Chris Steinocher, the No. 2 executive at Tampa Bay Partnership, will be the new president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. His mission: build up the organization's finances and re-build bridges within the business community.
With about 2,000 members, the St. Petersburg chamber is one of the largest chambers in the Tampa Bay region, but it has struggled financially during the economic downturn and suffered a membership drop-off.
Steinocher, 46, replaces John T. Long III, who retired in July at the age of 63 after more than four years with the organization. Facing growing member dissatisfaction and aware the chamber wanted to pursue goals he did not endorse, Long stepped down before his contract came up for renewal.
Upon Long's exit, chamber interim CEO Mary Lallucci and longtime health care executive Sid Morgan, who was board chairman at the time, led efforts to contact businesses personally to entice them to re-join. The interim leaders also shored up finances, laying off five of the group's staff of 17 two months ago.
Chamber leaders said they hope to parlay Steinocher's deep connections in the community to enter a new era of growth. As a representative of area companies, the chamber lobbies for political issues important to its members and promotes economic development and job creation.
"We are going to re-establish the chamber as the key business voice in St. Petersburg and return it to that stature," St. Pete chamber chairman Mark Wimberly said Friday.
Wimberly said the selection committee received about 100 applicants, and vetted the group in part based on a profile developed through surveys of chamber members and staffers.
"Chris has got vast experience in the areas of community service, chamber (and) economic development," Wimberly said. "He's just the right person for this role to lead us into the future, and we are proud to have him."
Steinocher is well-ingrained in local development issues, joining the Tampa Bay Partnership in its infancy 16 years ago as the second employee hired after president and CEO Stuart Rogel.
Steinocher's most recent title at the partnership was chief operating officer and senior vice president of marketing and business development. He oversees the day-to-day operations, strategic planning, research, brand advertising, public relations and marketing. He's also a past chair of the Florida High Tech Corridor Marketing Committee and is currently on the board of Creative Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, among other groups.
Partnership spokeswoman Betty Carlin said there are no plans to name a new COO as Steinocher's duties will be divided among existing staff.
"We really do have a great group of professionals here with a lot of expertise," Carlin said. "We don't think we're going to miss a beat."
The partnership and chamber jointly disclosed the decision Friday morning. Steinocher, who began his community development career with the St. Petersburg chamber in the early '90s, and his wife, Juli, have two sons. Financial terms of his compensation package were not disclosed.
He'll assume his new role at the end of this month.
Times staff writer Robert Trigaux contributed to this report, which also used Times files.