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Valrico/FishHawk Chamber merges with networking group

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Published:   |   Updated: January 13, 2014 at 07:13 PM

VALRICO — Members of the business community in Valrico and FishHawk Ranch — many of whom are home-based — are ready to reach a new level in 2014. To that end, the 11-year-old FishHawk Area Networking Group, FANG, has merged with the Valrico/FishHawk Chamber of Commerce, which just marked its first anniversary.

Business owners in the area have high aspirations, like developing solid business plans and eventually moving to brick-and-mortar storefronts. With their own chamber of commerce, they believe they’ll reach their goals faster.

From the beginning, FANG’s goal was to promote businesses in the budding new community in southeastern Hillsborough County. The next level for the chamber includes getting developers to provide affordable storefronts and getting more involved with changes in the area, including road construction, said Chamber President Michael Holmes.

Holmes and FANG founder Marie Gilmore sat down and discussed the merger.

“At some point, she recognized FANG could do more and the chamber could do more as a result of the two of them coming together,” Holmes said. “It is a natural progression. It simply made sense.”

Gilmore is on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment.

Bridget Jenkins Wilson, who is a member of both groups, said FANG has accomplished a lot in a short time for small businesses in the area. Now, it’s time to kick it up a notch, she said.

“I’m real excited about the merger,” said Wilson, who is president of Cardinal Roofing and Solar Technologies. “I think the merger is just going to catapult the chamber. I think it is just going to explode.”

The Valrico/FishHawk chamber has about 70 members and is shooting to reach 100 by the end of January, Holmes said.

“There were a lot of tire kickers the first year and now we are getting more relationships coming in and we are really excited about it. We just had a big influx of new business owners.”

The typical member of the chamber is a small business owner, he said.

Creating a brand new chamber of commerce is no easy task, but members are rising to the occasion, as is the chamber board, he said.

“The reason we started this chamber is because the Valrico/FishHawk area is one that is exploding with growth,” said Holmes, who runs a small business helping other businesses and individuals correct their credit issues. “With that kind of growth comes change. We wanted to make sure businesses had a voice in the change. It’s a very challenging environment and the businesses in this area needed more than just network groups. They needed a structured environment to help facilitate growth, from help writing business and marketing plans, to a voice in the political arena with changes in the roads, to helping drive business to their cash registers.”

yhammett@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7127

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