Writer: Alejandro Sanchez
2 min read March 2022— With the ongoing inmigration of people into the area and the continued investment in Central Florida, the Greater Orlando region has become a hub of business activity. Invest: spoke with leaders from Greater Orlando’s various chambers of commerce about some of their recent efforts to assist their members and the business community in handling the current economic landscape’s opportunities and challenges.
Cate Manley, President & CEO, Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce
We have a leadership group made up of the leaders of major businesses who meet every month and discuss their services, what they need and what they are struggling with. This prompted the chamber to decide to put on a hiring event. We had what I would consider a low number of hires, but a high quality of candidates and the positions they are filling. Many are at director level. We’ve held one event every month since June and are looking at ways to support training and being deliberate in the talent development for industries that are hiring in the area.
One of the best advantages (of being a member of the chamber) is our level of advocacy for our businesses and that means if we have a new business that is facing challenges, we will help them through it. We are always advocating for business-friendly policy. Regulatory and advocacy missions typically attract businesses and having that support has helped many businesses both big and small.
Betsy Gardner Eckbert, President & CEO, Winter Park Chamber of Commerce
We’re in the pre-launch phase of a new project called the Winter Park Prosperity Scorecard, which involves measuring what matters for Winter Park. Certainly, diversity, equity, inclusion and sustainability are some of the metrics that we’re looking at. We’re trying to steer our local government to see what the business community wants to see and prioritize in terms of sustainability. Early on in that process, we are seeing a heavy emphasis on solar and providing incentives for developers to make green adjustments to their overall development strategy.
If they’re seeking LEED certification, we’d like to see incentives for them. If they’re putting in electric vehicle charging stations, we’d like to see incentives for that. Those are some of the areas that we’re focused on in terms of advocating for rewarding good behavior related to sustainability.
Andrew Cole, President & CEO, East Orlando Chamber of Commerce
We have longevity, having been around for over 75 years. We are a huge advocate for businesses. We have taken on a number of initiatives to help businesses. We have implemented the EOC Foundation which provides micro grants to small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs that want to get to the next level. People are making career changes and creating new opportunities. I am excited that the Foundation can support these businesses. Now we are able to provide opportunities for these businesses to grow through funding, educational courses and workshops and assist them with making connections and get their business established through the support of the Chamber and our members.
Tanisha Nunn Gary, President & CEO, African American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida
Over the next few years, we will continue to collaborate with other organizations and community partners to make sure that we are advancing businesses in Central Florida. The Black-owned and small businesses really are the cornerstone of any community. When we talk about building stronger economies, there needs to be a focus on our small and Black-owned businesses because once we support them, when they are doing better, they are more stable and secure, we are helping the overall economy. Small businesses hire within their own communities. That helps to alleviate unemployment. They give back to their communities financially, and they support their communities.
We also look at building generational wealth. When we build strong businesses that can be passed on within families or even sold, we are then creating generational wealth. We have seen many companies, such as Amazon and others, really step up with programs to support minority businesses. That is what we need to bring more attention to them. We are not taking away from other businesses if we are supporting minority businesses. We are building stronger communities and stronger economies. When we build stronger businesses, that helps those businesses have better access to healthcare and to education. And that is what we want as we look into building stronger communities.
We are surveying our members to see what their needs are. Based on the survey results, we will develop an agenda for 2022. We will continue to provide resources. We will focus on our training and development for entrepreneurs. We have partnered with our trustee member, Wells Fargo, and we will develop a business cohort to take 20 of our chamber members through a six month program to help them grow and scale their businesses. Supporting small businesses here in Central Florida really does take a village, with all of us working together.
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