Founder and CEO of the Bilateral US-Arab Chamber of Commerce (BUSACC), AIDA ARAISSI is a gravitational force of energy. The Chamber’s office shares that pulse: the rooms bathed in warm light from the floor to ceiling windows overlooking Buffalo Bayou Park, and a veritable cornucopia of awards lining the hallways, not in a boastful sense but of one bursting with pride. It takes only a few minutes of conversation with Araissi to get a sense of the breadth of her passion and see why she was voted by Amazons Magazine as one of the Leading Women to Watch in 2016, and the first Arab-American woman to be recognized at the Women’s Chamber of Commerce as a Trail Blazer at their annual conference in April 2016.
The daughter of Tunisian immigrants, Araissi founded the BUSACC in 1997 to promote trade, investment, training and educational exchanges. Under her impassioned leadership, BUSACC is now widely recognized as a cross-industry expert resource for advancing collaborative economic and educational solutions founded on the principles of mutual respect and understanding. Stakeholders include a who’s who of Fortune 100 companies, academic and policy influencers, economic development agencies and small business leaders. For the last two decades, Araissi has provided strategic planning, program management and full life-cycle advice on hundreds of multi-sector missions on behalf of public and private organizations. Her work with municipal economic development boards include strategically implementing business development missions on behalf of the City of Houston, City of Los Angeles, the State of Illinois and the State of Texas.
Immediately following the tragedy of 9/11, BUSAAC’s work came to a disheartening standstill as they became the target of misguided threats. It was then that Araissi began to initiate conversations with then-MAYOR LEE BROWN of Houston about scheduling a visit to the Middle East, eventually spearheading the historic trade mission to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, with the Mayor and a multitude of constituents. It was from this visit that a variety of relationships were forged and ideas planted. Maybe most notably was the advent of critical airport agreements that created the first non-stop flight from the U.S. (Houston) to Dubai in 2006, as Araissi believes that “Ultimately it is commerce and commercial diplomacy that are going to bring people together; force them to interact and then it will lend itself to bettering relations between nations.”
She serves on multiple civic and strategic boards including the U.S. Committee for the World Petroleum Congress, the Nature Conservancy and the Yellowstone Park Foundation. In 2008 she launched a nonprofit education foundation called Teachers Educating Across Cultures in Harmony (TEACH) which has taken hundreds of teachers from across 18 states throughout the U.S. to Arab regions to learn about the Arab world and bring their knowledge to the classroom to inspire global awareness and understanding in the next generation.
Through the forest of accomplishments, she still sees the opportunity to grow, to do more. Her journey isn’t over and that’s great news for Houston, and the world. Her inspiration and optimistic outlook is guided, in part, by the late Martin Luther King, Jr., as he exclaimed, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”