Chamber Orientation Meeting - standing room only!

Wow – could we have fit any more people into the room if we tried? Probably not! Yesterday’s New Member Orientation Meeting was jam-packed with both new and potential members. And, the fun part was meeting and talking with the diverse crowd that attended – from education, to finance, to marketing, to restaurants, to home improvement and everything in between.

It was a great meeting – chock full of information about up-coming events and programs with a focus on the Community, Promotions and Economic Development initiatives. The energy in the room proved that working together will positively impact not only our own businesses, but the entire community.

Oh, and the food! We have to mention the food! outdid themselves (as always!). Just another reason to look forward to the next Orientation meeting!

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Announcing up-coming meetings and events...

Adrienne Frucci and Ivory Blackwood greeting attendees

The Staff of United Capital of Tampa Bay with their St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce membership plaque

United Capital of Tampa Bay is a private wealth counseling company located in Pinellas County. According to Managing Director, Mark Chmielewski, United Capital’s job is to “help our clients avoid big losses and protect profits.” It’s an established fact that most people do not have a coordinated financial plan and are more than  likely taking more financial risks than they need to. That’s why obtaining professional advice is so important.

United Capital takes the financial welfare of their clients seriously and uses a planning process called “Honest Conversations™”  – an ongoing identifier of long-term goals that provides unique solutions to manage the risks. Briefly, the process begins with having an “Honest Conversation™” about the client’s finances that addresses two simple facts that: 1) no one can predict the future; and 2) no one can control the financial market. Thus the necessity for stable risk management solutions.

Other phases of the process that United Capital uses with their clients is to: take control of their financial life; follow their own master plan; and choose independent solutions. For further information, go to .

Terry McFatter accepting The Bank of Tampa's membership plaque

Their name is The Bank of Tampa… their tag line is “Locally connected – personally committed”.

And now they’re connecting in St. Petersburg.

The Bank of Tampa is a community bank committed to taking an active role in our chamber and our city.

President A. Gerald Divers is quoted as saying that their “values continue to be centered on personal service, trust, respect, high ethical standards and confidentiality.

What makes this bank’s model a bit different? Niche focus. Since 1964 they have focused on some specific sectors which has resulted in their having relationships with 40% of the law firms, 25% of the medical practices and an estimated 20% of designated owner-managed businesses in Hillsborough County. And they’re bringing this kind of focus and expertise to our members too.

President Divers, Terry McFatter (pictured here) and their entire team has a great reputation in the region and the state – and we’re excited to have them join us in our great city. Welcome Bank of Tampa!

Hillddrup United Van Line's Ernie Kassoff and "friend" receive their Chamber membership plaque

The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce welcomes member Ernie Kassoff of Hilldrup United Van Lines!

Originally called Hilldrup Moving and Storage, the company was founded in 1903 as a horse and carriage transportation company based in Fredericksburg, Va.

Hilldrup continued with horses and carriages as their mode of transportation until the 1920s when they upgraded to motor vehicles and added bus, taxi, rigging and freighting services. In the 50s Hilldrup began focusing on the moving and storage industry, sold off all of its other divisions and moved on to partner with United Van Lines in the 60s. That partnering allowed Hilldrup to significantly expand their service area.

Now in its second century, Hilldrup continues its long history of commitment to excellence by focusing on quality service. In fact, their stated goal is to “maintain lasting relationships by providing outstanding service every time; satisfying the customer, no matter how great the challenge; honoring all service commitments; employing skilled professionals….”. Hilldrup prides itself on their use of technology and extensive training to support their business processes, all of which have resulted in numerous customer-service awards.

Visit for more information.

In this job I get to work with some incredible people…good folks who really care about the future of our city. And most of the time our relationships revolve around the roles we play in our daily lives…you know, I’m the chamber guy, you’re the _______(fill in the blank – ie lawyer, banker, tech guy, university official etc). And for most of us, that’s how we want to be known…but every once in a while, we’ll stumble upon someone who we learn so much more about. Last Saturday night was one of those great moments for me when my family and I attended Terry Brett’s One Man Show. Terry is a great leader of our community and a past chairman of this chamber. He runs a local funeral home in town and has always been part of those things good about St. Pete. But he’s so much more…he’s an artist…a creative soul who’s courageous enough to put this work on the wall for all to see and say – “here I am.”  Who knew? – not me…When he greeted me at the door of the Interior Motives Gallery – he proudly showed me his work and jokingly said “geez Chris, I hope this side of me doesn’t scare you away!”…we joked about it and then my family and I strolled through this great gallery and took in his work. And had a great time. While we couldn’t stay long, his words seemed to keep echoing in my head…you see, i found myself more drawn to him – for his willingness to expose his other talents and interests gave me a deeper appreciation for all he has to offer……rather than just being defined by his business card, he showed me another side…and i bet there’s many of us who, for whatever reason,  may feel these constrains…but in this city, you’ll find that there’s an opportunity to be so much more…and that’s a pretty great place to be.

St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport's Community & Media Relations Director Michelle Routh and Director Noah Lagos Receive Their St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce Membership Plaque

We are so pleased to welcome the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport () as a member of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce!

These days, airports everywhere are facing challenges such as rising fuel prices and security issues that are resulting in increased ticket prices and additional charges. So, how wonderful to hear that an April 2011 NY Times article,  ,  found the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport to be the most competitively priced small airport in the nation! And the Airport’s Spring 2011 newsletter, Fly2Pie News, proves this by reporting a strong schedule over the past few months that was averaging over 75 weekly flights.

Other recent news about the Airport includes:

- Vision Airlines has expanded their service to include air service to Ft. Walton Beach/Destin FL, connections to Asheville, NC, Huntsville, AL and Chatanooga, TN in addition to their regular service to Biloxi, MS.

- Allegiant’s new air service facility has been completed.

- Commercial filming continues at PIE including a Discovery Channel episode of “Life on a Wire”.

Subscribe to the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airports e-newsletter, to keep up on the latest news!

I had the opportunity last night to finally see a FC Tampa Bay game at Al Lang Stadium – and I walked out of there wondering why it took me so long. Every time I go back into this historic field – I just feel the energy of all the good times past – there’s just something special there. And now it’s home to – our region’s professional soccer team. While many locals just haven’t gotten into the sport, it’s a game that if seen in the right venue with the right crowd – can be electric. Which brings me to -quite possibly the most energized sports fanatics in our community. While the name was generated from the original “Rowdies” icon of years past, these folks are definitely living for today. It’s this mob that keeps the pace for all the fans – they’re energy and enthusiasm for all the subtleties of the game is quite creatively generated into songs, cheers and jeers that keeps everyone on their toes. As I sat back and took it all in with my family and friends – it hit me that there’s some good take-aways to learn from Ralph’s Mob. Here’s a few:
1. Energy is exponential: The mob’s dancing and singing had me and my family doing the same – even though we were sections away.
2. Low-tech can be as impactful as high-tech: these folks didn’t use any digital billboards or pre-recorded music videos to get my attention – simple messages delivered with enthusiasm had me hooked.
3. People will follow a good leader: this mob was proud to quickly and loudly support the commands of their cheer leader – his passion quickly enlisted his mob (and my family/friends) without any cajoling.
4: Have fun, it’s a game!: While most of us tend to look at the scoreboard to identify our successes, last night i was reminded by youngest son the best lesson of all when he said: “dad, it’s nice that they won, but I’m just glad we had a good time – together.”

So go see and when you do, go sit as close as you can to the mob – you’ll come home with more than a ticket stub.

Mr. Sun is back in St. Pete

Speaking of St. Pete…
As you can imagine, being the President of the St. Petersburg Chamber, I get asked all the time about what’s going on in St. Petersburg. While some may want  to dwell on what’s not going so well, I find so many more interested in  discovering the good news stories in our community…and we all can use more of those positive vibrations, right?!
So consider us your official source for all that’s good about St. Pete.
And to help us set the mood for our messages  – we’ve brought back someone who has a long history with sharing  this city’s good news - Mr. Sun!
That’s right, he’s back and looks like he hasn’t changed a bit. (must be drinking from that fountain of youth!)
As many of you old ‘burgers might remember, Mr. Sun was used on pretty much everything promoting St.Petersburg as the Sunshine City. His omnipresent smile always seemed to welcome visitors and residents  – and became quite an icon for our community.
My explanation here

You’ll be seeing him around town and at the Chamber – anywhere there’s good news to share. We’re excited to welcome him back as we remind everyone of all good stuff going on in this city…ready, set…go!


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