Ronald Reagan was president in 1989 when the re-organized Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce first served its members.
In the ensuing 25 years, the Chamber rode the crest of development and population growth and, of course, endured the lows that are just now in the rearview mirror. In recognition of its achievements and the individuals shaping Cape Coral's business community and to look down the road members celebrated the Cape Coral Chamber's silver anniversary, at an event Friday at the Cape Coral Yacht Club. About 150 merchants, business owners and managers shared in the tribute.
"A lot of businesses don't survive 25 years, let alone chambers of commerce," Cape Chamber President Mike Quaintance said. "So, we're very proud of the combined efforts of our volunteers, our members, and the entire Cape Coral business community."
25 years of service.
The national economic plunge was particularly difficult in southwest Florida, according to Chamber figures and anecdotal stories shared Friday. For instance, the Cape Chamber prior to 2008 listed more than 1,000 members. As the downturn persisted through 2010, Chamber membership dipped below 500, with the impact mostly in construction, housing and service industries, Quaintance said. As housing foreclosures mounted Cape Coral at one point led the nation business owners were equally impacted. The losses were spread equally across other Lee County chambers.
With a rebounding economy and revived hope through 2013, the Cape Coral Chamber is on an upward trajectory. It currently has about 700 members. And this year portends even more growth, both in the business community and in Cape Coral population figures. New resident growth is expected at 3-4 percent, which will drive business development and expand the services to Cape residents, good news for entrepreneurs like Ande Grant, the owner of Send it Sweetly, a personalized confectionery/chocolatier in the southeast Cape she started with her husband, Shane, in December 2012. Grant said the Cape Chamber, "has been awesome. They are really helpful. My husband and I are very excited about the future of Cape Coral, and southwest Florida in general."
A statesman of the Cape business community whose family opened Elmer's Supermarket in 1960, Elmer Tabor is hopeful for the future. "This (Cape) Chamber does an excellent job taking care of its own," said Tabor, one of the Cape's first residents and a former chairman of the Chamber's Board of Directors. "We have our own personality. Things are looking good."
The Chamber's silver anniversary was catered by Bubba's Roadhouse and Saloon, a Cape landmark. Its owner, Jay Johnson, said the Chamber offers programs to help merchants build and energize the surrounding community, including a thirteen-week leadership workshop that he co-chairs. "There are great strides ahead," Johnson said, "and it is because the Chamber is always moving forward."