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New leader takes the helm of Longboat’s chamber of commerce

Kim Verreault, the new president and CEO of the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce, is a hands-on leader with a knack for community building.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. January 26, 2024
In 2019, Kim Verreault and her husband moved to Sarasota to be closer to her parents, who have lived in the area for 17 years.
In 2019, Kim Verreault and her husband moved to Sarasota to be closer to her parents, who have lived in the area for 17 years.
Photo by Lori Sax
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Kim Verreault’s first day as president and CEO of the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce was Oct. 9, 2023, but beach town business savvy is clearly embedded in her DNA. 

She grew up in the seaside town of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where, as a teen, she worked summers at her parents’ seasonal camping resort. She later operated seasonal hospitality businesses there with her husband, John, while serving on the board of the Old Orchard Beach Chamber of Commerce for 11 years. In 2015, Verreault was appointed the chamber’s executive director and spent four years leading it. The couple moved to Sarasota in 2019 to be closer to her parents, who have lived in the area for 17 years. Verreault spoke with us recently about the role chambers of commerce play in today’s world, challenges facing businesses in the Longboat Key area, and her favorite Longboat Key hangouts.

What inspired you to accept this position?

The Old Orchard Beach Chamber is where my love for the chamber world began. Ever since relocating to Florida, I’ve kept my eyes open for similar opportunities. This opportunity stood out because it shared commonalities with my previous experience: both towns experience seasonal population shifts, possess comparable town government structures, and boast active chambers dedicated to making a difference. What struck me most was the enthusiasm of the board, employees and members. 

Are chambers of commerce still relevant in the online age?

Without a doubt! Brick and mortar chambers remain exceptionally relevant. Chambers play a pivotal role by fostering relationships, uniting businesses and elevating the community. It promotes networking, marketing and advertising and bridges business and residential sectors through events. Chambers offer education programs and advocate and contribute to economic and tourism development. In the year ahead, our team will strategize to ensure our chamber’s continual relevance and progress.

Do you believe one way chambers remain relevant is through pro-business advocacy on the state and national levels?

I do think a chamber of commerce is an arm for that. At Old Orchard Beach our tourism businesses’ biggest challenge was not being able to acquire enough employees to operate successfully. In 2022, I convened local businesspeople and legislators to go to bat for us to increase the number of workers with H-2B visas for the winter season. We were successful.

How has the LBK Chamber embraced advancements in technology?

Interestingly, I have a meeting with our web specialist tomorrow to discuss this and make some minor changes right now. It will take time, but we plan to be very proactive. For example, we’re researching a new member database program that would make our website a more fully functioning tool for members. 

What are the most pressing challenges facing island businesses?

Extending the season is one. This is what I hear from our business members: “We would love for you to put your marketing dollars into finding ways to get more people here during the off-season.” Another goal is to amplify the chamber’s role as both a visitors bureau and a resource for residents. We already get tourists and new residents asking about activities, dining options and to learn more about the community. Our objective is to foster an even greater sense of community by linking them with local businesses. One way we already do that is by acquiring the names and addresses for new residents and sending out a welcome packet monthly. 

How does the LBK Chamber strategize to enlist new members?

To bolster engagement, we consistently organize monthly events, featuring a networking luncheon and an “Off the Clock” evening that provides a platform for members and nonmembers to connect. We are also bringing back our Ambassador program where new business members are assigned an ambassador who will check in with them at certain intervals.

What book do you think every business leader needs to read?

“Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. The book is not strictly business-related; it’s more about a way of thinking. It presents a series of examples of individuals and groups who don’t, at first, fit into our normal understanding of achievement. 

Is there one business leader, either alive or dead, whom you most admire?

Without intending any political connotation, my spontaneous choice would be George H. Bush and his wife, Barbara. Having lived near them in Maine, I saw how they genuinely immersed themselves in the community. That’s who I want to be as a leader: someone who is very quiet behind the scenes but very powerful when it comes to bringing community together. 

The chamber’s jurisdiction covers Longboat, Lido and St. Armands keys. What are three of your favorite places in this area?

The Dry Dock Waterfront Grill has been a family favorite. Quick Point Nature Preserve is a place I go to for a moment of peace. I also enjoy the picturesque ride from one end of Longboat Key to the other and am fascinated with the natural history of the banyan trees along the way. I’ve always loved the vibe of St. Armands Circle and paddle boarding in the mangrove tunnels of Lido Key is fascinating.


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