PALM HARBOR — There are already seven chambers of commerce between Clearwater and Tarpon Springs, but Steve Fiske believed it was time for one more.
The job local chambers of commerce are expected to do — promoting and supporting business — was "not being done,'' said Fiske, a former Greater Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce board member.
So six months ago, he launched the North Pinellas Regional Chamber of Commerce in an office at 3150 Tampa Road in Oldsmar. Already, the new chamber has more than 100 members, according to Fiske, 67.
"I started this because I saw that businesses were being under-served. I felt the old guard wanted to stay with their way of doing things and that it was time for a new model,'' he said.
Fiske is the publisher of Tampa Bay Woman Newspaper, a business he started nine years ago while splitting his time between Chicago and New Port Richey. Before he moved to Pinellas County full time in 2010, Fiske worked in the public relations industry in Chicago and Los Angeles.
While on the board of the Palm Harbor chamber, which was created more than 30 years ago, Fiske won the title "Honorary Mayor of Palm Harbor'' for both 2010 and 2011. The honor is given annually to the member whose fundraising efforts for the chamber are most successful.
However, last summer, Fiske decided to resign from the Palm Harbor chamber and focus on his own entity, drawing from past experiences working with two California chambers: the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the Westlake Village chamber.
"It's time to modernize. I feel that businesses in this area should be promoted as a whole — the whole North Pinellas region,'' he said. "I felt the area had been fragmented and tribalized by the way things had been run for so long.''
Not only should there be more member-to-member networking, "… but I also want to network out of state. I believe that businesses in other places would be very interested in the economic potential of northern Pinellas,'' he said.
Already, the new chamber has businesses on its roster from not only Palm Harbor and nearby Dunedin and Safety Harbor, but from downtown Clearwater, Holiday and Tampa as well. Recent events the chamber has held include a town hall meeting on Feb. 27 with state Rep. Carl Zimmermann that drew 60 participants, and a "Power Hour Lunch'' Feb. 13 with the publisher of the Tampa Bay Business Journal that drew 50 guests.
One of the founding members of the North Pinellas Regional Chamber of Commerce is David Lamont who, along with his wife, Nancy, opened Ace Hardware in Palm Harbor in 2011.
Lamont, who is also a member of the Greater Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce, says he was pleased to hear of the new chamber starting up.
"I felt like when it came to chamber activity, there needed to be more depth,'' he said. "And I've already seen some good come out of having this new one start up. Competition (between the chambers) has been a good thing.''
Connie Davis has been president and chief executive officer of the Greater Palm Harbor Chamber since November 1990. Her organization held its annual Evening Extraordinaire last week at the Innisbrook Resort, attracting some 13 sponsors and 200 guests.
When asked if she sees the new chamber as competition, Davis stated, "The different chambers in the area do not compete with one another. We have always worked together.''
Davis also said she wondered what Fiske meant when he said it was "time for a new model.''
"What does that mean, a new model?'' she asked. "I attended the Institute for Organization Management. It's a nationwide program for chamber executives, and we learn a certain way of doing things for our chamber. We also belong to the Florida Association of Chamber Professionals. Does he?"
According to Fiske, his new entity is still moving through the process to become a full-fledged chamber.
"Our goal is to become a member of both the Florida and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Right now we are in organizational mode,'' he said. "But when we hire someone full time to run our chamber, we will recruit that person who is experienced in running chambers.''
Piper Castillo can be reached at (727) 445-4163 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, visit tampabay.com/letters.