Chambers of commerce representing the business communities in Zephyrhills and Dade City are beginning to explore the possibility of merging into a single chamber.
The boards for the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce have approved the formation of a task force to look into the logistics and possible benefits of merging the two organizations.
Melonie Monson, the CEO of the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce, and John Moors, executive director of the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce, recently told The Laker/Lutz News that it is unclear how long it will be before a merger, if one occurs, will happen.
“All we’re looking at is the opportunity to be able to put options on the table,” Moors said.
He explained why combining forces is being considered.
“(The) No. 1 reason is that we feel that a larger chamber — in my perspective, in any case — would better represent businesses in the eastern Pasco area,” Moors said.
“With the influx of residential, we know that commercial is following that, that this area continues to grow and grow and spread, as we’ve seen in Wesley Chapel. We’re not suggesting that’s a great thing. We’re not suggesting it’s not,” he said.
However, Moors added: “We would be better prepared as a chamber, to service our business members, if we were somewhat prepared for that growth.”
Monson noted: “We’ve seen successful mergers of other chambers in Pasco County and the strength that that can bring in numbers. So, we felt that this was the opportune time, to look at this more closely right now.”
She also noted that impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic have affected the timing of the discussion.
“With all that everyone is going through, due to the pandemic, we felt that it was time to revisit it,” Monson said.
The task force will be made up of people from both communities, including businesses and larger organizations.
The task force also will consider potential obstacles, as well as how to preserve the identities of each community, if a merger occurs, she added.
It also will explore: “Is this something we need to do?” she added.
Zephyrhills is among the largest municipalities in the county, if not the largest municipality, and Dade City is the county seat, Monson said.
Does it make sense to join forces to come together with one voice for advocacy and economic development, she asked.
Once the task force completes its due diligence, it will bring a recommendation to the boards.
Input from members will be sought, too, she said.
Moors said he has no speculation of the future structure of the chamber because that would come out of the task force.
“There’s really nothing for sure. All we’re really doing is forming a task force and looking at the combination, and at what best practices there might be, in a joint chamber,” he said.
One question that will be asked is: “What should the focus of the organization be?” Moors said.
The effort is being made to make sure the chambers are doing the best they can to remain sustainable and continue serving their members, he said.
Besides creating a more powerful voice, by merging memberships, there also might be a reduction in overhead, both chamber leaders said.
“There’s an economy of scale,” Moors said. “If there’s an opportunity to be able to maximize their economies of scale, then in most cases, businesses will do that. It’s only good fiduciary responsibility,” Moors said.
“Primarily, people join a chamber of commerce because they want to network and they want to interact with people of like minds, from a business perspective. And, they want to have a voice in initiatives that are moving forward in their area both from a political point of view and from business associations, and that sort of thing,” Moors said.
Work is expected to get started on naming a task force and studying the issues, Monson said.
It’s hard to say how quickly that work will be done, the recommendations will be made and whether the chambers will decide to move forward with a merger — or drop the idea.
A merger between the Zephyrhills and Dade City chambers would be the third merger of its type among Pasco County chambers.
The North Tampa Bay Chamber is made up of chambers that previously represented Wesley Chapel, New Tampa, Trinity and Odessa.
The Greater Pasco Chamber of Commerce resulted from a merger between the West Pasco and Central Pasco chambers.
Published October 07, 2020