Mark Garagiola - President
I would like to state that it is an honor and privilege to be selected to lead the Italian American Chamber of Commerce of Michigan as its 2023 President.
I sincerely appreciate the confidence that our past presidents have in me after just over 11 years of Chamber membership. I plan to rely on counsel from many of our past presidents as I navigate through my presidency.
I am truly blessed to be supported by a Board of Directors filled with dedicated, talented and hard-working individuals. This group is very diverse with a perfect blend of experience and youth. This Board will also include two women representatives in Alexandria Salvaggio, along with newly elected Cav. Sandra Tornberg. I believe this is a first in over the 100 year history of the Italian American Chamber of Commerce. Together, I believe they add a unique and valued perspective to our Board as we enter the early stages of our next 100 years.
I have selected one of the Past Presidents, Joe Ventimiglia, to serve as the 2023 IACCM Chairman of the Board. I will rely on his experience and knowledge to help mentor me as this year’s President. Joe and I go back a long way to our high school days at Notre Dame and we have worked together for so many years at Festa Italiana. Joe Ventimiglia’s passion and dedication to the Italian Chamber and its membership makes him the perfect choice to serve as my Chairman.
I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge an integral person to the Italian American Chamber of Commerce of Michigan - our Executive Assistant, Deborah Demick. I am sure that all of our Past Presidents would agree that Deb is the straw that stirs the drink for our Chamber. Without her knowledge, experience, dedication and support, we Presidents would be totally lost. I plan to rely on her support greatly this year.
As we move into 2023, we as a Chamber will continue planning for our three major annual events (a) the John B. Agosta Memorial Golf Outing, set for Monday, June 26th at Fern Hill Golf and Country Club; (b) Festa Italiana scheduled for the weekend of July 14, 15 and 16 at Freedom Hill; and (c) The Festa Della Lira set for Wednesday, October 4th at Mirage Elegant Banquets. Each of these events relies on the planning of the individual committees that chair each event,
but volunteer help from our membership is needed and appreciated to ensure each event’s success. Profits from these three major events help to fund our annual Scholarship Night Award Dinner (chaired by Hon. Joseph Toia) each year, along with helping to defer the increasing cost attributed to funding our monthly dinner meetings.
I am encouraged that membership in the Italian American Chamber of Commerce has reached 198 members, which is up from the 172 members we had entering covid. I believe that our Chamber has done a number of things to retain and increase our membership over the
past few years. We have capitalized on the afterglow of the 100 year celebration held in the fall of 2019, including the award winning docufilm created by members Anthony Bommarito and Michael Peraino which highlights the history of our Chamber and features a dozen of our members sharing what our Chamber means to them. We have formed a Network and Vision Committee to investigate, develop and promote events to appeal to our evolving membership.
The pasta cook-offs held at Hard Rock Stone Works the past two years, along with a wine tasting event held in late summer at Cellar 104 in Mt. Clemens are just a couple examples of new Chamber event opportunities. This committee is researching other events, which include a weekend trip via rail to either Toronto or Chicago, possibly a night on the town in the D with limobus transportation, or maybe a bocce night at Villa Penna or Palazzo DiBocci.
The Network Vision Committee has also discussed potentially bringing back events from the past (i.e., January formal Inauguration Ball and/ or the Roast) as well. We, on the Network and Vision Committee look forward to membership input on event options.
The continued evolution of our website along with additional visibility in social media (primarily Facebook) has enhanced our Chamber visibility. Improvements initiated by Charles Moran have
taken the IACCM website to the next level with complete member roster, testimonials, event photos and even access to the 100 year docufilm. Additionally, Aaron Marentette put together an outstanding history background on the Festa Italiana for the website. Alexandria
Salvaggio, Leo Terzo and Aaron make sure that the smiling faces at each of our dinner meetings get exposure on Facebook.
I am also encouraged with the spirit of collaboration that has evolved between our Italian American Chamber of Commerce and the Consul of Italy. It began with the previous Consul of Italy, Maria Manca, and the 100 Year Celebration Committee. Maria was included in the planning and played a major role at the 100 Year Gala. Her successor, Allegra Baistrocchi, has maintained the close connection with our Chamber of Commerce. She has attended a few of our dinner meetings over the past year, along with speaking to our membership. Allegra plans to address our group once again in the coming months. Ultimately, my goal as the 2023 Italian American Chamber of Commerce President is to reach out to and get to know the many within our membership as possible. I plan to focus on our newest members. I would like to learn a little more about them and what they do for a living, along with how IACCM membership can benefit them. I encourage others within our membership to do the same.
IACCM 2023 President