Saturday, February 24, 2018
Business

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

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 [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBrassfield.

Comments
Activists call for tech companies to drop NRA’s digital TV channel

Activists call for tech companies to drop NRA’s digital TV channel

Activists are calling for Apple, Amazon, Google and other streaming companies to drop the National Rifle Association’s digital TV channel in the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida school last week, putting the companies in the delicate position o...
Published: 02/24/18
Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

The head of the Pinellas and Hillsborough career centers under multiple investigations into the way they report job placement figures says he has no intention of stepping down.That’s unless he is paid five months severance.In a letter from his attorn...
Published: 02/23/18
Terminally ill Valrico man dies a month after marrying junior high sweetheart

Terminally ill Valrico man dies a month after marrying junior high sweetheart

VALRICO — During his final few days, 19-year-old Dustin Snyder moved to a hospice house, surrounded himself with belongings from home, swam in a pool and visited the beach in Ruskin.Wherever he went, the terminally ill Valrico man had family beside h...
Published: 02/23/18
Tampa Downtown Partnership gets initial city okay to expand north

Tampa Downtown Partnership gets initial city okay to expand north

TAMPA — The Downtowner may be heading to Tampa Heights — but not until Oct. 1.That’s because the nonprofit Tampa Downtown Partnership this week won initial City Council approval to expand into Tampa Heights."Tampa Heights is becoming an important gat...
Published: 02/23/18

Tampa lawyer gets 27 months in federal prison for insider trading

Tampa lawyer Walter "Chet’’ Little was sentenced this week to 27 months in federal prison for engaging in an insider trading scheme that reaped him and a friend profits totaling nearly $1 million.According to federal authorities, Little accessed comp...
Published: 02/23/18
More companies are cutting ties with gun lobby as #BoycottNRA movement gains steam

More companies are cutting ties with gun lobby as #BoycottNRA movement gains steam

Three major companies — Enterprise Holdings, First National Bank of Omaha, and the cybersecurity giant Symantec — have ended co-branding partnerships with the National Rifle Association as a #BoycottNRA social media movement picks up steam.Enterprise...
Published: 02/23/18
Citi to refund $330 Million to credit card customers it overcharged

Citi to refund $330 Million to credit card customers it overcharged

Citigroup is preparing to issue $330 million in refunds after the bank discovered it had overcharged nearly 2 million credit card customers on their annual interest rates, a spokeswoman said Friday.The bank, which has about 150 million credit card ac...
Published: 02/23/18
Girl Scouts camp sold to member of Tampa’s Lykes family

Girl Scouts camp sold to member of Tampa’s Lykes family

ODESSA — The 63-year-old lakeside summer camp had no air conditioning or electricity. Cabin floors were often covered in grime, and cobwebs clung to the windows.But under new ownership, the 18.6 acres of Florida woods known as Camp Scoutcrest to memb...
Published: 02/23/18
BB&T cites ‘technical issue’ in outage affecting customers

BB&T cites ‘technical issue’ in outage affecting customers

Millions of BB&T customers were unable to access their accounts after a service outage which the bank blames on an equipment malfunction. The Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based bank posted a statement on its Twitter page saying the problem persiste...
Published: 02/23/18
Realtors are ‘every 10 feet’ in Florida but more want in the business

Realtors are ‘every 10 feet’ in Florida but more want in the business

ST. PETERSBURG — Tired of working as a yacht captain, Pancho Jiminez decided to get into real estate even though he knows it’s a highly competitive field in Florida."Realtors are every 10 feet around here," he says.Nonetheless, Jiminez is among 30 st...
Published: 02/23/18