Chamber of Commerce Hawaii has been named 2018’s state Chamber of Commerce of the Year by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

The award was presented Wednesday night at the association’s annual convention in Des Moines, Iowa.

“It was a surreal moment,” said Sherry Menor- McNamara, president and CEO of the Honolulu-based chamber, recalling the awards ceremony. “We didn’t expect anything. We were just happy to be a finalist.”

The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives serves some 1,400 chambers across North America.

Menor-McNamara said the Hawaii chamber applied for the award, and then she and Lori Abe, the chamber’s chief officer of operations and communications, answered questions in Des Moines during an interview that was worth two-thirds of the award’s score.

“It was the first time for us trying for the award,” said Menor-McNamara, a member of the association’s board. “Many chambers apply two or three times and don’t win.”

During their interview, the Hawaii representatives emphasized the support of the chamber’s board and membership, and told of the various initiatives that have been launched by the organization.

Those initiatives include the chamber’s Manufacturing in Hawaii and Sector Partnership programs, plus Hawaii on the Hill, the annual event in Washington, D.C., that aims to promote and showcase the islands and includes the Taste of Hawaii culinary event and Policy Summit with Hawaii’s federal legislators.

Menor-McNamara and Abe also told interviewers about the chamber’s advocacy at the state Legislature, including its annual efforts to introduce a legislative package of bills supportive of business.

“The common thread is partnerships,” Menor- McNamara said. “Partnerships allow us to move forward and be a catalytic leader in the state.”

She credits present and past chamber board chairmen for providing the foundational work for the chamber’s success, including insurance executive Mark Polivka, banker Gabe Lee and newspaper executive Dennis Francis.

“I think the award validates to our members our efforts to build their businesses,” she said.

Chamber of Commerce Hawaii has 2,000 business members.

Link to article: Chamber of the Year