Personnel note: Florida Chamber advances strategic plan with three high-level hires
The Florida Chamber notched a few solid wins in 2022.
'The Florida Chamber team is laser-focused on executing our strategic plan.'

The Florida Chamber of Commerce announced three high-level additions to its team on Thursday, saying the hires would help further its strategic plans.

“The Florida Chamber team is laser-focused on executing our strategic plan and executing a calculated talent strategy that is setting us up to advance our mission, further unite business leaders, and secure Florida’s future the right way,” said Chas Bailes III, the CEO ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and the chair of the Florida Chamber Board.

The new hires are Dr. Ben Tabatabaei, Dave Sobush and Alex Coelho. Each will focus on a facet of the Chamber’s six-year, $105 million strategic plan, which encompasses economic development, electoral and policy goals.

Tabatabaei is an economist with a doctorate in international political economy and public policy from the University of Southern California. He is currently an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University and has previously advised businesses and foreign governments on economic matters. He has been tapped as the Chief Economist and Executive Director of the Florida Chamber’s International Center for Economic Development.

“Having studied and lectured extensively about non-democratic systems of governance which exert a great deal of control over their economy, I have seen how devastating this has been to the lives of ordinary people. It has caused lackluster economic growth, endemic corruption, and environmental degradation,” he said in a news release.

“My work as an international business economist has solidified for me the importance of democratic norms, free enterprise, and protecting that freedom at all costs, because ultimately the lives and happiness of hardworking ordinary people do matter.”

In his new role, Tabatabaei will help businesses and policymakers understand economic and demographic shifts in the state and identify opportunities to boost international trade, logistics, foreign investment, and domestic manufacturing.

Sobush will serve as Director of Research for the Florida Chamber Foundation. He comes to the Chamber from the Tampa Bay Partnership, where he worked as the Senior Director of Policy and Research. In that role, he was responsible for developing data-backed recommendations to enhance the region’s economic competitiveness.

He previously worked as a business development manager for Pinellas County Economic Development, where he focused on attracting businesses in the aviation, manufacturing, optics/photonics, and IT industries to the area. His efforts helped bring more than 4,500 high-wage jobs and keep a Fortune 250 corporation in the county.

At the Florida Chamber Foundation, he will oversee the research ventures such as The Florida Scorecard and head up the Florida 2030 Blueprint Caucus, which recruits businesses to take the lead on goals enumerated in Chamber’s keystone research project, Florida 2030.

“The addition of a Certified Economic Developer to the team will help propel the Chamber Foundation to even greater heights and bring to our members a unique perspective and expertise on how to continue moving the needle in our state,” said Susan Towler, the Vice President of the Florida Blue Foundation and Chair of the Florida Chamber Foundation Board of Trustees.

Coelho, meanwhile, will bolster the Chamber’s robust political operation. His specialties include identifying and understanding developing trends among populations and demographic groups.

He will work as the Chamber’s Director of Data and Analytics. The job will see him produce data analyses on trends in voter attitudes and demographic changes in the electorate, among other things. He will also oversee ChamberHub — the Florida Chamber’s exclusive voter file — and the Partisan Performance Index, which measures the political leanings of state legislative districts.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


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