DC Chamber Looks to the Future

Barrington M. Salmon | 12/27/2013, 9:30 p.m.
Over the course of 75 years, the DC Chamber of Commerce has seen a remarkable transformation from the voice of ...
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray presented Barbara Lang, president and CEO of the DC Chamber of Commerce, with the D.C. Medal of Honor at a Dec. 12 luncheon. Photo by Shevry Lassiter

Over the course of 75 years, the DC Chamber of Commerce has seen a remarkable transformation from the voice of small and minority businesses at its inception in 1938, to an extremely effective and powerful advocate for businesses in the District of Columbia.

That power and reach was on display earlier this month during the organization’s annual meeting and Chairman’s Inaugural Luncheon at the Washington Hilton in Northwest. Owners and employees from many of the 1,700 businesses which are a part of the chamber attended. They heard from chamber leaders who spoke of the promise that 2014 holds. However, moving forward members will do so without the guiding hand of Barbara Lang, the president and CEO who’s stepping down after 11 years.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) praised Lang for her leadership, immeasurable contributions and influence on the community.

“There were good leaders before her but none like Barbara Lang. She’s someone who brings enormous vision to her job,” Gray, 71, said while presenting Lang with the D.C. Medal of Honor at a Dec. 12 luncheon. “We’ve only awarded five of these, two posthumously. I’m pleased to present her with an award reserved for only a few people for her leadership and for helping spur the economic growth of the District.”

Lang said 10 years is long enough to stay at one job adding that now is the appropriate time to step down. She’ll serve until April 2014 by which time chamber officials should have chosen a successor.

Anthony A. Lewis, the incoming chairman for 2014, echoed the message Lang and other chamber officials expressed that their goal is to ensure that the District remains the ideal place to conduct business. He encouraged members to reflect on the organization’s success over the past 75 years, particularly the past 11 years. He also urged them to reconnect with the values that have served the chamber well, recapture the passion of the past and reach for greater accomplishments.

“I want us to accelerate along a path of economic development in 2014,” said Lewis, Verizon’s vice president of the Mid-Atlantic Region. “Innovation led to the creation of Wii and the IPod allows you to take your music with you and buy individual pieces of music. I challenge all of us to reach for that kind of epiphany.

“We’ve been successful before but we have so much potential. We will make the city this city the greatest city in the world,” he said.

Lewis had a special message for the 1,700 members.

“For our chamber members, this is your livelihood. You’re investors, partners, customers,” he said. “We want you to be engaged, not just write a check. Our goal is to make sure, simply, that you’re proud to be a member.”

Lewis, Lang and other chamber members, while lauding Gray for making the city more business-friendly, made it clear that the chamber will continue to work closely with the D.C. Council on the issues that have an impact on local businesses, and will oppose policies and positions that the organization views as unfriendly toward the business community.