When Javan Grant joined the North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce in 2014, he said it was a smaller chamber but its “level of engagement” was infectious.
“I still remember one of the first events that I attended. It was a lunch at Tampa Bay Golf & Country Club. I literally knew no one, going in. When I walked out, I had a small group of friends.
“It was that experience, that day, that led me to jump headfirst into getting involved, in not only the chamber and its mission, but also our local community,” said Grant, recently named chairman of the chamber’s board of directors.
Early on, Grant said, he recognized “it was only a matter of time before this chamber was going to explode.”
And, that’s exactly what happened, he added, detailing the chamber’s expansion.
“First, it merged with the New Tampa Chamber, creating a two-county regional chamber.
“Next, in 2017, we merged with Trinity-Odessa Chamber, creating the largest chamber in Pasco County, he said, that serves all of Pasco, and New Tampa, too.
The membership growth, of 26%, was significant, he said.
“It all culminated in 2019 when the chamber achieved what many here thought may have been impossible when it first became an organization,” he said. The North Tampa Bay Chamber was named the 2019 Florida Chamber of the Year.
“The chamber was hitting its stride, membership was up, growth was exploding and engagement was off the charts. The sky was truly, the limit,” Grant continued.
“Then, Covid happened and with it, not only changes that impacted each of your lives and each of your businesses, but it impacted the chamber as well.
“We went from being chamber of the year in 2019 — with packed events like we have today to having no events — to having to create a chamber road show, just so we could provide some type of engagement for our members,” Grant told those gathered at the chamber’s Dec. 7 breakfast meeting.
“Like many of you, and many of your businesses, the chamber had to pivot and we had to pivot quickly. And, it hasn’t been easy, just like I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for any of you.
“But slowly, slowly we weathered the COVID storm, and now look at us, two years, post the pandemic, here we are, packed house. Enjoying each other’s company. Enjoying each other’s friendship, once again. Being together, once again.
“Yet,” he continued, “we still have such a long way to go.”
Grant then challenged chamber members: “Jump headfirst into that arena with us. Help us hit reset and relaunch the chamber for 2022. We need your passion. We need your engagement. We need every single one of you, and those outside of here, to help bring us back to where we were before COVID hit.
“You’ve got to remember: This is your chamber. It’s not just mine. It’s not just our board’s. It’s yours. So, ask yourself: What would you like to see accomplished, for the chamber to accomplish in 2022?
“Let’s get fully engaged. Let’s relaunch the North Tampa Bay Chamber.”
While Grant focused on inspiring fresh energy, outgoing chairman Michael Berthelette spent a few minutes reflecting on the chamber’s recent accomplishments, despite COVID obstacles.
“2021 was a most challenging year, in every aspect possible. Unprecedented is almost an understatement,” Berthelette said.
“Your chamber team demonstrated tremendous leadership over the past 12 months.
“Our team made savvy financial decisions, finding new sources of income and cutting operating expenses, to deliver a positive financial year,” he said.
One of his top priorities, as chairman, was in the area of social justice.
“We took a very public stand on the issues of equality and inclusion,” he said, noting the chamber received a Business of Pride Award in June, from a partnership between The Tampa Bay Business Journal and The Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber.
It received the honor for being “an outstanding LGBT ally, advocate, company and chamber who’s making a difference in advocating equality in the business world,” Berthelette said.
He also talked about an appearance by Hope Kennedy, the chamber president and CEO, on a national call advocating support for the Equality Act.
The call was organized by Freedom for All Americans Coalition in Washington D.C.
A news release detailing the event said the Equality Act would modernize the nation’s civil rights laws by including explicit protections for LGBTQ+ people, as well as improve protections for women, people of color, and people of all faiths.
“Thank you to Hope and the North Tampa Bay Chamber for your continued advocacy in passage of The Equality Act, and for your leadership, in the space of social justice,” Berthelette said.
Published December 29, 2021