CEO Hope Kennedy has had a hand in putting Wesley Chapel on the map with her stewardship of the former Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce, now known as the North Tampa Bay Chamber (NTBC).

Hope Kennedy

Later this month, Wesley Chapel, and its massive growth, could play a hand in putting the Chamber itself on the map.

On July 26, Allen and Board member Michael Berthelette will be in Indianapolis answering questions from the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) judges in a final test to see if the NTBC is named the Small Chamber of the Year for the entire country.

The extensive application process got the NTBC to the finals, but the 45-minute Q-&-A session on July 26 will account for 2/3 of the NTBC’s score.

The following night, at the Awards Show at ACCE’s annual convention in Indianapolis, the winners will be revealed.

“When I first looked at the application I giggled,” Kennedy says, referring to how difficult it looked. “But Javan (Grant, the current Board chair) convinced me to do it. (The application) ended up being 31 pages long. It’s very comprehensive. However, the end result is that we are a Chamber of the Year finalist.”

The NTBC touted two of its programs in 2020-21 in its application — a Road Show in which Kennedy went to businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic and filmed interviews for social media, letting people know which businesses were still open, and the Chamber’s reimagined Celebration of Excellence awards program, which was held both in-person and virtual last November.

The NTBC is a finalist in Category 1, the smallest category, along with the Mason City (IA) Chamber and the Zionsville (IN) Chamber.

The ACCE is comprised of more than 1,600 Chambers of Commerce from across the U.S. It will name four winners in four different categories (according to size, budget and location of the chamber).

“This is the Academy Awards for Chambers of Commerce, Kennedy says. “For me, this is the pinnacle of my career.”

The NTBC has 570 members, many of which are from Wesley Chapel and New Tampa, although there also are member businesses located in western Pasco and north Pinellas counties. Kennedy said when she started at the Wesley Chapel Chamber 11 years ago, there were roughly 200 members.

Awards are nothing new for the NTBC, which won the 2019 Small Chamber of the Year for the state of Florida from the Florida Association of Chamber Professionals (FACP).

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