Central and West Pasco chambers plan to join forces

The boards for the Central Pasco and West Pasco chambers of commerce have voted to become a single chamber, effective July 1, pending due diligence by both chambers’ boards.

Leadership from both groups said they’re excited by the prospects.

The new chamber — which has yet to be named — will have more than 1,000 members. Its membership will reach from around Interstate 75, to the western edge of Pasco County.

“There are advantages for both the chambers and for the chamber members,” said Greg Armstrong, chairman of the board for the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce.

“For the chambers, it means more services for less money. In today’s competitive environment that’s what you have to do.

“As for the members, the advantages are measured a little bit differently.

“They’ll have more marketing opportunities — to reach a larger market, which is the trend today.

“They’ll have more networking opportunities, in a larger area.

“And, quite frankly, they’ll get more bang for their buck.

“In the growth area of (State Road) 54, they won’t have to wonder: ‘Should I join this one? Or, should I join that one?’ As a result, a lot of people didn’t join either.

“Now, they just join THE chamber. We take that problem out of it,” Armstrong said.

“That is one of the two best growth areas in the United States right now, for business, and there was no reason to spend our time fighting over the members. We want to spend our time working for the members,” Armstrong added.

Les Saland, president of the board for the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce, said, “we want this to happen because it really is a good deal for the members.

“We’re going to be splitting the board, initially, for the first two years. It’s going to be seven members of the West Pasco board and seven members of the Central Pasco board to comprise the board of directors.

“The chairman of the board for the first year will be the incoming chairman of the board from West Pasco Chamber, and then the second year, the chairman of the board will be our current incoming president.

“Then, after that, it will be by nomination of the board.

“We wanted to make sure that our members have equal representation. This is not a takeover or anything like that. It had to work for everybody,” Saland said.

Both offices will remain open, and staff members will be retained, Saland said.

“If we move the office into their (West Pasco Chamber) current office, which is on Main Street in New Port Richey, that doesn’t work well for the current members who are in Central Pasco, or in Land O’ Lakes, or even possibly on the eastern side of Trinity/Odessa. That’s a long drive,” Saland said.

The combined chamber will have more political clout, both leaders said.

“Let’s face it, government has to do what it does and sometimes it’s not in the best interest of business,” Armstrong said. “If we’re speaking for more than a 1,000 members, they (political leaders) sit on the edge of the chair. If you’re a smaller chamber, they might sit back in their chair.

Having such representation is especially important for chamber members, Armstrong added.

“Eighty-five percent of our members, in both chambers, are very small businesses. Having been that most of my life, I can tell you, there’s a lot of times, you have to snorkel to get air — because you’re working that many hours.

“They don’t have time to even know that a problem is coming, much less figure out a way to deal with it, or make it not happen.

“As a chamber, we can impact those things,” he said.

Organizing a unified chamber will take a concerted effort and involves working out myriad details, both leaders said.

“I think we have a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m excited,” Armstrong said. “We have a chance to clean the chalkboard and set us up for the next decade. I really think we’re going to benefit all of the communities. You’ve got Land O’ Lakes, Lutz (the Pasco part of Lutz). You’ve got Odessa, Trinity, Holiday, New Port Richey, Port Richey, Hudson. Now we’re talking about almost 250,000 people that we represent.”

Published March 13, 2019

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