By PENNY FLETCHER
RIVERVIEW- Several changes in the way the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce does business has enabled it to hold its membership level throughout 2010 and go into 2011 in the black, despite the poor economy.
While nationally, business is down, and Florida hovers at a 13 percent unemployment rate, the Riverview business community is holding steady.
“Some businesses have closed, but we’ve gained new businesses too, so we’ve been able to keep our membership levels right at 400,” said executive director Tanya Doran. “We’ve had to tighten our belts here at the chamber, but our members appreciate that. They’re glad to see that their dues are being used wisely.”
The chamber office moved into smaller quarters in November, when offered what Tanya calls a “generous offer” for space by Brian Thatcher, owner of The Boardwalk of Riverview Offices at 10011 Water Works Lane. (Actually, the Boardwalk of Riverview is on Gibsonton Drive in Gibsonton, just east of the Interstate 75 ramps.)
“We made the move to downsize our expenses,” Tanya explained. “But it turned out the location has some really good perks.”
People exiting the Interstate see the chamber sign and stop for directions, maps and advice. Historic photos of the area that were once on the walls of a meeting room now line the entrance hall. And businesses get to show off their sites to other members when they host the chamber’s meetings and events.
By examining their budget closely the chamber was able to keep its two part-time front desk positions in the office as well as Tanya’s full time position.
And they have all been busy.
“In 2010 we had 27 ribbon cuttings, between new businesses opening and businesses that were celebrating an expansion or moving to a new location,” she said.
The incoming president, Sherri McLean-Walker, of Crane Tech LLC, is a good example of someone from a newly-relocated business that has really helped the area, Tanya said.
“Crane Tech gives training to crane operators all over the United States,” she told me. “It’s a longtime business that has always been located in Tampa but moved to Riverview recently and has become a real part of the community.”
Crane Tech LLC is now located in Winthrop Village on Bloomingdale Avenue.
Sherri and the chamber’s ambassadors are working hard with Tanya to make 2011 an even better year than 2010.The chamber’s further tightening of its operating budget won’t cut down on member benefits though.
In the last few months it has launched a revised Web site at www.RiverviewChamber.com, and offers both printed and on line versions of its monthly newsletter.
“We used to just have the on-line version, but some members wanted a copy they could hold in their hands,” Tanya said. “It may be the 21st Century, but not everyone wants to read online.”
This year the chamber’s main focus will be increasing membership, she said. With that aim in mind, a meeting of chamber ambassadors was held last month to set goals, which include, among other things, each ambassador visiting at least two businesses that are not chamber members each month and using the eight qualities identified in an exercise that makes someone “the perfect ambassador.”
The exercise was to draw a picture of what qualities a good ambassador should have, and Tanya keeps some of those drawings on the walls of her office.
“They’re just a fun thing to look at,” she said, as I examined them. The large poster papers were filled with hand-drawn stick people with big smiles holding telephones and wearing several hats. Most had big ears and some had several sets of eyes.
“They certainly all seem to know we need to keep our eyes and ears open to the needs of the people in the community,” Tanya said.