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Business 2005

Bringing more value to Hernando businesses

The new chamber of commerce director wants to focus on services that help businesses and give them useful information.

By LOGAN NEILL
Published February 13, 2005


Though on the job for just a short time, Pat Crowley had a fairly good idea of the demands of her new job when she succeeded retiring Jacqueline Morris as executive director of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce.

For the previous five years, Crowley worked as the chamber's member services director, helping new businesses get acquainted with vital resources in the community.

She knew the hours would be long and that requests for her time would sometimes be taxing. But she was used to all of that. For Crowley, the job is all about the mission of helping steer the business community toward the realization of its goals.

"I think our most important task is bringing more value to our members," Crowley said. "That's what I intend to work toward during the coming year."

To do so, Crowley intends to focus on many of the user-friendly services that the chamber either initiated or significantly expanded in 2004. The frequent workshops and seminars sponsored by the chamber proved valuable to small business owners who are seeking answers to questions on financing and insurance matters, she said. In addition, last year's inaugural "Business-to-Business Expo" was well-attended by both chamber members and nonmembers.

Such resources, Crowley thinks, are vital to the owners of small enterprises, which make up about 85 percent of the chamber's membership. And with Hernando County in the midst of a construction boom, the need for such services is increasing.

"These businesses are the backbone of our local job market," Crowley said. "It makes sense that we provide affordable ways to get access to the information they need to grow and survive."

Crowley suggests another chamber goal of a hurricane preparation workshop to provide small business owners with ideas on how to bolster themselves if this year's hurricane season is a repeat of 2004.

Although most Hernando businesses were able to weather the economic hardship caused by lengthy power outages and lost tourist trade, others weren't. Crowley thinks many business owners fail to adequately shield themselves against such catastrophes.

"We're used to making all these preparations to keep our homes safe, so why not do the same for businesses?" Crowley asked.

With the county population topping 150,000, many in the business community suggest paying more attention to forming progressive partnerships between the public and private sectors. Last year, the county and members of the construction and real estate industries formed a liaison with the hope of creating meaningful dialogue. "It was definitely needed," said Maria Kretschmar, outgoing president of the chamber. "This area is nothing like it was 20 years ago, so it makes sense to start thinking ahead before it gets to the point where you regret what you didn't do then."

Kretschmar thinks that as long as the public and private sectors work toward agreeable goals, it is possible to keep the community's small-town charm while addressing the needs of a larger population.

"Growth is a double-edge sword," Kretschmar said. "We have a great stake in our area's natural beauty. It helps drive our economy and makes this a pleasant place to live. We definitely need to make certain we don't ruin that."

[Last modified February 8, 2005, 16:44:07]


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