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New Chamber of Commerce Kicks Off at Carter Center

November 2007
New Chamber of Commerce Kicks Off at Carter Center

The Asian Indian Chamber of Commerce (AICC) had its kick-off dinner at the Carter Presidential Center in Atlanta on October 19th. Sam Olens, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), was the keynote speaker. Senator Max Cleland, who is on the board of directors of AICC, and several prominent community members were present on the occasion.

In his keynote address, Olens, who heads the 10-county regional planning and intergovernmental coordination agency, said he looked forward to engaging with the chamber as it moves forward.

"Your organization represents the major economic opportunities between the two great democracies, India and the US," he said. "Asian Indians have a median income that is 17% higher than the average. The number of Indians in IT, management, finance, and healthcare is something to be proud of. Recently we had a set of meetings with Wipro as they looked to open 500 to 1000 jobs in metro Atlanta."

He said trade with India increased by 27% last year alone. "Your chamber will assist us in promoting those business opportunities. We will also be developing new understandings and greater appreciation for each other's culture, values and traditions," he added.

Olens said Metro Atlanta is, today, truly an international city and a magnet to people because of the great quality of life here. "Forbes magazine ranks Atlanta 3rd in attracting the young and the restless. The grand parents are coming here too. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the port in Savannah are both great assets for the region," he said.

"Metro Atlanta really appreciates the global economy. Atlantans have a can do mentality," he added.

Speaking about the current water crisis, Olens said he had been spending a lot of time on water but had no idea how things would turn out. "We need to get our senators and our governor and lock them in a room, rather than have law suit after law suit," he said. "We have been dealing with water litigation for over 18 years. This is not an Atlanta issue; the water problem is all over the south east. This is what happens when you have the drought that's the worst in recorded history."

"We need to conserve water. Tell our kids to brush without water running the whole time," he said.

Earlier in the evening, Senator Max Cleland introduced Olens. "With the water crisis in Atlanta, we now have to realize that we are all inter-dependent," he said. "The world is flat and our economies, politics and futures are inter-dependent. So now the Atlanta Regional Commission has a powerful role of telling us how we can deal with a bonfide crisis in our midst- of water and water resources."

"Olens is regarded as one of the top 100 people in GA and one of the most influential," he joked. "If he solves the water problem, he will be crowned king."

AICC president Paul Bahl briefly welcomed the guests and outlined the objectives of the chamber. He acknowledged the chamber's founding members Chandler Sharma and Surinder Bahl, "who have over 50 years of combined community service between them." "Visionaries don't rest," he said. Bahl also thanked AICC executive director Brenda Morant for working tirelessly behind the scenes.

"We have a wonderful, diverse group of educators, government officials, corporate leaders and entrepreneurs. With such a broad cross-section of individuals, we know we are going to provide worthwhile, meaningful events. I think this event is a perfect start to achieving that goal," he said.

"The purpose of the chamber is to help small and medium-sized businesses to build strategic partnerships throughout the world and expand their economic opportunities, and to help businesses in our city go global. We are going to bring in people who will shed light on how to improve the way you do business," he said.

Claire McLeveighn, from the Office of the Mayor, City of Atlanta, made the opening remarks. Brenda Morant made the closing remarks. Dinner was followed by an entertainment program that was emceed by Surinder Bahl and performed by a fusion dance group from Emory.

The chamber is now gearing up for a trip to India in January 2008 and a two-day conference with the Indian Embassy's Minister of Commerce Banashri Bose Harrison in April 2008, according to Morant.

- Veena Rao

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