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]
Published Apr. 4

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.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Plans for the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District Board of Commissioners referendum March 12 call for a $100 increase in the annual assessment for single-family units. Tom Germond
    The winner will fill the seat of a board member who moved.
  2. The Walmart supercenter at 990 Missouri Ave. faced fines in December for these storage containers in the parking lot. City officials are debating whether to make a short-term arrangement with the city two’s Largo stores this year so they can store their holiday inventory. City of Largo
    In the end, city commissioners say yes, with some reservations.
  3. More construction is on the way to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, thanks to $19.75 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants to rehabilitate the airport’s runway. (Times file photo)
  4. Former nursing assistant Falo Kane, 32, of Clearwater, faces seven counts of sexual battery of a physically helpless person. Clearwater police are now looking for more potential victims at other health care facilities. [CLEARWATER POLICE DEPARTMENT]  |  Clearwater Police Department
    Falo Kane is accused of assaulting six patients at four facilities since 2016. Clearwater detectives want to know if there are other victims.
  5. Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos listens to a speaker share an opinion about a city matter during a city council meeting at Clearwater City Hall in Clearwater, Fla. on Thursday, April 20, 2017.  On Thursday, the Clearwater City Council rejected the mayor's resolution urging lawmakers to ban assault weapons.  [Times files] TIMES FILES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    However, the city did pass a resolution calling for more modest gun control measures.
  6. Michael Robert-Jose Harbaugh has pleaded guilty in the 2017 slaying of Safety Harbor neighbor David Sommer, a former reporter. Harbaugh also pleaded guilty to a charge he tried to have a witness in the case killed. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
    Former journalist David Sommer was killed in 2017. Michael Harbaugh, 42, agreed to serve 30 years in prison for his crimes.
  7. A team of a dozen victims' rights attorneys on Wednesday filed the third lawsuit in three months against the Church of Scientology and its leader David Miscavige. The complaint states a woman was repeatedly sexually abused as a child in Scientology's care and that church policy enabled the abuse. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU  |  AFP/Getty Images
    The third lawsuit filed against Scientology and leader David Miscavige in three months accuses the church of sexual battery, racketeering and conspiracy
  8. Falo Kane, 32, of Clearwater, now faces four counts of sexual battery of a physically helpless person and a violation of probation charge, according to police. [CLEARWATER POLICE DEPARTMENT]  |  Clearwater Police Department
    Falo Kane now faces a total of seven counts of sexual battery of a physically helpless person.
  9. Tampa has a pilot program underway to test scooters. Clearwater could soon have one of its own. But if it's limited to downtown, who will use it? CHRIS URSO  |   Times
    The city’s plan is coming into focus, but there will be limitations.
  10. John Jonchuck returned to a Pinellas County courtroom last month to attend a hearing about whether he was entitled to a new trial. A judge on Tuesday ruled that he is not. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    Jonchuck was convicted of first-degree murder in April. He dropped his 5-year-old daughter, Phoebe Jonchuck, off a bridge in 2015.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement