The chamber hopes Tom Morrissette's communications and marketing background will aid its expansion efforts.
By LORRI HELFAND
Published February 14, 2004
LARGO - After six months without a permanent leader, the Largo/Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce has named a new president who says he'll try to spread the chamber's gospel throughout the community.
Tom Morrissette of St. Petersburg took the helm Monday.
"I'm looking forward to the next six months. Being able to try new things and work hard in to further the name of the chamber of commerce in the community," Morrissette, 42, said.
The chamber has been searching for a new president since Charles Cronk resigned in August. For much of that time, Arlene B. Walker, chairman of the board, has overseen management of the chamber. It took a while, but an extensive search was necessary, Walker said.
"We didn't want to grab somebody off the street and just hire them. We wanted to make sure we had a good fit first."
Morrissette came to the area six months ago from Worcester, Mass. His last job was vice president of marketing and tourism with the Central Massachusetts Tourist Council. He was laid off shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he said.
He started his career as a reporter for newspapers and radio stations in Rhode Island, and worked for the Worcester Area Chamber of Commerce in Worcester, for 15 years.
Chamber work was more his style than reporting, he said.
"I wasn't going to cover accidents and robberies," he said. "Chamber work is positive work. There's a sense of optimism."
His marketing skills, chamber experience, enthusiasm and personality were all selling points, Walker said.
During Morrissette's service, the organization grew from less than 1,000 businesses to more than 4,000, making it the largest chamber of commerce in New England for several years.
Last spring, Largo's chamber changed its name from the Greater Largo Chamber of Commerce to the Largo/Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce, fueling the organization's goal of expanding membership beyond Largo's borders. It must also contend with larger, more aggressive chambers of commerce in neighboring Clearwater and nearby St. Petersburg.
"We're looking to grow our (organization) and reach outside of the city of Largo," Walker said.
Morrissette said his communications background will be an asset especially as the chamber launches its current membership drive.
With more than 500 businesses, membership is stable, but "growth is in the cards," he said.
"We just need to get the word out on the street and let everybody know we're here and what we're doing," Morrissette said.