2016 Annual Holiday Luncheon


On Thursday, December 8, 2016, the British American Business Council (BABC) of Greater Philadelphia concluded a year-long celebration of a quarter century of operations in the region. The program featured the Honorable Jim Kenney, Mayor of Philadelphia and Antonia Romeo, Her Majesty’s Consul General in New York & Director- General of Economic and Commercial Affairs USA.  More than 180 international executives and leading UK and regional government officials participated.  The buzz in the room reiterated the value this important event offers the international business community – the opportunity to create valuable relationships and learn current information about pressing global issues before the end of the calendar year.  And of all years, 2016 certainly had its share of historic moments.

Rhett Workman, BABC Chairman opened the meeting with formal remarks. He welcomed attendees and our keynote speakers.  “It has been a great 25th anniversary year for the BABC.  We maintain our position as one of the foremost international business chambers of commerce in the region, and we are poised to build upon and strengthen the vital relationship between the US and the UK.”  Rhett provided a brief history lesson underscoring the special relationship binding our two countries.  “A century of shared experience, and more importantly, shared confidence in our partnership will be even more critical to both countries in 2017 and beyond.” 

Mayor Kenney was eager to take the stage. He congratulated the BABC for 25 years of meaningful work.   His candid remarks about meeting Her Majesty’s Consul General for the first time emphasized the ties between the two regions.  He was honored to welcome Antonia to the region for her first official visit.  Impressed with her intelligence and ability to “get it all done,” Mayor Kenney did not waste time before introducing her Majesty’s Consul General. 

Antonia discussed doing business on both sides of the Atlantic, and the role the City of Brotherly Love plays in supporting the trade relationship. Of all 50 states, Pennsylvania is the largest trading partner with the UK; more than 1,500 UK-based companies employ more than 53,000 jobs across the Commonwealth.  The US and the UK are each other’s largest investors.  Together they have approximately $1 trillion invested in each other’s economies. 

Antonia thanked Honorary Consul, Oliver Franklin for his service to the Crown, and talked about the historic and trade ties between the countries. While both the UK and the US are currently undergoing change, and are facing obstacles, she confirmed Brexit will not be a hasty process.  “This is a new chapter for Britain, of course, and there will be opportunities and challenges ahead,” she said.  “When the UK leaves the European Union, it will be an agreement between an independent, sovereign UK and the EU.  We want that relationship to reflect the kind of mature, cooperative relationship that very close friends and strong allies enjoy.”

Mayor Kenney formally thanked Antonia and presented her with the ultimate gift of friendship – a bronze replica of the Liberty Bell.

Special thanks to BABC Holiday Lunch headline sponsors, without whom this program would not have taken place: Dennis DiMarco, Global Account Manager, Corporate Sales, Virgin Atlantic Airways; Nick Lotz, Head of Northeast US Large Corporate Banking, HSBC Bank USA, N.A.; Jason Gosselin, Partner, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP; and Rebecca Lewis, Department for International Trade.

Holiday time is about giving, and the BABC is proud to be involved with the local community. A portion of proceeds from this annual event will be donated to the Bicentennial Bell restoration project.  The Bicentennial Bell was a gift from Queen Elizabeth to the American people to commemorate the 200th anniversary of American Independence.  From 1976 until 2013, the Bell was housed in a tower outside the Visitor’s Center on 3rd Street. The Bicentennial Bell Project is currently raising funds to transform the open air National Historical Park space that will bring the Bicentennial Bell back to the public.  The new park will function as an outdoor classroom for school groups to show the world that two great nations that started in strife and war can become partners and allies.

Lastly, it would not be a BABC holiday event without the Christmas crackers, paper crowns, and gift giving tradition. Our program concluded with more than 25 raffle prizes given to lucky business card draw winners from local retailers, restaurants, hotels and sports teams, including of a pair of two round-trip, positive-space Premium Economy tickets on VIRGIN ATLANTIC AIRWAYS’ award-winning, non-stop service from any US gateway to London, England. 

It has been a significant year for the BABC, and for the world. Uncertainties as well as opportunities for our future are on the horizon.  As Antonia so clearly stated, there will be adjustment, but we are starting from a position of strength and our futures are bright.  Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous holiday season.  We are thankful for your support and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.



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