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Local chambers form alliance

By Staff | Mar 25, 2009

Instead of a cacophony of voices from the various local chambers of commerce, business advocacy groups will be heard in unison on regional issues.
The Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral, along with the Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Lehigh Acres, Pine Island, Sanibel-Captiva and Hispanic organizations, joined to form the Lee County Alliance of Chambers.
All parties signed an agreement Tuesday outlining the alliance’s goals before traveling to Tallahassee for the sixth annual Lee County Days, where local elected officials and business leaders meet with state legislators and officials.
Marietta Mudgett, the alliance’s spokesperson and executive director of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, said the various chambers have been meeting informally for years, but the economic crisis provided the impetus for formalizing relations to share ideas on how to cope with the economic climate.
“The chambers of Lee County that are part of the alliance have been meeting together informally for over 20 years. Just recently, and I think the economy had something to do with it, we decided to get together more formally,” she said.
Heather Mazurkiewicz, trip coordinator for Lee County Days, said smaller chambers in the alliance would benefit from collaborating with Mudgett, who has 19 years of experience with the Fort Myers chamber, and Mike Quaintance, president of the Cape chamber for the past 13 years. But, she added, information would flow both ways.
“(Quaintance) has a longer tenure than other chambers. I think some of the other chambers will look to Cape Coral,” Mazurkiewicz said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a 200-member chamber or a 2,000-member chamber, you’re all there to share best practices.”
Quaintance said he has already picked up tips on how to deal with the troubled economy from the Fort Myers Beach chamber.
Keeping member businesses that are struggling with their own financial situations is a universal problem for chambers, and after hearing a reminder from the Fort Myers Beach chamber, he got back to basics.
“Now it’s more one-on-one. Now we have personal contact prior to the renewal to find out how we can better serve our members,” Quaintance said.
Lee County Days will run through Thursday. Meetings are scheduled with Alex Sanchez, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Bankers Association, the Department of Transportation and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, among others.