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Business

They will have to find time for their own ribbon cutting

The organization plans for a bigger home while expanding its reach in the business community.

By TERESA BURNEY, Times Correspondent
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 16, 2003


Since 1959, the Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce's home has been a tiny building tucked just off Brooksville's main drag.

Blink, and you'd miss it.

Chamber officers have decided it is time for a higher profile. The organization has begun planning to build a new home in a more noticeable location.

"We want something centrally located, with high visibility, perhaps in the (State Road) 50 corridor," said chamber executive director Jacqueline Morris. "We want something that will take us into the future and will be self-sustaining."

So far, those are the only things that have been decided about the new building, which chamber officials hope to build in three years, Morris said. A committee is working on finding the right location and design for the new chamber home as well as raising money to build it.

Thanks to a golf tournament that brought in three times the normal proceeds, the chamber has already raised $12,000 for the new building, Morris said.

"The building is very exciting to me," she said. "I think that we, as a chamber and as a business community, need to make a statement to anyone who comes to Hernando County that the business community here is viable, strong and contemporary."

Before the new building's ribbon-cutting, the chamber is going to have to buy a new pair of scissors.

The organization's old pair is getting dull from snipping ribbons at 95 business openings and expansions last year.

"We had so many ribbon-cuttings that we have not been able to publish them all," said Morris, who says the ribbon-cuttings are a sign of healthy business growth in the county.

Ribbon-cuttings and planning a new building aren't the only things the chamber has been busy with.

For several years, the organization's main goal has been to give its business-owning members more value for their membership dollars. As a result, chamber members can now meet, greet and network at just about any time of the day.

First, the chamber started offering after-hours mixers as well as its standard monthly breakfast meetings. Now, members have the option of attending monthly noon networking sessions as well.

The new networking opportunities have not diminished breakfast attendance, which has doubled in the last two years, Morris said.

Last year, the chamber published, printed and distributed 2,000 "Essential Guide to Starting and Operating a Small Business in Hernando County" booklets for business owners interested in relocating to the county. Morris said more are being printed now. The booklet is also offered on the chamber's updated Web site at www.hernandochamber.com. While keeping its business members happy is a priority at the chamber, the organization also has made time to provide some services to the community.

Last year's Celebrate America event on the Fourth of July at Weeki Wachee Springs, which attracted about 10,000 people, will not be the last, Morris said. Another is planned for this year with even better fireworks, she said.

"We want to keep the energy going."

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