Advertisement
  1. Clearwater

Clearwater's two Chambers of Commerce to consolidate after years of talk

Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Carol Hague, left, and Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce CEO Amanda Payne, right, said merging the organizations will better serve the business community and eliminate the duplication of services. [Photos courtesy of Clearwater Regional Chamber and Clearwater Beach Chamber]
Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Carol Hague, left, and Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce CEO Amanda Payne, right, said merging the organizations will better serve the business community and eliminate the duplication of services. [Photos courtesy of Clearwater Regional Chamber and Clearwater Beach Chamber]
Published Apr. 4, 2019

CLEARWATER — For 20 years Clearwater has been a city with not one but two chambers of commerce that separated the business worlds on Clearwater Beach and the mainland.

After years of floating the idea of merging, the Clearwater Regional and the Clearwater Beach chambers of commerce announced on Thursday they were beginning the legwork to unify as one organization by 2020.

Clearwater Regional Chamber CEO Carol Hague said a recent change in leadership at the Beach Chamber and more serious discussions between the two boards made now the right time fix what has been a longtime duplication of services.

It also makes Clearwater the first to make a move in addressing the abundance of organizations working toward the same goals in independent groups. In a county with 24 cities, there are 14 chambers of commerce.

"The community has always said gee, why do we have two chambers in Clearwater and actually, to go a step further, why do we have 14 chambers in Pinellas County?" said Hague, who has led the organization for four years. "That's too many … Consolidation is good for everyone and we're really hoping to be the first" of more changes.

Hague said the merger will serve members with more efficiency. Clearwater businesses will not have to pay for two memberships, advertisers will work with one agency in the same city and residents and visitors can look to one place for all things business.

Hague said there are no current plans to cut any of the Regional Chamber's seven full-time staff or the Beach Chamber's five staff. A CEO of the unified group has not been named but neither Hague nor Beach Chamber President Amanda Payne said they have plans to leave.

"We think it's a very exciting way to bring two industries, business and tourism, bring those two together and have them work as a unit and benefit from the strengths of each and be a larger body and a stronger voice," Hague said.

Payne took the reins of the Beach Chamber in January following the retirement of Darlene Kole, who led the group since 2010.

She said many of the Beach Chamber's 250 businesses are also part of the Regional Chamber, which has more than 600 members.

The Regional Chamber was established 97 years ago. The Beach Chamber was formed in 1995, a time when Clearwater Beach was a quieter island without the international resorts and hotels lining the shores today.

With the rise of Clearwater Beach becoming an international destination, she said now is the time to merge with the broader business community.

"We see it as imperative to retain the two cultures, but also part of our goal is to bring two organizations into one much more unified larger voice that speaks collectively as a whole rather than the division that's existed the last several years," Payne said.

Robin Miller, CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, one of the county's larger business groups with its 720 members, has been a longtime advocate for consolidating chambers within the county.

She said duplication makes businesses have to pay membership fees to multiple organizations for the same services. Because of costs, others have to choose to stay out of some groups.

And if a chamber's mission is to advocate for business interests and help connect sellers to consumers, it would be more efficient to do so on a larger, shared scale, she said.

Miller said Clearwater's announcement sets a precedent for the rest of the county, one she said she hopes is copied.

"Instead of having silos of membership organizations working on the same goal in different places and times, we could all come together and hopefully achieve more," Miller said.

Contact Tracey McManus at tmcmanus@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. Booking photo of Gerardo Javier Garcia, 27, who is facing charges of child neglect, fleeing police and driving without a license.
  2. The candidates running for Clearwater City Council Seat 2 are (left to right): Mark Bunker, Michael "Mike" Mannino, Bruce Rector, Eliseo Santana Jr. and Lina Teixeira.
  3. The candidates running for Clearwater City Council Seat 3 are (left to right) Kathleen Beckman, Robert "Dr. Bob" Cundiff, Bud Elias and Scott Thomas.
  4. Patrick Suiters, 10, left, and Gabriel Stanford, 9, both fourth-graders at San Jose Elementary School in Dunedin, fill out a survey after tasting falafel tots and nuggets during the 2nd Annual Student Food Connection taste test at Pinellas Technical College. About 120 students tasted and rated 28 new food items that could be added to school breakfast and lunch menus next year.
  5. The Pinellas County school system is offering driver education camps to hundreds of students like this one over the summer. The program will be held over two sessions at nine high school campuses across the county.
  6. Roy Lampkin, left, David Dobbins and Christopher Rachell are charged in connection with a caper that resulted in a CVS in Clearwater being held up by robbers.
  7. Luis Espel, 22, uses the Cass Street bike lane to commute to work in Tampa. Times (2019)
  8. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates.
  9. Island Estates, a neighborhood in Clearwater Bay. There are three City Council races on this year's ballot as the city prepares for the realities of climate change.
  10. A school threat circulating among students and parents in East Lake and Tarpon Springs originated in Texas on Snapchat, authorities said.
  11. Chief executive officer Rich Hume (left) is expected to remain in place following the company's sale to Apollo Global Management, but he would be eligible for a golden parachute compensation of nearly $15.4 million after he is terminated. Former chief executive officer Bob Dutkowsky (right), the executive chairman of Tech Data’s board of directors, would receive $17.3 million if Apollo lets him go. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times (2018)
  12. Zion Cemetery disappeared in the late 1920s just as the new owner built a storefront on the land. Today, hundreds of graves lie beneath the property — home to public housing apartments, warehouses and a vehicle tow lot.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement