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West Pasco Chamber leaders aim to “wow” members

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Published:   |   Updated: February 17, 2014 at 02:24 PM

NEW PORT RICHEY — West Pasco Chamber of Commerce is bringing back Cotee River Bike Fest among other initiatives for 2014.

“2014 started off with a bang with BDW,” Chamber President Chip Wichmanowski said about the chamber’s Business Development Week.

The chamber intends to “wow” its 900 members, Wichmanowski remarked, borrowing from the theme of BDW motivational speaker Robert Stevenson, “You’ve Got to Make Them Say WOW!”

Wichmanowski had words of welcome for the county’s newest chamber of commerce. “We wish the Trinity-Odessa Chamber the best of luck,” he said.

Dan Sullivan is the Trinity-Odessa Chamber executive director. He is a former events and marketing coordinator of the West Pasco Chamber.

Many firms already belong to multiple chambers, Wichmanowski said. He believes that will be the case between the two chambers here.

“With 900 members, that’s a lot of marketing power,” Wichmanowski added about West Pasco Chamber. After falling during the recession from a peak of about 1,000 members, the membership roster is going up again.

In the meantime, West Pasco Chamber is rebuilding its staff back to full strength of five.

Following Sullivan’s departure in November, the chamber received 47 applications for the director of events, marketing and public relations job, Wichmanowski noted. He narrowed it to 10 candidates. Interviews started the end of this week, and Wichmanowski hopes to hire the new director by the end of next week.

Office Manager Shirley Kleinhans is regaining her strength after she broke a wrist and elbow in a freak accident. “What a difference since she came back,” Wichmanowski commented. Kleinhans will begin her 32nd year with the organization in March.

Michelle Anderson came on board as “creator of first impressions” in her duties as secretary and data entry technician.

Maria Johnson continues as membership director.

The next event is coming Feb. 18 at the membership dinner, during which Business Development Week awards are handed out.

With Chasco Fiesta little more than a month away, chamber officials are busy organizing its Young Professionals Group bowling tournament and golf tournament during the nine-day festival.

The chamber will resuscitate the Bike Fest in October. The event went on hiatus in 2013 when sponsorship revenue dwindled by some $25,000.

The outlook appeared gloomy at the time that Bike Fest would ever return. The bike fest was never a huge moneymaker for the chamber, pulling in roughly $10,000 for the business organization in 2012. The chamber faced the prospect of losing money on the event last year.

The potential of the festival was so great, however, chamber leaders formed a partnership with local media companies WGUL-FM and WXOF-FM to revive the popular event.

The Bike Fest originated in 2005 and grew to become one of the Southeast’s premier motorcycle events. The very first Bike Fest attracted about 20,000 people over two days. The event expanded each succeeding year with ever larger crowds.

“It’s going to be a big undertaking, but we’re excited to bring it back,” Wichmanowskisaid. The event helps “puts heads in beds” at local hotels, Wichmanowski believes.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to bring the Cotee River Bike Fest back to our community,” Jamie Mick, the chamber chairman, said in a press release.

“October 24-26 have been reserved and a committee is being formed to reorganize and promote the event,” Mick added.

For sponsorship information contact Wichmanowski at (727) 842-7651 or cwichman@westpasco.com.

corth@suncoastnews.com

(727) 815-1068

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