Letter from the Chair of the Board
One of the most impressive things about the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce I have observed during my tenure on the Board over the past two decades is the Chamber’s ability to pivot between service to the community and cheerleading for the community, from celebrating the accomplishments of our businesses and residents to raising funds to support philanthropic events and to the education of the next generation of residents, and to provide leadership to tackle the issues that confront our community, both locally and globally. In other words, to make a difference.
Of course, we are not the first generation of Chamber leaders to undertake such a commitment to our community. In 1940, the Chamber convinced Life Magazine (which some of you may remember), which was then the pre-eminent national periodical about American life to showcase Miami Beach and Miami. The article noted that 1940 had seen “fifty new hotels built since last year [in Miami Beach which] have been packed since first of the year. A swarm of more than 500,000 visitors will have spent a total of around $80 million by the time the season ends in April.” The article was accompanied by aerial and pool side shots of lavish new hotels and was part of a Chamber campaign to make Miami Beach a year-round tourist haven.
Two years later, Life Magazine was back to cover 500,000 different visitors, the military personnel who came to train at Camp Beach. The iconic photograph of recruits doing calisthenics on the beaches of Miami Beach where just a short time before sunbathers were frolicking is recognized world-wide. During this transformation, the Chamber played an active part in helping the army’s Air Forces (later the separate branch of the Air Force) lease almost every one of the 300+ hotels on Miami Beach. As admirably documented in Judith Berson-Levinson’s book, “South Beach at War: Sun, Sand and Soldiers during WWII”, Miami Beach opened its arms to these men and women training for war and the Chamber gave over itself to the war effort. Every space was used, hotel rooms and night clubs had become barracks, resort dining rooms and kitchens became mess halls, and the rest of Miami Beach was given over to testing and training facilities. As one soldier reported, Miami Beach was transformed into “the most beautiful boot camp in America”.
The good will shown to these men and women during their stay in Miami Beach, would be showcased and nurtured by the Chamber after the war to entice those same men and women to relocate to Miami Beach after the war. In 1946, as it entered its twenty-fifth year in existence, the Chamber sponsored a series of ads entitled “Nowhere else under the sun”, beckoning those former military personnel to return to Miami Beach, often with new families in tow either to vacation or take up year-round residency:
Nowhere else under the sun.
There’s only one Miami Beach . . . one sunblessed spot endowed by nature with breathtaking loveliness, completed by man with matchless facilities for gracious living. And it can be yours tomorrow -- complete with sparkling surf and golden sand, with lazy “beach-comber” days fading into star spangled nights, with tropic moonlight glimpsed through silvered palms -- with action, life and gaiety or sun-warmed relaxation to fit your passing mood. Yes, it’s all here -- and all yours. So, obey that impulse -- come on down.
1946 Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce Ad
(I am told by my wife, Heidi, a copyright and intellectual property lawyer, that it is likely that the Chamber still holds the copyright on the ad allowing me to include it verbatim or it has fallen into public domain. I will say the ad itself contains gorgeous colors that are a precursor to the Art Deco colors that would appear.)
And the Chamber’s efforts reaped almost immediate results, almost doubling the City’s population from 28,012 residents in 1940 to 46,282 residents in 1950 and hastening the transformation of the City into a year-round destination with the attendant growth of the housing portfolio and new businesses to cater to the residential population rather than simply the multitude of tourists.
The Chamber’s ability then helped the City to pivot from celebrating itself as a tourist mecca to contributing to the effort to train people for the world spanning fight against intolerance, hatred and genocide to promoting itself as a family friendly home -- all within a short 6 year span. That legacy continues to find its echoes in the efforts today’s Chamber undertakes to be a positive force in our community and through outreach and efforts to make Miami Beach an international city of excellence with a positive impact in the fight against some of those same forces.