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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Friday, Sep. 28, 2018 3 years ago

Winter Park Chamber hopes to save members money with new model

A new structure would allow members to pay a smaller fee and opt out of services they don’t need.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce is implementing a new structure to its membership – an effort to better serve local businesses throughout the city.

Changes will impact the overall membership structure of the chamber of commerce, the Park Avenue Merchants Association and where membership fee money goes. Previously the revenue from the PAMA membership fee, starting at $540, was split between the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and a pool of funds set aside for promoting Park Avenue. Under the new model every merchant will instead be a chamber member, paying the lower rate starting at $345.

A significant part of the changes allows members the ability to choose from different services provided through an a la carte format, chamber CEO and president Betsy Gardner Eckbert said. Instead of being forced to pay for perks like social media, inclusion on maps, and sidewalk sale permits under the old membership, businesses will now be able opt in and out.

“We want to make this more streamlined, customized – we’re trying to customize everything that we do for all of our members, from the biggest companies down to the smallest, one-person businesses,” Gardner Eckbert said. “This is an effort to customize that.”

It’s all an effort to give businesses and merchants the best experience possible and save them some money, Gardner Eckbert said.

“We want people to experience their membership at the chamber in a way that works best for them,” Gardner Eckbert said. “We’ve got members like watch companies that aren’t going to do sidewalk sales, so we don’t feel we should be charging them in a membership rate for a sidewalk sale.”

“If they don’t want it, they should be able to opt out of it.”

Despite these changes, Gardner Eckbert assured that the Park Avenue Merchants Association would still be a committee of the chamber of commerce, have representation on the board, and meet on a monthly basis.

The Avenue will also continue to be the focal point of any marketing initiatives, Gardner Eckbert said.

“Park Avenue is the crown jewel of Winter Park,” she said. “There are no marketing efforts on behalf of Winter Park that can and should take place without the mention of Park Avenue as the centerpiece of that.”

Another major difference with the new model is that the chamber will no longer house a pool of extra funds, and that instead the merchants will have the ability to set up an account and decide on where extra funds should be spent.

A destination marketing organization will hopefully be integrated into the new model as well, which would collect pooled funds from museums and other local entities to help market and support the area.

Gardner Eckbert said the change in the membership structure is just the latest effort to create foot traffic and boost local businesses.

“It reflects the larger piece of work that we’re doing to market Winter Park as destination with a number of partners, including Park Avenue,” Gardner Eckbert said.

The chamber plans to implement the new model in January, giving the merchants time to transfer funds out of the existing pool of money kept by the chamber.

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Tim Freed is the Managing Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida....

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