuring food from the “Beautiful beaches of Ft. Meyers”, so I enjoyed a Shrimp roll and a room-temp beer (ahhhh, refreshing). Overall, the US pavilion was impressive, but not my favorite.

Germany

The German pavilion
The German pavilion

Germany was by far the most impressive. It was extremely interactive, fun, and entertaining. It also featured a beer garden (sensing a theme here?) and a taste of the local cuisine. Again, this was no walk in the park. I waited about an hour in line for this one as well.

Brazil

IMG_1803 

Brazil was also very impressive. Visitors were taken up a path made of rope made to represent the canopy of the rain forest. It was a blast for me.. Not so much for ladies in dresses or heels.

The United Kingdom

IMG_1774The UK’s was one of the more dramatic from a visual standpoint. It focused on the importance of the bee for food sustainability. Pictured above is the field leading up to the hive which held an interactive experience for visitors to see the life of a bee.

The United Arab Emirates

IMG_1775The UAE will play host to the 2020 Expo so naturally, they went above and beyond the call of duty. Above is a corridor that visitors find when first entering the pavilion. In each of the black boxes was a hologram of one of the UAE’s contributions to the world. Inside was a 20 minute film highlighting the struggles of life in the desert and the resiliency of the country’s people to rise above the struggles. After two more exhibits, there was a 10 minute film highlighting Expo 2020.

Overall, it has been an incredible experience so far. Again, I wish I had time to explain my entire experience in this one post, but more to come next time. Thanks for reading.

The Arrival

My arrival today in Milan, Italy was nothing short of the most exciting day of my life. While I have been fortunate enough to have traveled across much of North America, this is my first European expedition. Luckily, I was able to sleep for the majority of the almost 9 hour flight from JFK to Milan-Malpensa Airport. Fortunately, my normally crippling fear of flying was overcome by sheer excitement. I was awakened by a flight attendant just as we began our initial decent over the Alps, a moment that made this dream trip suddenly become all too real.

After breezing through customs and hopping in a cab, I arrived in the city around 9:30am local time. With 2.5 hours to spend before meeting with my host, Mario, I decided to enjoy a cup of espresso and a pastry at a local park. The first thing that struck me was the city’s transportation infrastructure. Small vehicles speeding everywhere, bicycles of all shapes and sizes, buses, and trains cover the city. To see it first hand was an extremely eye opening experience.

Initially, I had planned to use my first day to rest and recover from jet-lag. I quickly discovered that after three espressos and a powdered sugar covered pastry, there is no such thing as jet-lag. I was able to settle into my beautiful loft and immediately get out and explore the city.

With no other real plans for the day, I set out to obtain my passes to The Milan Expo, or Expo Milano as the locals say. This expo is the whole reason behind my 5 day stint in this beautiful city, but more on that later…

While the actual expo site is located a few kilometers north of town, the “Expo Gate” or main information center is located in the heart of the city. The 5 kilometer walk from my loft to the Expo Gate gave me ample time to take in the many sights and sounds Milan has to offer.

The first major landmark I stumbled upon was the Arco della Pace. The arch (seen below) was completed in the 19th century, but its roots can be traced back to the Gate of the Roman Walls of Milan.

Arco della Pace - or Arch of Peace - in the heart of Milan
Arco della Pace – or Arch of Peace – in the heart of Milan

This triumphant arch stood at the northern most point of Parco Sempione, a sprawling park I could only compare to the likes of Central Park in New York City. After walking around the beautiful grounds for a while, I found myself at the Sforza Castle, a structure first built in the 15th century for the Duke of Milan. The castle now plays home to many gardens and beautiful art, including Michelangelo’s last painting.

After finding the Expo Gate and obtaining my pass, I caught a glimpse of one of Milan’s most recognizable landmarks, the Duomo di Milano. After exploring the grounds of this awe-inspiring cathedral pictured below, I decided to rest my legs and enjoy a nice meal in its shadow.

Duomo  di Milano
Duomo di Milano

After a delicious panini and a glass of Cabernet, my jet-lag finally began to set in. I rented a bicycle through Milan’s bike-share program and returned home both extremely enlightened and exhausted.

The next few days will be spent at the Milan Expo, an international exposition taking place over the next 4 months. The expo is meant to showcase 150 participating countries latest and greatest technologies surrounding the vital need to provide safe and sufficient food to the World’s population while also respecting the Planet.

Until next time, Ciao!