Thursday, Dec 18, 2014

Oldsmar chamber chief leads push for growth

Special correspondent
Published:

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OLDSMAR – Jerry Custin, president and CEO of the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, remembers when Race Track Road, the dividing line between Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, was filled with potholes and too much traffic. It was a clear dividing line between the counties.

Custin, who has been with the chamber since he moved to Florida in 1993, said that was about the time the Upper Tampa Bay area made its move to become one of the most vibrant areas in all of Tampa Bay.

“Race Track Road was a mess,” Custin said. “We did studies that said we had 22,000 cars using Race Track Road every day, so that’s where it all began. We gathered the homeowners associations and decided to do something about it.”

Soon enough, road work was done and a road project was initiated to completely update the road.

Custin was responsible for the Oldsmar Trade Show/Mega Mixer on April 17 that invited businesses from all over the Tampa Bay area to expose their business to hundreds of local business owners while hosting the grand opening of the new Hampton Inn & Suites. He said that was when he decided that it was time for the chamber to look outside Oldsmar.

“When the road project started to come to life, Westchase, Town ’N Country and Citrus Park wanted to get involved with the growth in the area, so we changed to include all of them.”

Now it is called the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber and Custin said there’s a lot to do. He is proud of Oldsmar and wonders why Oldsmar doesn’t get the same amount of attention as other nearby towns.

“We have more than 100 manufacturing companies and five major hotels,” Custin said. “We have a lot of everything here. We want to be a part of the growth of this area.”

Custin, who grew up in Philadelphia, now considers the Tampa Bay area his home. He knows the area has the chance to go through a boom stage and he knows Oldsmar is a key to the growth of the Tampa Bay area.

“If you look at the residential demographics, they are excellent for any business that wants to come here,’’ Custin said. “This is the perfect area.’’

Custin said he and the chamber are not simply looking for the big businesses to come to town. Custin said he has a heart for small businesses.

“A lot of businesses want their CEOs to talk to us, but I like to talk to the small businesses,” Custin said. “Small businesses are the types we want to meet. We like new companies. They help the other companies. A lot of big businesses just move money from place to place but don’t generate new money. Small businesses are good taxpayers and that is important when it comes to economic development.”

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