GCAACC Organizational Meeting

The drama surrounding the Gulf Coast African-American Chamber of Commerce will continue to unfold tonight during an organizational meeting at Pensacola City Hall.

The meeting is the latest in a series hosted by Pensacola City Councilman John Jerralds, who contends the current GCAACC doesn’t serve the area’s minority community. Current chamber head George Hawthorne has said he plans to attend tonight’s meeting in an effort to work with Jerralds.

Since April, Hawthorne has said his group will be presenting a new “game plan” for the future. This week, the GCAACC executive director said the organization would not be releasing any plan, but would instead attempt to reconcile matters with Jerralds and members of the black business community that have expressed interest in the councilman’s agenda.

Hawthorne initially announced the GCAACC’s intentions of revamping the organization during an April board meeting of the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, where he holds an ex-officio (non-voting) seat.

Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce President Jim Hizer said this week that he had “discussed in concept” the plan.

“He and I have talked about his desire to do so,” Hizer said. “But, no, I have not seen his plans.”

When defending his organization against Jerralds’ accusations of ineffectiveness, Hawthorne has said that the GCAACC has been working closely with the Pensacola chamber. When considering what direction and form the GCAACC will be taking in the future, the executive director has cited the Pensacola chamber as a model.

Hizer said that he prefers to stay out of the current debate surrounding the GCAACC. The chamber president said such issues needed to be worked out within the black business community, but said he had been speaking with Hawthorne as the executive director prepared to announce his group’s plans.

“Yeah, George and I communicate fairly frequently,” Hizer said.

Hawthorne holds an ex-officio seat with the chamber due to his position with the GCAACC. If Jerralds in intent of upstarting another minority-oriented chamber, it’s conceivable that such an organization could request that ex-officio seat. Hizer said that such an issue would need to be worked out between the parties in question.

Today’s meeting will be held at 5 p.m. at Pensacola City Hall.