First Annual ITC Gala Highlights Houston’s International Business Ties
By Paul Pass
The International Trade Center (ITC) held its inaugural grand ball “The Winter White Night” on Friday, December 9 at the Westin Galleria. Gordon and Sylvia Quan served as gala co-chairs and José Grinan of Fox 26 was master of the ceremonies for the evening. The grand ball steering committee consisted of Munira Panjwani-Zahid and Munir Ibrahim.
The ITC helps promote, encourage, and facilitate international business opportunities for Houston area companies, as well as enterprises that want to invest in Houston firms. Since its inception in 2007, the organization has hosted hundreds of events to educate the community about international business ventures. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited the ITC in 2008 and met with local leaders in global commerce.
Chairman Wea Lee commented that the ITC is actively working on two projects: 1) helping small businesses export and set up memorandums of understanding and 2) hosting the second Texas-Africa Summit, along with the James A. Baker III Institute of Public Policy at Rice University, in September 2012.
Executive Director Yuki Rogers was also on hand to make sure that the night went smoothly and thank everyone for their attendance. Guests dressed in a variety styles, ranging from tuxedos to fashionable cheongsams and from elegant white dresses to Nehru suits.
U.S. Congressman Al Green had an opportunity to address the crowd and commend the work of ITC. He added that November 2012 ballots in Houston will be printed in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and for the first time, Mandarin Chinese.
Numerous members of the consular corps were also in attendance, including The Honorable Geert Visser, Honorary Consul General of the Netherlands, The Honorable Sanjiv Arora, Consul General of India, and The Honorable Dr. Luis Malpica y de Lamadrid, Consul General of Mexcico.
Robert T. Sakowitz, President and CEO of Hazak Corporation, was recognized for Lifetime Achievement and Success in the World of Business and the Fashion Industry. He is well known in Houston for his family’s Sakowitz department stories, which had over a dozen locations in four states until closing in the early 1990s.
Sakowitz, whose early years included retail in a Parisian store, praised Houston’s welcoming attitude, “this city accepts achievers, wherever they are from.” Other awarded companies and individuals included AT&T, Moez Mangalji of Westmont Hospitality Group, Houston Community College, DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center, UNICEF, and Sandra Bloem-Curtis of Rice University. Scholarship recipients were Sumedh Warudkar, Sung Un Lee, and Yuqian Wu.
James T. Edmonds, Chairman of the Port of Houston Authority, delivered the keynote address. Edmonds focused on the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises, commenting that “small businesses make big things happen.” He also assured the inquisitive audience that the Port of Houston is making preparations for increased shipping and the presence of larger vessels due to the Panama Canal expansion project.
Silent auction items included a miniature silk painting from Rajasthan, Chinese tea cups, African masks and vases, and a Turkish tile plate. The evening ended with cultural performances by Grupo Folklórico Raíces de Panamá, Ismaili Dance Ensemble, Showing Japan, Sweft Feet Dance, and Danmar Performing Arts.
Paul Pass works on educational programming for the Asia Society Texas Center. He received his bachelor’s in International Affairs from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and his master’s in European Affairs from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.