Face Off:
How local chambers of commerce are responding to the region’s population growth

Face Off:
How local chambers of commerce are responding to the region’s population growth

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read February 2020 — Both the number of visitors to Orlando and its population are on the rise. The Invest: team spoke with Betsy Gardner Eckbert, president and CEO of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, and Andrew Cole, president and CEO of the East Orlando Chamber of Commerce, about their latest efforts to respond to the local growth and the challenges their chambers face.

How is the community responding to the region’s visitor growth?

              Betsy Gardner Eckbert

Betsy Gardner Eckbert: The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce started several efforts to target and reach international guests. The second-biggest group of visitors that we receive in Winter Park is international. Half of the international visitors we received two years ago were coming from the United Kingdom. To respond to that demand we put together our Tourism Task Force, which created a business plan through destination marketing efforts, and as a result we had a 560 percent increase in traffic to our website from people from the U.K. We increased by 86 percent the traffic of people from the U.K. through the door of our Welcome Center. We will continue to expand our reach to international guests from different countries as well, including Canada and Brazil. 



                  Andrew Cole



Andrew Cole: We’re anticipating having almost 2 million people in Orange County by 2030. I think that speaks volumes, and we’re preparing for that population growth. Our transportation infrastructure is being enhanced, Virgin Trains is making its way into Orlando, the Orlando International Airport is building a new terminal, and our local governments are looking at additional transportation solutions and housing affordability issues. Businesses are expanding, creating new jobs, such as Universal Studio’s new Epic Universe theme park, Disney’s continued growth of their parks, and the Creative Village in Downtown Orlando is an innovation district for high-tech, digital media and creative companies providing new opportunities. Tourists and visitor numbers continue to increase providing plenty of opportunities for businesses to thrive. It’s exciting to know that businesses that are here and those relocating here have opportunities to grow and expand their footprint in Orlando.


What are some challenges for your chamber?

Eckbert: One of the challenges for our members is attracting and retaining the appropriate talent. To support them, we launched a pilot program to identify talented professionals — mostly women with impressive degrees who have stayed home to raise a family. Our program helps them get back into the workplace. Through this pilot return-to-work program we placed 83 percent of the participating women within six months in local and global companies. We are very excited to have the ability to furnish our members with a talent base of people who are reliable and have the skills and talents they are looking for. 

Cole: One of our biggest challenges is making sure that we have smart growth in that we’re looking at all aspects of the impact any new development will have on the area. We also have the battle between people who want to stay rural and those who want to see development. As long as we can plan smart growth, continue to address our challenges and remain forward thinking, I know Orlando will continue to be the place to be.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

Winter Park Chamber of Commerce: https://winterpark.org/ 

East Orlando Chamber of Commerce: https://www.eocc.org/