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May 30, 2013     Beverly Hills Weekly
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ersto many years now -- we invite them to discuss space opportunities and the business leads in the city and it's a way to spearhead busi- ness growth in Beverly Hills. Something that we're talking about in my [term] with Alex Stettinski, who's done an amazing job, [is a BID on South Beverly Drive]. This would be between Wilshire and Olympic Boulevard: I think there's a strong interest in creating a BID down there. Can you explain what that means? A business district. [Stettinski] has cre- ated one in downtown L.A., but it will bring the small businesses together if they need valet parking or whatever their issues are to make business more sustainable. The Weekly's exclusive Chamber of Commerce By Andrea Aldana interview with incoming President John Bendheim So, how did you become involved With programs and bring them to the next level. the Chamber of Commerce's board of Our city relations with [City Manager] directors? Jeff Kolin, the mayor and members of the [I got involved because] Nellie Sedigh city council have really improved dramati- of Tiffany's had asked me about 10 years cally. I think that's really an amazing fact ago to come on the board and I had always and feat. Our government affairs com- respected Tiffany's and certainly, her. mittee is becoming more political, I think this year the committee will make bolder Tell us about your priorities for recommendations on the issues that affect the coming year as president of the our business community. Our economic chamber, development committee has brought in What I want to do is reinforce, inno- some really great vate and reinvigorate the chamber. I was speakers like the involved in helping them relocate to the state controller, new building that they're in right now, and John Chiang, State it's just one of the state of the art buildings Senator Ted Lieu here in Beverly Hills. We're very excited and the Dodgers about that and my quote is, "Success never president. stands still" or "There's no love affair The thingsthatwe with the status quo." I think [that] thanks also want to move to [Executive Director] Alex Stettinski forward with is we and [current President] Steve Ghysels and want to attract, retain Bruce Schulman, we've really changed the and engage busi- culture and tried to create innovation and nesses in Beverly focus on the future of Beverly Hills. Hills. [At our New We've made some really good strides as York Sales Mission] to what's going on in that chamber, and so in October, we talk I'm very excited about some of the new to many businesses things that we're going to be doing, that could come in to our community. Last year, when we interviewed The chamber's cre- outgoing President Steve Ghysels, ated a shop local he said, "Chambers in general are program [to reach] all across the country reinventing out to the residents themselves right now: We need to and the people whowork in Beverly Hills. demonstrate our relevancy to our I think we've done a great job with our members." What are some of the ways e-newsletter and we have about 2,052 the chamber has done that? subscribers now. The traffic on the website The chamber membership has increased has really increased. I think promoting and about 14 perc.ent from 595 members to advertising local offers for residents and 680 members. We've really diversified employees of Beverly Hills will go over our board of directors with auto dealers, very, very well. banks, retailers, entertainment, restaurants, We created the first ever flash mob. I and real estate. We're bringing on new think we want to continue that and see board members such as Tishman Speyer, [Vice Mayor] Lili Bosse dance her heart George Comfort, and the superintendent of out. That was pretty cool. We're going the Beverly Hills Unified School District. to engage the UCLA Anderson School of This has been a very good and welcomed Management research unit to help consult change, with us and talk about some business Every board member is now required opportunities. There's a broker roundtable to serve on a committee to help our new -- you know, I've been in real estate for What are some of the benefits that come with creating a business district? The businesses can put together the pro- gram that they want. The number one issue there is parking. How do they make parking reasonable and good for the shoppers there? Is it a valet service? Can they work with the city to build a parking lot of some kind? Those are all interesting ideas of how to promote business there. We're [also] going to create a Beverly Hills map with the [Conference and Visitor's Bureau]. Apparently, there is no map where all the properties are listed. I think the map Will ensure that the locals and the visitors alike will have accurate information on where to shop, eat and play. That will be important. I think we're looking at develop- "We want [the chamber] to be honest, ethical and have high integrity. We want to build on these advocacy programs where we would like to take deeper political stands on some of these issues coming forward." -- John Bendheim ing a business devel- opment center to offer business coun- seling and educa- tion seminars in our chamber building. The classes, such as accounting, law and marketing, will be taught by profes- sionals coming from local colleges. Is this just in the beginning stages at this point? All of this is on the docket and we want to do more for the Centennial cel- ebration as you can imagine: 100 years. We have things that are going to be fun, and we're going to try and do some innovative things this year. What is your strategy for both attracting new businesses to Beverly Hills and retaining existing bus'messes? We have to focus on the membership benefits where we can add value to our members. That's the key. We always have to meet the needs of the business commu- nity and provide value to our members, so what we've done in the chamber is brought in some new people. [Director of Economic Development and Government Affairs] Andy Sywak, [Marketing & Graphic Design Associate] Jonathan Siegel and [Membership & Executive Coordinator] Mary Altamirano are new. Charisse Older has come in to spur the marketing cam- paign. She has a lot of expertise. She has a lot of experience in marketing and sponsor- ship. We want to focias on customer service. We want to be honest, ethical and have high integrity. We want to build on these advo- cacy programs where we would like to take deeper political stands on some of these issues coming forward. I think the online presence has become bigger and bigger for our members and programs. The govern- ment affairs program has been a very active partner with the city and we look forward to our continued partnership. What advice has current President Steve Ghysels given you? I think Steve has really been the one that's-promoting that focus on the member- ship benefits. I think what he's taught me is we have to work with our constituency and the businesses to attract, retain and engage these businesses. If you look at the city, I think it has weathered the recession really, really well. I think 90 percent of the retail space in the business triangle has been leased and about 80 percent of the office space is leased. I think this culture is changing and the city is getting hot again. I'm on the board of the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts and that's going to open in October. I think that's a game changer for the City of Beverly Hills. We'll have an exciting nightlife with cultural, educational programs for the adults and the children. You are the president of Bendheim Enterprises. Tell us about that. It's basically investing in real estate here in the city. I have some holdings in Las Vegas, Nevada and other areas back east. It's a diversified portfolio of retail and resi- dential and commercial. What are some projects you've been involved in? In Beverly Hills, I have the building where [retailer] James Perse is in. We brought in James Perse and there's a little beach in there. You go in there and you can buy casual t-shirts and pretend you're at the beach. It's very, very well done. You mentioned you were involved the chamber's relocation to its current building. How were you involved in that? I was on the executive committee there with [Athens Group's] Jay Newman and [Mercedes-Benz's] Bruce-Schulman. We were basically the chamber liaisons with the city when we negotiated the second floor of that building. We were previously on South Beverly Drive and now we've moved into this great building, so it's just a win-win for our employees because when you have great office space, you wake up every day and say, "I want to come to work" in that kind of place and environment. How will your background in real estate investment help you. as president of the chamber? I do a lot of businesses besides real estate. Page 6 Beverly Hills Weekly