Thirty-three members were invited to apply for the prestigious honor based on metrics including finances, membership retention, objectives, staff size, population size and other key benchmarks. The other two cities that qualified are Lake Houston, Texas, and Vail, Colo.
“We are beyond honored to be selected.” Ed Rodriguez, executive director of the CABC, said, “It shows that people are taking notice of our incredible members and their dedicated service to this community.”
Rodriguez has served as the executive director of the chamber for four years. He is a fourth generation Floridian, and has always lived and worked in a coastal area, so when this job opened, it was a natural move.
“There are so many similarities between my home at Amelia Island and here at Gulf Shores. Both are islands based on tourism economy, both have historic forts, and both have huge shrimp festivals! I love being here.”
Rodriguez, 53, has led the small staff of six to one of the top honors in the profession. What is his secret?
“We have a large volunteer base that serves our membership, literally hundreds of volunteers. I have never seen a similar group of people so dedicated to service and selfless giving,” he said. “They operate with the motto: ‘It is not about us. It is about our community.’ We had 500 volunteers during the Shrimp Festival and countless others for the Reef Foundation, Entrepreneur Academy, Education Foundation, Coastal Christmas Initiative, Merry Market Festival, and many other programs. We are literally changing lives and improving our economy right here on the Alabama Gulf Coast.”
When asked what makes the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber different, Rodriguez smiles.
“We have another motto we live by: ‘We are not your grandpa’s chamber!’ We have members with massive amounts of energy fueling our programs and activities,” he said. “They sacrifice so much, and every minute they give is a minute away from their business. Our chamber is a battleship full of people working together to make it all happen.”
The ACCE Conference will be held in Montréal, Canada August 11-14. The top three finalists will be interviewed and asked to show more data and metrics, and then a winner will be named.