- Friday, November 4, 2011
- Lynn Ducey – Reporter – Phoenix Business Journal
An organization aimed at developing international business connections is being rebranded and will hold a coming-out party to mark its re-entry into the Valley community.
The Arizona Council for International Visitors, previously known as the World Affairs Council of Arizona, is hosting the bash next week with the goal of bringing members and leaders together.
“We work with the U.S. embassies around the world. Their role is to identify those who they think can or will be future leaders,” said Growth Nation CEO Doug Bruhnke, who also serves as president of the council’s board. “They pick people and come up with ideas and places to visit to expose them to our way of life — capitalism, technology, our political process.”
The council has operated in the Valley since 1964. Bruhnke has been a member since 2007. He said the name change evolved from a national conference he and other members attended earlier this year in Washington, featuring U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as the keynote speaker.
“She really inspired us. We came home and just felt that our former name didn’t explain what we do,” Bruhnke said. “We entertain and educate several hundred visitors from around the world in Arizona every year, so we wanted to really commit to that and communicate that vision to people.”
The Arizona council is affiliated with the National Council for International Visitors, a Washington-based nonprofit, and it is connected to a network of organizations across the country.
The national group maintains a strong connection with the U.S. State Department, which runs a program called the International Visitor Leadership Program. More than 4,000 international leaders are hosted through the program, and it is the volunteers within the network, including members of the Arizona council, who provide face-to-face interaction.
Dan Schweiker, co-founder and co-chairman of Scottsdale-based China Mist Brands, is a longtime member of the Arizona council and has served on the executive board. He has met a broad range of leaders in the Valley and around the world.
“I truly believe the way to avoid hostility and understand cultures is to get to know each other. This is really citizen diplomacy, and you get to meet people from all over the world,” Schweiker said.
He recalled a gathering where he, Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane, and visitors from Kazakhstan and Afghanistan were standing in a council member’s backyard at a barbecue, talking about world events.
Another time, “we had people over to our house, and it was a presidential election. We had dinner and were watching the election returns, and just started talking about the political processes in our countries,” Schweiker said.
Bruhnke said the goal is to educate the community about the organization and the number of people who have been identified as leaders within their respective countries who travel to Arizona.
“We make friends for life. They may never become a world leader, but they might. It’s always interesting, and it’s always a learning process,” Bruhnke said.