Make us your home page

Q&A with Tom Morrissette of the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce

Tom Morrissette says chamber membership is rebounding.

Tom Morrissette says chamber membership is rebounding.

LARGO — Sick of the snow, Tom Morrissette moved here 10 years ago from Worcester, Mass., without a job. It didn't take him long to find one.

He's been president of the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce for a decade, so he has an informed view of Pinellas County's business climate. As he marks 10 years on the job, the Tampa Bay Times sat down with him for a quick Q&A.

Has your chamber recovered from the Great Recession yet?

Before the recession, we always had between 490 and 520 members. Then we went down to 360. A lot of companies just weren't here anymore. As of today, we have 470. We're getting people back that had it really tough during that time.

What sets your chamber apart?

We're not tourism-based, like the beaches. We have a diverse economy. Although the tourism industry has a seasonal side to it, we're looking at businesses that are coming in and providing good-paying jobs all year long.

Really? When people think of Largo, they think of drive-throughs and strip malls. Is there more?

Off the beaten path, there are places like Tech Data that employ hundreds of people. ConMed Corp. makes parts for knee replacements. Bic Graphics is putting out millions of pens every day. When we take tours, I'm always amazed by the types of companies we have. You go in and say, "Oh my God, this is right in our back yard."

How are chamber activities going, such as groups that trade business leads?

We have four leads groups. Soon, we think we'll have enough to make up a fifth group. They each meet twice a month. … People get actual referrals because it's more "who you know."

Your organization changed its name from the Greater Largo Chamber of Commerce to the Largo/Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce to the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce. Why?

It's more the area of Central Pinellas than the boundary of a town. We have members from Tampa. If they're doing business in our neck of the woods, they want to be out here. We have a member from England. He's in exporting.

Largo is losing a movie theater, a bowling alley and a driving range. Another strip mall and gas station are coming instead. Is Largo becoming more boring?

A lot of stuff that was built in the '50s, '60s and '70s is reaching the end of its life. We're built out now. Everything that's happening is going to be redevelopment. You can't really go in and spot-zone and say, "We don't want another gas station." But as these decisions get made, I certainly would like to see some vision — what does this place look like in 20 years?

Is that why you're on the executive committee of the Yes for Greenlight transit initiative?

I firmly believe it's an economic development issue. We're the only major region in the country without a real mass transit system. Companies are looking here and saying, "It's impossible to get around."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at or (727) 445-4151. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBrassfield.

Q&A with Tom Morrissette of the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce 03/24/14 [Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2014 9:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa is 15th-most popular city to move to with U-Haul


    TAMPA —Tampa is undoubtedly a destination point, at least according to U-Haul.

    Tampa is the No. 15 destination for people moving with U-Haul trucks. | Times file photo
  2. Florida's economy growing faster than other big states and far better than U.S. overall


    When it comes to economic growth, Florida's running alongside the leading states and well ahead of the United States as a whole.

  3. Westshore Marina District project takes shape with another acquisition

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — One of Tampa Bay's prime waterfront areas took another major step toward redevelopment Friday as WCI Communities bought 2.35 acres in Westshore Marina District.

    WCI Communities, Lennar's high-end subsidiary,has paid $2.5 million for 2.35 acres in the Westshore Marina District for 35 townhomes. WCI is under contract  to buy an additional 9.5 acres.
[BTI Partners]
  4. Posh Guy Harvey RV park to open in Tampa Bay with $250,000 cottages


    HOLIDAY — Love those Guy Harvey T-shirts with the soaring marlins? In the not too distant future, you might be able to kick back in your own Guy Harvey cottage in the first-ever Guy Harvey RV park.

    Renderings of the clubhouse and an RV cottage site of the planned Guy Harvey Outpost Club & Resort Tarpon Springs.
[Guy Harvey Outpost Collection]
  5. Port Tampa Bay secures $9 million grant to deepen Big Bend Channel


    Port Tampa Bay has secured a $9 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the widening and deepening of the Big Bend Channel in southern Hillsborough County.