Delivered by Olivier Marquette, AmCham Bulgaria President at the 2019 General Assembly on December 11th, 2019, at Intercontinental Sofia.
On behalf of the AmCham Board of Directors it is my pleasure and duty to present to you the Chamber’s activities in 2019.
This year, the Chamber entered in well expected sustainable mode with regard our membership. As of today, we unite 353 corporate and individual members, representing probably all sectors of the economy. In comparison with 2018 we reached levelling of the incoming and outgoing members and invested efforts in retaining members within our community.
Our priorities for 2019-2020 are:
- sustainable business environment,
- rule of law
- digital transformation
- education and human capital
- regional cooperation.
Highlight of the Chamber high-level initiatives in 2019
Several events marked our records in 2019.
- The Round-table at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with the Prime Minister Borissov and members of the Cabinet in November 2019 is a major achievement. It confirmed that AmCham is a trusted partner of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and of the Bulgarian government, and it serves as a starting point for future development and growth.
- We also continued the tradition of our annual business breakfast with Prime Minister Borissov in October 2019 and were honored to host in November 2019 newly appointed S. Ambassador H.E. Herro Mustafa in one of her first public appearances, in which she discussed her priorities and engaged with our members.
- Moreover, she testified, that our chamber has a vision and proven leadership that can serve as a role model to all the AmChams in Europe.
- Business Breakfast with the Government demonstrated the ever so strong relations and strategic partnership between Bulgaria and the U.S.A., taking place on the eve of the biggest defense acquisition of our country since the 90-ties. For more than a year, AmCham served as an institutional partner of the member-company that manufactures the F-16 Block 70 to present its offer to the Government and various stakeholders.
- Explore U.S. Conference in April showcased the unique opportunities that the American market offered and told success stories of Bulgarian entrepreneurs that made their break-through over the Atlantic.
- The InnoStart Forum in June was the biggest prove that Bulgaria has immense innovation potential and a promise to unlock it thus turning our country into innovation and startup nation.
- Also, the social events of our Calendar – the Independence Day Celebration and the Thanksgiving Charity Dinner – gathered friends and families to mark those traditional American holidays in the spirit of sharing, joy and making new connections. Moreover, those events raise funds to support noble causes and gave back to the community.
- Throughout the year we also touched base with other bilateral chambers at a series of networking cocktails and we welcomed new members in our community.
I would once again I would like to draw to your attention to the scholarship program that supports young Bulgarians to stay. I would encourage you to join AmCham and to collect BGN 30,000 for scholarships.
Committees and Working Groups update
In 2019 several committees and working groups were especially active in contributing to the achievement of Chamber’s priorities and deserve credit for their work:
- Energy and Mineral Resources Committee has been monitoring relevant legislative initiatives in the sector and has produced position papers on the Bills for Amendment and Supplement of the Energy Act and the Natural Resources Act.
- HR and Education Committee organized a series of best practice sharing sessions on topics in high demand by the members like Employer Branding, Employee Engagement, Change Management, Wellbeing/Health at work and Future of work.
- The Quality Management Working Group also provided members with a platform for knowledge exchange and best practice sharing and worked in partnership with other active AmCham committees.
- Digital Economy Committee – was instrumental for the organization of the InnoStart Forum and the Digital Sustainability Forum – landmark initiatives which will be further developed in 2020.
- In 2019 the Healthcare Committee and the FinTech and Payments Working Group have had a kick-start with new leadership and newly set goals ahead. We look forward to seeing their achievements in 2020.
- PR, Communications and CSR Working Group – had two crowded meetings, and intensive online and 1:1 communication. Its main goal is to structure internal network of peers to secure communication flow and internal support to AmCham’s projects and initiatives.
- On our strategic off-site meeting we set up the two-year priorities.
- We had 11 Board meetings and intensive online communication
- Participation in various events of the Chamber’s and members’ calendars.
- We met with institutions, U.S. Embassy and others.
- Strategic decision and lively discussions focused on the AmCham’s development and positioning.
I would like to thank the Board for their support and hard work over the year.
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce – excellent relations resulted in the join organization of the Prime Minister’s Round Table at the USCC
- AmChams in Europe – participation in the development of the organization and being active in its two major events for 2019: the U.S. Trip to Washington and Seattle, and at the Belgrade 2019 Best Practice Sharing Conference
- AmCham EU – active dialog on strategic topics such as digital taxation, plastics and future without waste initiatives, as well as taking part at the 2019 Brussels Briefing and 2019 Transatlantic Conference
- Regional AmChams – maintaining excellent dialog via the AmChams in Europe network or directly. Namely:
- AmCham Macedonia, and AmCham Serbia took part at InnoStart Forum and supporting the participation of their respective ministers of innovation
- AmCham Greece, Romania, Turkey, Montenegro – active collaboration and shared experience
- AmCham Albania – we supported them by sharing the donation account for the victims of the devastating earthquake in November there.
Communication and Media
- Active work with media on the AmCham agenda and comments on the Transatlantic Relations (namely the Tariffs issue and processes)
- Digital communication
- Website is upgrading constantly. It is an excellent source of information about AmCham Bulgaria and our members – news, analysis, events, member offers
- E-Bulletin – all relevant information from the American community (Amcham, Embassy, academia, business, other AmChams, and USCC) in one place on weekly basis.
- Social Media: excellent management of our LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. If you are neither contact of AmCham in LinkedIn nor follow our Twitter account – please, do the necessary to join us.
- Internal communication – utilizing the established protocol as well as loading with information and call for activation the Communication Working Group
2020 Targets and Plan
It was a dynamic but a year with excellent results. We are happy with what we have achieved. And we will not stop here. We will continue to connect businesses and people, to expand our impact and network, and we will work hard to see Bulgaria as a prosperous country.
Our plans for 2020 includes several major initiatives. I think that they are relevant to our mission, as well as they are logical development of the processes and events, we did in the past two years.
- Our 25th Anniversary – AmCham Bulgaria has gone a long way since its creation in the 1990s, and we are proudly looking forward to celebrating our 25th Anniversary in 2020.
Our first quarter century must be celebrated in the best possible way. And we aim high. We are planning to invite jointly a high-ranked U.S. Official to visit Bulgaria and to take part at our Anniversary conference and Gala.
- In order to foster the bilateral economic relations, we plan – again jointly with the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, and with the Bulgarian Embassy in the US to organize trade missions to the United States and from America to Bulgaria. Explore USA Conference will have its sequence in 2020, and we aim to nominate as much as possible Bulgarian companies to take part the SelectUSA Summit in June in D.C.
- Also, we plan sectorial events on cyber-security, energy, rule of law. I believe those topics need our attention and efforts to foster a positive change for the sake of the country and our members.
I appeal to you to be active, to allocate budgets and efforts in order to support the Chamber in delivering these targets. Our Board believes that their successful implementation will be beneficial to our member – namely you, to our organization and to various stakeholders.
Last but not least, you will see the Chamber re-branded with not only a new logo, but a new approach towards members and the important topics that drive us forward.
Along with all mentioned above, we relocated Chamber’s office into a new building. In August AmCham moved downtown. And since then the office is hosting at least one meeting per day – either with members, or with external stakeholders. So, if you have not visited it, please book your time slot and be our guests.