The North Tampa Bay Chamber (NTBC) is once again competing for top honors among chambers across the nation.
It is among three finalists in its category, competing for the title of 2023 Chamber of the Year Award. There are four categories in the competition, presented by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), which is based in Alexandria, Virginia.
To ensure the fairest competition, applicants are grouped into categories based on annual revenue, membership, area population and other factors.
The ACCE has members affiliated with more than 1,600 chambers of commerce, and related business and economic development organizations. In total, it represents more than 9,000 professionals in the industry.
In announcing its selection as a finalist, the NTBC sent this message to its members: “The award, sponsored by Personify, is the most prestigious and competitive recognition presented annually by ACCE. It recognizes the leadership role chambers of commerce have in their communities. Those honored with the Chamber of the Year designation have demonstrated organizational strength and made an impact on key community priorities, such as education, transportation, economic prosperity, and quality of life.”
In its announcement, the NTBC also included a statement from Sheree Anne Kelly, the ACCE’s president and CEO.
“This year’s finalists truly represent excellence in the chamber industry. Through their roles as community partners, thought leaders and innovative problem solvers, each has demonstrated what it means to be a catalyst for growth and regional prosperity,” Kelly’s statement says.
Hope Kennedy, president and CEO of the NTBC, said being selected as a finalist “is an absolute honor.
“It is a true testament to the work that we’ve all done over the last year. More importantly, being back-to-back (as a finalist) is such a great opportunity to showcase our chamber on the national stage,” she said.
Justin Keeney, the chamber board’s current chairman, noted the NTBC was the only chamber in the group of finalists vying for the top honor for the second year in a row.
“We’re super excited. We’re happy to represent the region.
“To Hope’s credit, a lot of work is behind that nomination in getting to this part of the process,” Keeney said.
Kennedy believes the chamber was singled out because of its programs.
“ACCE did a Horizons Report several years ago on chambers and how to get your chamber to the next level. We’ve always used that as kind of our navigational beacon,” she said.
In answering questions in the contest application, the chamber tied its responses directly to different aspects to that Horizons Report, Kennedy said.
Two programs highlighted in the chamber’s application covered the issues of the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) and the need for affordable housing.
“Those two topics were very timely,” Kennedy said.
“The ERTC was little-known, probably even in the chamber industry,” she said.
The chamber put together a web page and video regarding the tax credit, to help its members understand who qualified and how to seek the credit.
Some chamber members said they had not applied because they didn’t qualify, but Keeney said the rules had changed and some applicants who previously had not qualified became eligible.
The chamber did a follow-up survey and was able to quantify that its members received $3.2 million through the tax credit, Keeney said, adding, “that’s just what we know.”
“It’s meaningful money for our small businesses,” he added.
In the arena of affordable housing, the chamber played an active role in advocating against a temporary moratorium imposed on new multifamily development in a portion of Pasco County.
Kennedy said the chamber sought “to educate the (Pasco County) commission, to educate our members, to educate our community on the fact that developers don’t come into an oversaturated market.”
The chamber’s position was that “the politics of multifamily housing should be put to the side — that we need to focus on attainable housing for the future,” the chamber president said.
Keeney noted affordable housing is needed to provide a place for front-line personnel to live in Pasco.
“Everybody likes to have police and firefighters and EMTs (emergency medical technicians) in our backyards, but if those folks can’t afford to live there, that’s a big problem.
“They can’t afford the rent. They can’t afford single-family homes.
“It became a real issue,” he said.
Kennedy said when the word “moratorium” is associated with a community, it has a trickle-down effect and is harmful to all developers. She said efforts must continue to address the shortage of housing needed for Pasco’s workforce.
When it announced its selection as a finalist, the NTBC also explained the award competition’s process. Chambers must qualify by meeting minimum thresholds in at least three of five key performance areas in ACCE’s Annual Chamber Operations Survey, including net revenue and assets, membership account retention and membership dollar retention, the chamber’s posting said.
They also must complete an extensive application. Applications are scored by peer chamber executives to determine the finalists. Winners are selected from among finalists based on an interview before a panel of experienced chamber professionals.
Kennedy will be joined in that July 31 interview by Javan Grant, the NTBC’s board chairman last year.
Other Florida organizations making it to the final round in their division are The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and the Orlando Economic Partnership.
The winner in each division will be announced on Aug. 1, during the Awards Show at ACCE’s Annual Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Published July 12, 2023