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Business leaders form new chamber in Matlacha

By Staff | Oct 9, 2012

A new chamber of commerce for Matlacha has been established to help promote the businesses, as well as draw more individuals to the area.

During a meeting held Sept. 20, the group unanimously voted Leoma Lovegrove as the president of the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce, Mike Shevlin as the vice president, Karen Moran as the secretary and treasurer and Donna Loibl as the parliamentarian.

The mission statement was also determined during the same meeting, which is to “promote Matlacha as a destination for shopping, business, ecotourism, fishing, and the arts district. Foster and maintain the favorable relationship with local government community groups and local residence. Actively pursue the unique and artistic qualities of historic fishing village of Matlacha through the business community.”

The board of directors agreed that they do not want to take anything away from the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce as the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce grows.

Although Lovegrove, owner of Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens, will remain a member of the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, she said Matlacha really does not need to be under the umbrella of another chamber.

“We can do more for Matlacha as one voice,” she said. “We can concentrate on just us.”

Lovegrove said since they do love Pine Island, they would promote St. James City and Bokeelia when individuals stay in the area for longer than a day.

“If they are daytripping, chances are we are going to be keeping them in Matlacha. We can keep a family busy in Matlacha all day and all evening,” she said. “We want to help all, if they are here for the weekend, we are going to send them everywhere.”

Shevlin, a Century 21 Sunbelt Realty Inc. broker and Realtor, said he thinks what the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce has done for the community is wonderful.

“I think that is an excellent chamber and they have done a wonderful job through the years,” he said.

The Matlacha Chamber of Commerce, he said, is a little more specific for the needs of the businesses in Matlacha.

Shevlin said they are not trying to take away from the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, but rather enhance the communication between business people of Matlacha and other areas.

“Hopefully it will be a great organization,” he said.

Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce President John Paeno said the start of the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce has not affected the GPICC at this point.

Lovegrove said a group of individuals has been meeting since last spring to start the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce. She said they have already filled out all the paperwork necessary to form the organization.

Moran, a full-time resident and small business owner in Matlacha, said the number one goal of the chamber is to help the businesses.

“The number one goal of the new Matlacha Chamber of Commerce is to work with and help local businesses overcome the business challenges we all face,” she said.

Moran said she would love to see a series of monthly “Lunch n’ Learn” programs started through the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce, that would address a variety of topics ranging from how to start a new business to taping into marketing programs already available.

Loibl, a commercial property owner of Matlacha, thinks that the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce will do well for the business owners because it will only enhance the community.

Lovegrove said that Matlacha is very different than a dozen years ago, due to the net ban that took place for fishing, which is another reason she wanted to form the chamber.

“Tourism has definitely taken over and of course the city has changed quite a bit in the last 12 years, we have become a destination,” she said. “We want them to plan their destination; we want to be a part of their destination when they hit Florida. Our goal is to get our hotels and motels filled up and our B&Bs filled up here year round. We don’t want them to happen upon us, we want to be a part of their vacation plans.”

Shevlin said a number of years ago a group got together to talk about Matlacha, so things could be discussed about the historic district, as well as generate ideas between business individuals.

“We had a couple of meetings and it didn’t go very far,” he said.

So when Lovegrove contacted him about a chamber of commerce for Matlacha, he was on board.

“It seemed to be a perfect venue for the business people in that specific location to be able to talk and discuss,” ideas and thoughts through a chamber, he said. “Matlacha is turning into a destination for people in Lee County, or elsewhere to come and take a look at this really unique village in Lee County.”

Moran found the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce to be a perfect fit because she was looking for an opportunity to work with and help her neighbors.