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AMPLIFY Clearwater sounds off on Tampa Chamber and EDC over regionally-focused name changes

The newly re-branded Clearwater chamber said the move is harmful to the region.

AMPLIFY Clearwater, the chamber of commerce group that recently rebranded to include both the Clearwater Beach and Clearwater chambers, is sounding off on the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce over plans to change its name.

Earlier this month, the Greater Tampa Chamber announced it would be changing its name to the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce Dec. 5 to reflect growing sentiments of regionalism. However, it does not mean the group will expand its advocacy efforts outside of its current Tampa/Hillsborough model. Instead they will merely support regional issues.

The move, paired with a similarly timed announcement that the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation will change its name to the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council, has been met with consternation from business advocacy groups and leaders in other parts of the region.

Queue the Clearwater chambers.

“From the moment that we first learned of your potential name change to Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce we were confused and befuddled by your intentions,”AMPLIFY Clearwater wrote in a letter. “While we respect your right to rebrand, as we recently did, when the Regional Chamber and the Beach Chamber merged on October 1st to become AMPLIFY Clearwater, we are disappointed in your decision.”

The group accused the Tampa Chamber of making a “coordinated effort” with the EDC on the regional-focused name changes.

“As outlined in the Tampa Bay Times editorial the ‘Tampa Bay’ brand is a regional brand, not a Tampa or Hillsborough brand. Your statements that it will benefit all Chambers and other organizations in the area because it promotes Tampa Bay fall short and distort reality,” they wrote.

The letter goes on to unabashedly blast the Tampa Chamber for failing to partner with regional chamber and economic development counterparts.

“At a recent luncheon with representatives of the Clearwater and St. Petersburg Chambers with your leaders, we asked why you didn’t consider having a conversation with your local partners before you voted on the caucus’ recommendation. The answer? ‘It wasn’t intentional. It never occurred to us to do so.’ This enlightening answer doesn’t make your point; it makes ours. Good partners talk and they don’t ambush each other,” the group wrote.

AMPLIFY Clearwater argues the historical lack of regional cooperation has caused the region to lag behind others in the state.

“At community, corporate, and governmental levels we have overcome the lack of foresight that selfishness breeds. Now is not the time to take a step backwards,” AMPLIFY Clearwater wrote. “Aligning our organizations by coordinating efforts and resources is the most effective way to drive change and create a greater vision for Tampa Bay.”

Critics of the pending name changes argue the groups are leveraging positive sentiments of regionalism without plans to actually work for the region. Both the Tampa chamber and the EDC will continue with primary missions in support of Hillsborough County and Tampa.

That their name reflects the entire region, many worry, will send a misleading message that the groups represent other neighboring cities and counties.

“We hope that you stop to consider the law of unintended consequences if you move forward with the rebrand name,” AMPLIFY Clearwater wrote. “You will break the trust that has been carefully woven together over many years at a minimum and perhaps lead to things even worse.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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