The kick-off meeting for a new area chamber of commerce serving Valrico and FishHawk Ranch drew 23 business owners Oct. 23 to Beef O' Brady's on Bell Shoals Road.
There, business owners were treated to hot wings and a presentation by the chamber's founder and president, Valrico business consultant Michael Holmes.
"We're here to establish a chamber of commerce," announced Holmes. "It's really exciting."
Holmes said the goal of the nonprofit chamber is to "push the needle."
"We need foot traffic, access to our businesses and more sales in the cash register," he said.
At the same time, he acknowledges that many businesses, especially in the FishHawk Ranch area, are home based and lack a physical presence in the community. He hopes to drive customers to those businesses with the help a a website that permits direct sales of products and services.
"We don't want to be just another networking group," he said. "We want to get you sales in the cash register."
Holmes also hopes to represent the Valrico and FishHawk Ranch business communities when it comes to government decisions that impact the area.
"We want to be part of the conversation when roads are widened, new buildings go up and new subdivisions are approved," he said.
Among those attending the inaugural chamber meeting were Gerald and Karen Ayers, owners of Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More in Valrico.
"We're thrilled to be part of this grassroots efforts," said Gerald Ayers, who designed the new chamber's logo. "We fell in love with this area and just want to be part of the community."
Karen Ayers has agreed to serve as secretary of the new chamber while Amy Vermeulen, branch manager of the Railroad & Industrial Credit Union in Valrico, will assume the role of treasurer.
FishHawk Computer Service in Park Square designed the new chamber's website. Its owners, Steve Cox, Nick Todisco and Jill Canavan, were on hand for the first chamber meeting.
"We got involved because we're starting to expand," said Cox. "We've now set up shop in Park Square and we're pushing for more business."
Although the chamber's main focus is the Valrico/FishHawk area, Holmes emphasized that the chamber is open to all area businesses. The cost to join is $150 for businesses with one to five employees, $225 for businesses with six to 15 employees, $337.50 for 16-45 employees and $506.25 for 46 or more employees.
The chamber will begin meeting monthly starting in January.
Anyone interested in joining can visit the chamber's website or contact Holmes at 813-380-4392.
New Valrico/FishHawk Chamber of Commerce to Host Debut Meeting