Leighton Klevana, AmCham's new executive director, is fluent in both English and Slovak.
photo: Courtesy AmCham
"I'd like to see a lot less emphasis on networking and socialising and a lot more on influencing the government to make changes which will improve Slovakia's environment for business," said Klevana, who was appointed to his post at the end of February. "I think (in the coming years) you are going to see a very different AmCham than you see today.''
The American Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia was founded in 1991 and has since grown to become an active organization which hosts business discussions and breakfasts, serves as a general databank and resource, and otherwise tries to assist its membership of 140 American and foreign firms. Members say the group can be a valuable forum in which to make business contacts and sometimes, find prospective employees.
At a recent AmCham event, for example, the Austrian-owned Target executive search firm found two people whom they later placed in jobs. "The organization is very active....it offers interesting events and is very useful," said managing director Klemens Wersonig, adding that "the American Chamber is still the one that is the most international."
While Klevana said he hopes to continue giving business people an opportunity to meet, he believes that should be just one of its functions. Born in 1934 in Prague to a Slovak father and American mother, he has spent most of his life in the United States and is fluent in both languages. A lawyer by profession, he has lived and worked in Slovakia since 1991 as head of the Slovak-American Enterprise Fund, and later, as the head of the tax law section at international tax advisory firm Deloitte and Touche.
Klevana would like to see his members actually help the government draft legislation, which it would do as a service to the government. He said he has close ties with Finance Minister Brigita Schmögnerová, Economy Minister Ľudovít Černák and Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan and hopes to set up meetings with them to discuss changes that need to be made.
He would also like to see a 30% increase in AmCham's membership, more educational programmes on business topics for both members and non-members, and more interaction between other nations' Chambers of Commerce in Slovakia and other AmChams abroad.
His thoughts were underlined by the current president of the Chamber, David Francis.
"What we want to do with the new government is help achieve changes in the business climate which we think are necessary to bring in foreign investment," he said, adding that issues of business transparency and tax and import duties could be a focus.
To accomplish all of this will require a burst of energy from the membership, and Klevana said he believes they are ready to deliver it.
"I think with an energetic person at the helm people are going to be energised," he said.
"We'd like to take the AmCham from one level to the next.''