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Chamber’s annual meeting boasts hope for the future

By Staff | Apr 22, 2009

During their annual gathering held on Tuesday night at ‘Tween Waters Inn, several members of the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce praised the progress witnessed over the past 12 months and predicted promise for the year ahead.

“This chamber is really wonderful and it’s only through the efforts of our members that makes it so,” said Sarah Ashton, who served as the Board of Director’s chairperson during 2008-09.

During her speech to approximately 90 members, Ashton noted success in accomplishing the three goals established at the start of her term: enhancing the Ambassador’s committee, establishing a Government Affairs committee and receiving acknowledgement for the chamber’s state accreditation.

“From my standpoint, as far as accomplishing those goals, we have been very successful,” she added.

Chamber president Ric Base followed with his “State of the Chamber” address, which cited several important statistics gathered over the previous year. In 2008, the chamber’s Welcome Center had more than 188,000 visitors (“Which makes us the number three or number four most visited Lee County attraction,” he noted.) and fielded more than 21,000 phone calls. Their Web site also yielded over one million referrals.

Base also explained the chamber’s financial stats: income generated totaled more than $723,000, operating expenses were slightly more than $657,000, leaving a reserve of about $65,000 in the chamber’s coffers.

“Fiscally, our chamber is in great shape,” Base added.

During the past year, the chamber succeeded with gaining greater exposure via the Islands Tour Bus (which promoted Sanibel and Captiva at events across the Sunshine State including a NASCAR race in Homestead, the Fort Lauderdale Boat Parade and the State Fair in Tampa).

Base also lauded the efforts of the chamber’s volunteers, which operate the Welcome Center 365 days a year.

“It takes a lot of people to run this chamber, and this group of staff and volunteers are some of the best people in the business,” he said.

Ashton and incoming board chairman Allen Myers handed out several awards prior to the evening’s post-meeting cocktail party reception. These included Scott Thompson of Fireservice (Sue Rosica Gray Award), Jeremy Kane and Blanaid Colley of Hillgate Communications (New Business Leader of the Year Award), Randy Bacik of Royal Shell Vacations and Island Cinema (Business Leader of the Year Award) and Francis Bailey of Bailey’s General Store (Citizen of the Year Award).

“We all want to continue to do what we’ve done during the last 12 months,” added Myers.

Members of the chamber’s 2009-10 Board of Directors include Danny Adams (Holiday Inn), Sarah Ashton (Island Sensations), Ric Base (Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce), Mark Blust (Timbers Restaurant), Dru Anne Doyle (Ocean’s Reach Condominiums), Dian Eddy (BIG ARTS), Wendy Erler-Schnapp (Tarpon Bay Explorers), Lee Ellen Harder (BIG ARTS), Barb Harrington (R.L.R. Investments), Richard Johnson (Bailey’s General Store), Allen Myers (TravelHost Magazine), Dan Schuyler (Lily & Co.), David Shepherd (Sundial Beach & Golf Resort), Jeff Shuff (‘Tween Waters Inn), Sandra Stilwell (Captiva Island Inn), Bill Waites (Aboriginals: Art of the First Person) and David Wright (Sanibel Captiva Community Bank).