Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce celebrates 60 years
Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce celebrates a milestone as an advocate for local businesses.
| 8:40 a.m. May 2, 2018
Guy Paschal seemingly had enough of the letters he received inquiring about Longboat Key.
So, the “Longboat Look-Out” publisher met Snooks Morehead and Nell Shenke for coffee and invited them to begin a local chamber of commerce, Ralph B. Hunter wrote in “From Calusas to Condominiums.”
Paschal sent wires to Jud Hird in Wisconsin telling him he was elected president of the chamber. Herb Field and Clyde Eagleton got wires saying they would be vice president and secretary, respectively, Hunter said in the book.
Tim Field, son of Herb and Annabel Field, said his mother, an original chamber board member, was influenced by the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. He said the formation of a chamber on Longboat Key was natural to unite businesses.
And thus, the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce was born.
Although the chamber’s charter was submitted May 19, 1958, Paschal and others held the first meeting nearly two years prior, in Sept. 14, 1956, in the Twin Shores recreation hall.
Now, its members are reflecting on the past 60 years.
David Miller, who grew up on Longboat Key and owns Cannons Marina, the longest running chamber member, states it in the most simple form.
“It’s obviously good for tourism, it’s good for all the business on the island, and I think it also is good for some of the social events,” said Miller, who is a former chamber chairman.
When Andrew Vac, a past chamber chairman, joined in 1990, he said it was mostly a social organization. When current President Gail Loefgren arrived in 1993, she found the same thing and aimed to change that.
Loefgren worked to make the chamber a voice for the business community while also continuing to add events.
“We’ve become more streamlined, more effective,” Loefgren said. “We no longer go to war with residents who used to hate commercial development but that’s because I think we do a lot of community activities like the Fourth of July, and I think we’re in sync with the residents in preserving the beauty and nature of the island.”
Both Loefgren and Vac say they have watched local business operators blossom, both personally and professionally. Loefgren can recount past chairmen and chairwomen who came into the role shy and left more confident.
Vac said he can look at the membership roster and explain which businesses became more successful after joining.
“When you have somebody stand up at a lunch or ‘After Hours’ and say, ‘I credit my business doubling in size because of this chamber, and this is the best chamber that I belong to,’ and you know there are seven possible chambers to belong to in the two-county area, that speaks for itself,” Vac said.
Vac counts that as one of the chamber’s biggest accomplishments. Loefgren does too, but she also points to two other examples. She said the biggest milestone was passing the tourism referendum in 2008 that established a 250-unit tourism pool.
Another accomplishment for the chamber was being named “Best Small Chamber of Commerce in the State” for 1997-98.
“I think on Longboat Key, but like any chamber, the first thing it does is give businesses an opportunity to have somebody represent them in the community and government affairs and also allows that business to have instant credibility because they’re a member of the chamber … ,” Vac said.
The Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce though, differs from other chambers. Unlike most, Longboat Key isn’t home to big commercial and industrial development.
It’s a lot of tourism business, which makes the chamber different.
This is evident by Loefgren’s goals list, which includes involvement in redevelopment plans and planning a trip for members to South Africa.
“We’re tourism based and people based, and we all love Longboat Key,” Loefgren said.