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New SouthShore Chamber of Commerce comes together

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The new SouthShore Chamber of Commerce has been formally initiated.

By MELODY JAMESON

APOLLO BEACH – Dedicated to the business interests of the district and aiming to be a political voice for the area, the new SouthShore Chamber of Commerce has been formally initiated.

An “Ambassador Breakfast” here Friday morning officially marked unification of two former community chambers – Ruskin and Apollo Beach – as a single, larger organization with defined missions on behalf of the two distinct business centers.

For the time being, both chamber offices will remain open, continuing to function as before the two memberships voted to merge their efforts and resources, said Melanie Morrison, now executive director of the new entity.

How long this arrangement will be maintained is a matter of money, she indicated. Offices of the former Ruskin chamber on U.S. 41 at 4th Avenue are provided as a donation to the group, Morrison noted, while the presently rented quarters occupied by the former AB chamber in a business complex further north on U.S. 41 are paid for with chamber revenues.

The new chamber’s top leadership team remains essentially as before, with Patti Thornton, a SunTrust banker in Ruskin, as president, Joel Meek, with All Bay Insurance Group, AB, as president elect, and Tony Zipperer, owner of Zipperer’s Funeral Home in Ruskin, as treasurer.

The roster of vice presidents serving the business group also remains unchanged.  They include: Ron Simpson, Weichert Realtors, AB, charged with marketing and the ambassadors program; Brandy Evans, Kennco Manufacturing, Ruskin,  presiding over educational partnerships;  Tom Belisle, RBC Bank, Sun City Center, leading economic development; Sherell Bennett, South Bay Hospital, responsible for legislative affairs, and Tony Morejon, Hillsborough County government, Tampa, overseeing hispanic affairs.

One change has transpired within the ranks of other board members, however, Morrison said. Greg Conley, former AB chamber president and operator of TSI in Apollo Beach, has been named to the governing board. He joined Larry Brooks, A&A Mortgage Funding, SouthShore and Tampa, Jason Chilson, a member of the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation staff at E.G. Simmons Regional Park, Mike Langjahr, Sun City Center Funeral Home, Charlie Lewis, Christ Community Church, AB and Gibsonton, as well as Gary Shumacher, Kaeser and Blair, Inc., AB.

The chamber’s governing board as now constituted includes a mixture of business types and locations, Morrison noted.  Plus, in January, three board seats will open up, available to accommodate any additional changes that might be needed, she added.

Chamber staff, in addition to Morrison, includes Linda Thibault and Suzanne Ramella, as executive administrators.

The new SouthShore chamber’s next scheduled event is an 8 AM coffee on Tuesday, July 12.  The SouthShore chamber’s first “Business After Hours” function, sponsored by Zipperer’s Funeral Home, Pearson Capital, A-ability and DJ Gary Stebbins, is set for 5:30 PM Wednesday, July 20, Morrison said.  Winner of the AB Honorary Mayor’s race also is to be announced on the latter date, she added.

In addition, both former chambers maintained websites which continue to be available on the internet, each with a link to the other, Morrison said.  A new website for the SouthShore organization is being built, she added.

As for the membership dues structure, it ranges from $100 annually for an individual membership to $500 for a company of more than 50 employees, with $50 increases effective with the increasing employee increments in between. In other words, Morrison said, the membership fee for a company of one to five employees would be $200 and $250 for a company of six to 15 staffers.  The annual dues also are prorated through the year, she added.

Morrison,  an 11-year AB resident who grew up in Brandon, was graduated from Hillsborough Community College and worked in upscale hotel branding and marketing as well as in her husband’s boat charter business, spoke with experience about the historical and demographic differences in the two communities now represented by a single chamber. But, she asserted, “the vision is the same.  We’re very confident we can mesh successfully, maintaining the pride taken in each distinct community while working together to drive more business development to the area.”

Now an organization of 400 members, the new chamber also is in position to be a politically responsive group on behalf of the entire SouthShore area, she added.

The SouthShore chamber joins a substantial number of other, like named business groups located around the country, according to the internet.

Copyright 2011 Melody Jameson

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