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Northwest to get branch in chamber

In a move signaling the growing economic importance of northwest Hillsborough County, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce executive committee voted unanimously Thursday to organize its first branch chamber council.

The Northwest Area Council of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce has been on the drawing board for about two years. Carrollwood Area Business Association President Jim Keeper said the branch organization will provide support for an area that is often forgotten by the county's major chamber of commerce.

"The Greater Tampa Chamber has always been a downtown club," Keeper said. "But there are a lot of powerful people downtown who also live in this area. The council organization is going to be great for this area politically, developmentally, environmentally and great for business."

Members of the area council will be required to join the Greater Tampa Chamber and would pay additional dues to the area council. The council would conduct its own meetings but also would be represented on the Greater Tampa executive committee.

A steering committee plans to begin meeting next month to define goals and organize the council before recruiting members. About 500 Northwest area businesses already belong to the Greater Tampa Chamber.

Don Coryell, an original member of CABA, hopes the Northwest council will get rolling early in 1995.

"For quite a few years, I've been watching the development moving out here," Coryell said. "The Northwest section of the county represents tremendous business and financial interests of the overall county."

Jacksonville and Orlando recently developed similar branch chamber councils. The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce was not able to go forward with the idea before now because of internal organizational changes in recent years, said Gary Jones, vice president of organization development for the Greater Tampa Chamber.

Although it was mainly CABA members who have worked with Greater Tampa members to extend a council to Carrollwood, the branch organization will be open to any interested area business people and will not mean the end of the 8-year-old CABA.

"CABA has its niche in the community _ it's a good thing for small businesses and it's not going anywhere," Keeper said.

"If we can help control what goes on in the Northwest part of the county, we will have the best of both worlds," said Jeff Greenacre, a CABA member for four years. "It's a good situation all the way around. We need that affiliation with the Tampa chamber and they could use more input from businesses in the Northwest."

Jones said the Northwest area council could be used as a model for similar councils throughout Hillsborough.

"There are issues that are pertinent to specific areas of the county that we may not have been able to focus on before," Jones said. "We hope an area council will promote a better working relationship in the whole Tampa-Hillsborough County area."