Tuesday, December 12, 2017
News Roundup

Brandon Chamber characterizes building sell as positive

BRANDON — The Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce has put its signature headquarters at 330 Pauls Drive on the market, with an asking price of $3.1 million.

The two-story, 21,500-square-foot building, home to the chamber for 10 years, has drawn a flurry of interest in the past two or three weeks since it went on the open market, said Cami Gibertini, a banking executive and 17-year chamber member who became chair of the organization's board in February. The chamber first advertised the building to chamber members but no buyers came forward, she said.

A task force is studying options for the chamber's staff of eight once the building is sold, including relocation and the possibility of leasing space in the existing headquarters as a tenant.

"We may stay in the building," Gibertini said. "We do love it. It's a wonderful building."

Christine Michaels, who has been chamber executive director for a little more than a year, said the chamber's four full-time and three part-time employees use the lobby, an adjacent office, conference rooms and a storage area.

The chamber also is asking $475,000 for land adjacent to its headquarters that is part of the 1.64-acre chamber site. The spot has potential for a two-story structure of up to 12,000 square feet of office space, according to marketing materials.

Gibertini said the chamber's finances are "in the black," despite a drop in business memberships from 1,100 a year or so ago to about 800. She attributed some of the decline to nonpayment of dues and said chamber officials will follow up to determine how much of that might stem from oversight.

However, she and Michael Matthews, immediate past chamber chair, said scrutiny of the organization's finances and future outlook made it clear that changes had to be made for the nonprofit business advocacy organization.

Generally, they said, that means the chamber needs to focus on its core missions of nurturing local businesses, identifying community needs and working toward improving the quality of life in Brandon and its surrounding neighborhoods.

"The chamber is going to be fine," Gibertini said. "The chamber is not the building."

Matthews, who started a business as a tenant in the Pauls Drive building before recently relocating to Carrollwood, said chamber leaders identified a need for changes a few years ago. Key members examined every expense and revenue source with an eye toward whether it furthered the organization's mission, he said.

"We said, 'We're going to run this business like a business,' " Matthews said.

As a result, he said, it whittled the staff of about 20 four years ago to seven now. Property management and maintenance, along with generation of the chamber's long-standing print directory, once a major revenue source for the organization, were among activities the chamber shed.

Production of the annual directory has been outsourced, eliminating the need for sales staff. Gibertini said the chamber will continue to provide the publication because it remains popular with members.

She said the chamber is actively seeking membership input about what services should be offered. Chamber staff and committee leaders have embraced the slogan, "You talk, we listen, things change."

Michaels said feedback from members so far has led to such ideas as online networking, orientation videos, opportunities to market individual businesses on the chamber Facebook page and staging events jointly with neighboring chamber organizations.

Gibertini and Matthews said changing economic times and a series of interim leaders in recent years likely affected chamber operations and its relationship with members. Ownership of the Pauls Drive building, one of the vanguards of the Brandon Main Street concept, was a visionary step for the chamber 10 years ago, but Matthews said times have changed. He said he doesn't believe that future development under the plan will be impacted if the chamber sells its investment.

Contact Susan Marschalk Green at [email protected]

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