This week we chat with Neil Heird, the new president of the New Tampa Chamber of Commerce. He also leads the Millionaire Makers of BNI, a national business networking organization. And he is principal owner of MindSpark Consulting, a Tampa-based consulting firm specializing in developing business strategies to help companies optimize performance.
Q: What is the benefit to being a member of the New Tampa Chamber of Commerce?
Answer: There are many reasons to join the New Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Chamber membership enables business owners to keep on top of important, ever-changing local issues in the New Tampa community as well as many opportunities to promote their products and services, to network and attend educational seminars.
Q: Was your goal eventually to become president when you became a chamber member?
Answer: No, I joined the chamber when I started my own business three years ago, as many new business owners do. Soon after, I joined the Ambassadors committee because I thought that would be a good way for me to get out and meet the New Tampa business community, and as I got familiar with the chamber and the board (of directors), I became progressively more involved by volunteering for events like the Taste of New Tampa. After I was invited to apply for a position on the board, I became interested in helping to grow the chamber. Last year, I was elected to serve as vice president, so serving as president has been a natural progression.
Q: Is the chamber planning any new activities or events for the upcoming year? If so, what are they?
Answer: We are excited to announce that we have several new things we expect to roll out during the next year. Our signature event has been the Taste of New Tampa for the past 20 years or so. But in 2014, we will be changing the format. We have several ideas under consideration at this time, and we expect to announce the updates to this event by early spring. The chamber also hosts an annual business expo, where member businesses convene to showcase their products and services to the community in a trade show format.
We also plan to create three new committees in 2014. They will include an economic development committee, a legislative affairs committee and a corporate relations committee.
Q: Why does the community need a chamber of commerce?
Answer: A chamber of commerce is an organized group of businesses seeking to further their collective interests, while also advancing their community. While the stated missions of chambers can and do vary, in general, a chamber’s primary function is to build and promote its community with an eye toward ensuring a pro-business marketplace. An effective chamber partners with its constituents and helps to facilitate and/or coordinate initiatives designed to help it meet its goals, while also serving as a visible business resource for the entire community.
Q: If you could recruit one famous person to become a New Tampa chamber member, who would it be? And why that individual?
Answer: This is a tough one. I think I would pursue Oprah Winfrey. There are certainly many excellent choices for this answer, but I feel that Oprah is a bit more modern and more closely connected to ins and outs of running a community business. Oprah built much of her celebrity on the pillars of identifying with large groups of people and by staying in touch with the things those people associate with. I’m sure Oprah would be a great new member for our chamber.