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Chamber celebrates successful 2019 at Chairman’s Gala

By Staff | Jan 14, 2020

Members of the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce gathered at Palmetto Pine Country Club last Friday evening to celebrate one of the most successful years the organization has experienced in some time.

The annual Chairman’s Gala saw leaders in the business community share good times and good fortune, as 2019 was a prosperous year. As usual, a new chairman and board were sworn in by Lee County Commissioner Raymond Sandelli.

“It was a very, very exciting 2019 for us,” said Donna Germain, Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. “We not only met, but exceeded our membership goals for the chamber. We brought in 215 new members, our goal was 204. Our retention rate is outstanding. It’s the highest it’s been in many, many years.

“So, we’re seeing a positive continuation of how our businesses are doing, how our economy is doing,” she continued. “Our new members are getting in and getting busy. We’re very excited for how this year went and we hope to continue that through 2020.”

Germain has been with the chamber for over a decade, and said 2019 is hopefully a sign on continued prosperity for businesses in one of the fastest growing cities in the country.

“I’ve been with the chamber for 15 years, and it took us a long time after the downturn in the economy to come back,” Germain said. “It’s been a slow, steady increase, but this year we just knocked it out of the park, so we’re excited.”

The night wouldn’t be complete without honoring members who have gone above and beyond the call of duty via awards that were distributed by Germain and outgoing 2019 Chairman, Bill Jacob.

Awards included:

* Board Member of the Year: Bill Johnson Jr, CCCIA

* Trustee of the Year: Mick Sheldrake, Kiwanis Club of Cape Coral, Guardian Angles for Special Populations

* Member of the Year: Seminole Casino Hotel

* New Member of the Year: Veronica Green, Discount Med Direct

* Volunteer of the Year: Annette Warren, Priority Business Solutions

* Government Affairs Com-mittee Member of the Year: Ed Ramos, Ramos Builders

* Membership Development Committee Member of the Year: Angela Gartin, Badger Business Solution

* Education Committee Member of the Year: Robin Klingler, Cape Coral Art League

* Welcome Center Volunteer of the Year: Ann Maiorella

“Chamber Champions” included Horseman’s Landscaping, Cooper Bisbe, WastePro, Chris Spiro of Spiro & Associates and Angela Davis of Merril Lynch.

The final award of the night saw longtime Cape community and business leader, Gloria Tate, receive the Chamber Lifetime Achievement Award.

“We would not have a chamber without this woman,” Germain said. “”I can’t think of a better person, and we couldn’t think of anybody else that deserves this more.”

Tate was honored to accept the award.

“I can’t think of a better reason to give my life for a cause than the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce,” Tate said. “I grew friendships that have lasted my lifetime and when I really needed them, they were here. I’ve grown business to heights I never knew even existed, because of the friends and the people that I got to meet along the way.”

“Thank you to the Cape Coral Chamber for the leadership that has always been behind me and above me.”

The last piece of business was to pass the gavel from Jacob to incoming Chairman Matt Connar of Boost Creative. Connor has been involved with the chamber for 11 years and said some keys to success include building contacts, having a good attitude and putting in the work.

“I’m ready to take on a new responsibility,” Connar said. “I’m pretty excited to take on the new role.”

One of his top priorities is revamping the Chamber of Commerce building, which is oftentimes the first place a new resident or business owner may visit when coming to Cape Coral.

“I’ve got a lot of different things I’m thinking about,” Connor said. “One of the new initiatives is to rekindle the discussion on a potential new building for the chamber. It’s a conversation that — I’m kind of standing on the shoulder of people before me. They set it into motion years ago, but for whatever reason it lost momentum and I want to rekindle that and maybe set up a task force or a committee to engage that conversation again.”

Connor said a great way to become integrated in the chamber is to take part in Leadership Cape Coral — a course that takes a deep dive into all things Cape Coral and Lee County.

“What really kickstarted my involvement with the chamber was joining the leadership class,” Connor said. “Since then, it’s just been volunteerism — donating my time and services. It really gave me a channel to give back to the community more than anything else, and that’s important to me.”

His advice to new business owners coming to the Cape, or any current businesses thinking about joining the chamber?

“I think if you come to the chamber and think it’s a place that you’re just going to come ‘get business,’ I think you’re going to be at a disadvantage,” Connor said. “My advice to a new business would be to join the chamber and then get involved in the chamber. Join a committee, volunteer at an event, rub elbows with some of the people that have been here for a while — they’re going to fast-track you to success and that’s really going to bear the fruit in the long run.”

The chamber plays host to numerous special events throughout the calendar year, such as the Cape Coral Farmers Market, which has, for the last 25 years, brought more than 200,000 visitors to the South Cape; the Holiday Festival of Lights; Taste of the Cape; Freedom 5K; Women’s Leadership Conference and more.

In the past, the chamber also has been involved in Red, White & BOOM, Celebrate Cape Coral, Cinco De Mayo and countless others.

The chamber also hosts four free marketing events each month to encourage networking within the organization.

For more information on the chamber and how to get involved, visit www.capecoralchamber.com.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj