The Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce will celebrate its 40th anniversary on June 26 with its awards and installation banquet at The Event Factory, 7565 W. Hillsborough Ave.
But it originally got its start as the Land O’ Lakes Chamber of Commerce. It was a different name at a different time in the area’s growth.
“When this chamber first started, (US Highway) 41 was a one-lane roadway each way, and the intersection of 41 and (State Road) 54 was a stop sign,” said executive director Meredith Kleker.
The roads have grown quite a bit since that time, and so has the chamber. Now boasting more than 400 members, the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce has continued to serve the needs and be a voice for Central Pasco and Northern Hillsborough residents and businesses.
That influence can be seen in the advocacy and support for what are now considered staples in the area. From the Suncoast Parkway to the Baldomero Lopez State Veterans’ Nursing Home, chamber businesses and individuals have been a part of improving the community for decades.
While the numbers have grown and the names have changed, the secret ingredient in the chamber’s success has stayed the same, according to member Terri Dusek.
It’s about the people.
“They care about their community, and they care about each other,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful. I absolutely love our chamber.”
Dusek also loves her title as honorary mayor of Land O’ Lakes. She earned it by winning a race to raise the most money, which goes to the chamber and helps fund local causes and groups. She also directed a portion to the charity of her choice, ShelterBox, which provides emergency relief and aid to disaster victims.
Last year’s race wasn’t much of a contest, Dusek said. In the end, she was the only candidate. While that might have given her license to relax and take it easy on the fundraising, she did no such thing. Instead she collected more than $4,000 to earn the title. Now, after a year’s worth of ribbon-cutting and other ceremonial duties, she’ll turn it over to this year’s winner at the end of the month.
While she won’t be mayor anymore, she’ll remain an active member of the chamber, which will benefit both her realty business and her personal growth.
“It has helped me in my own business, and it has helped me in a lot of different areas of my life,” Dusek said. “I’m happy, I love going to our events, I love being around the people that are there. I love meeting new people when they come in. It’s helped me grow in all areas, not just business.”
But business continues to be a big focus for the chamber, and as the area has grown, their work has grown with it. That means plenty of work ahead for incoming officers, including president-elect Mary Lynn Gorsline, the team of directors and the chamber’s ambassadors.
One consistent focus for the chamber is the effort to shop locally and strengthen the local economy. For instance, the chamber has a member discount program called Shop Local First, where businesses offer special discounts and encourage working with local residents and their companies.
At the same time, chamber members have networking groups, the business expo and special events such as their golf tournament, clay shooting event and Dancing With Our Stars, which spotlights local talent.
As they look toward the future, they’ll continue to support local endeavors and foster growth within the community. Just as they’ve done for the past 40 years.
“We’ve stayed true to our roots, and we always try to find ways to encourage the community to shop local and support our businesses, because our businesses support our community,” Kleker said.
For information about the chamber, call (813) 909-2722, or visit CentralPascoChamber.com.
Published June 24, 2015