North Tampa Bay Chamber president & CEO Hope Allen regales Chamber members and guests with stories of the Chamber’s 20-year history on Aug. 6.

I have known North Tampa Bay Chamber (NTBC) president & CEO Hope Allen since the day she took over the leadership of the former Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce in 2013.

I and the Neighborhood News also have been strong supporters of the Chamber since it first formed back in 1998, so I have seen all of the changes the Chamber has gone through during its 20-year history.

Therefore, the Chamber’s monthly Business Breakfast at Pasco Hernando State College’s Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch on August 6 was a great trip down memory lane for me, as Hope was the featured speaker and she definitely hit the highlights of the still-growing Chamber’s incredible 20-year journey.

Fresh off her first major vacation away from the Chamber she leads and loves, Hope’s Power Point presentation at the breakfast told the tale of a fledgling Chamber that first met in one of its then-65 members’ garages in July 1998. 

The old Wesley Chapel Chamber unveiled its first logo in January 1999, and held its first awards banquet and hired its first part-time employee later that year. In January of 2000, the Chamber unveiled its first website and held its first Community Festival in March 2001.

And, even though there was a 12-year gap in her presentation between 2001 and 2013 (when Hope took over as executive director), as someone who attended most of the Chamber’s ribbon cuttings and events prior to 2013, I can assure you that things didn’t really start to take off for the old Wesley Chapel Chamber until Hope arrived on the scene.

“The Chamber evolved over time, as it has to, in order to serve the needs of the businesses in the community where it is situated, and we certainly have,” Hope said at the breakfast. “In 2013 (when the Chamber had about 300 members), the Board decided that we were going to switch our focus from being into parties, pageants and parades, to being the connector, convener and catalyst for businesses. We wanted to be the best, the go-to organization, for local businesses.”

  In February of 2014, the Chamber unveiled its official Facebook page and in 2015, it acquired the faltering New Tampa Chamber and its primary asset — the Taste of New Tampa, which wasn’t held for several years because of that defunct Chamber’s issues.

“That’s when we really started to grow,” Hope said of the merger with New Tampa. “More businesses started to reach out to us on both sides of the county line.”

Hope also told those in attendance that she was particularly proud of the fact that the Wesley Chapel Chamber earned the Florida Association of Chamber Professionals (FACP) Certified-Plus designation and that she has earned her Florida Chamber Certified Professional (FCCP) certification.

“Of more than 300 Chambers of Commerce throughout Florida, only 18  have earned certification and only seven  are Certified-Plus Chambers with a CEO who also is certified,” she says, adding that it takes five years of consecutive senior leadership to become FCCP-certified. “And you have to have three peer reviews and submit a dissertation.” Hope’s dissertation was on the fiduciary responsibilities of a Chamber.

And Still More Changes…

During her presentation at the breakfast meeting, Hope also talked about her Chamber’s 2017 asset acquisition of/joining forces with the former Greater Pasco Chamber, which helped the NTBC increase its membership by more than 200 businesses, although it also brought with it a fresh set of new challenges for Hope and her small staff.

The Greater Pasco Chamber’s membership was mostly on the west side of Pasco County (it also had some western Pinellas members). One of the challenges was trying to host networking and other business events on both sides of the Suncoast Pkwy. 

But, perhaps the biggest challenge was to come up with a new name for the Chamber, which now had members in Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough.

Many Wesley Chapel Chamber members, including yours truly, were concerned that unless Wesley Chapel was still in the Chamber’s name, some members might defect and the Chamber could lose its identity altogether.

The North Tampa Bay Chamber name was officially adopted in January 2018 and neither Hope nor her staff has taken a backwards step since then.

In fact, the Chamber moved its office from The Grove in Wesley Chapel to just off S.R. 54 in Lutz and has grown to 730 members and four full-time employees.

Although I personally haven’t attended many events on the west side, my understanding is that they also are well-attended, and the ribbon cuttings, breakfasts, Final Friday and coffee events continue to attract new faces in our area.

Hope and the NTBC also have continued their advocacy efforts regarding transportation in our area, including the Diverging Diamond Interchange at I-75 and S.R. 56, the S.R. 56 expansion to U.S. Hwy. 301 in Zephyrhills, the planned Overpass Rd. exit off I-75 and others.

“Our Vision is to be the trusted leader and driving force for the growth and success of our business community,” she said. “And our Mission is to provide valuable services to our members, advocate for a positive business community and sustain and further develop a thriving economy for the North Tampa Bay Region. 

All I can say is mission accomplished…so far…and keep it going!

For membership & other information, visit the NTBC at 1868 Highland Oaks Blvd., Lutz, or at, or call (813) 994-8534.

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