PLANT CITY — After a nationwide hunt, the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce found its new president within a 10-mile radius of its office.
Christine Miller, who most recently served as the executive director of the United Food Bank of Plant City, is set to start as the new chamber president Aug. 15. She'll be taking the reigns from Marion Smith, who has served as the president since 2001. Smith retired in May.
"I am so thrilled," Miller said. "I have loved my time here at the food bank, but I'm so excited to lead and serve my community in a different capacity. This city is poised for such tremendous growth … to be a part of this is so exciting."
As president, Miller hopes to continue the chamber's existing legacy by enhancing the quality and value of membership and bringing in new members.
Miller first fell in love with the city back in 1997. On one of her first dates with her husband, Les, the duo went on an outing in Historic Downtown. Right away, Miller knew two things: that she would marry Les, and that she would live and raise a family in Plant City.
"I loved that there was a center," Miller said.
In her new role, Miller plans to strengthen the existing businesses in downtown and across Plant City by forming the chamber into a one-stop shop for resources. She is already collaborating with Plant City Economic Development Corp. president Jake Austin, City Manager Mike Herr and Plant City Main Street on growth efforts.
"I want to be the resource for them," Miller said. She added that she'll have a focus on small businesses in particular, as they capture the essence of the Plant City community. "I would love to see businesses come to downtown, midtown. It's a beautiful thing when we can have small businesses. It's a necessity."
Miller is a former small business owner. She worked alongside her husband for their health and wellness company, Arbonne.
"I know the value that chambers can add to growing your business within the community," Miller said. "I want to listen to chamber members and get their input, what they love about the chamber and what they would love to see."
The job comes with many moving parts, but it's a task Miller is well-acquainted with through her role as director at the United Food Bank of Plant City. In that position, she expanded existing programs, brought in new programs and increased the number of people served in East Hillsborough.
When she first came on board in 2012, there were 12,000 people served annually. In 2015, the food bank served over 30,000 people. Miller also was responsible for introducing Money Smart, a program at the food bank that teaches financial literacy to those living at or below the poverty line.
According to the Chamber board, Miller's experience serving the Plant City community and leading businesses to success are what made her the right person for the job.
"Although there were several qualified applicants from outside of the community, Christine's qualifications, experience and proven commitment to Plant City's growth combined to confirm her as the best choice for the new Chamber president," said Matt Buzza, leader of the selection committee.
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