100 Years of Success

Guest Correspondence


Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. I am extremely honored and eager to begin my term serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors. The GSCC is a wonderful organization with a fantastic board and an even better CEO/president and professional staff. For me personally, it’s a great opportunity to continue serving my community and one I will always be grateful for. Let me tell you a bit about who we are and what we do.

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce is a not-for profit organization focusing on growing our community's economy. The organization is a bridge that links businesses, governments, foundations, other organizations and residents together with innovative programming meant to help strengthen Sarasota's long-term economic vitality, business success, job creation and quality of life. Our members represent nearly 1,200 companies and organizations, ranging from the ubiquitous “Mom and Pop” sized operation to the multi-thousand employee behemoth, from industries like construction, healthcare, education, hospitality, banking and manufacturing.

The Chamber has been an important voice on civic issues in the community since the very beginning. Whether advocating for better roads, better rail service, the creation of public utilities or just general governance issues, the organization has always been front and center. In fact, the 1945 Sarasota City Charter, which changed the government to the city-manager form (still in place today) was written by the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber also ushered the 1945 Charter through both the state legislative process and the local referendum. 

More recently in 2018, the Chamber worked closely alongside the ACLU, NAACP, GCBX and the Argus Foundation on the successful “Change the Date” campaign, a Charter Amendment that proposed to change city elections from low-turnout spring to where they belong in high turnout fall elections. In that referendum, citizens voted in favor of the amendment nearly 2 to 1. 

Programming is one of the most important components of the GSCC. Last year, CareerEdge, a national-award-winning workforce and employer-led initiative became part of The Chamber. CareerEdge partners directly with employers in fast-growing sectors within the regional economy, to help fill skills gaps and meet employment needs. This is absolutely crucial for our community’s economic development. This past spring, an accelerated HVAC maintenance program was created at the Roy McBean Boys & Girls Club, and last week, seven newly trained technicians graduated from the program eager to begin their new jobs. This program marked another successful collaboration with the Argus Foundation and special a shout-out to my friend and former colleague, Sarasota City Commissioner Willie Shaw, for bringing the idea forward.

In 2020, the GSCC will be one of three Chamber Organizations in the state that will participate in The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Public Policy Institute. This will be a statewide effort to help identify and recruit the next generation of public servants. As Florida continues to grow we will need dedicated citizens willing to serve. I am especially excited about this because I know there are some extraordinarily talented folks in Sarasota.

There has never been a better time than now to get involved at the GSCC. Join up, attend some events, and maybe even get on one of our committees. For more information call us at 941-955-8187 or check out our website at www.sarasotachamber.com

Paul Caragiulo is a former Sarasota City and County Commissioner.

Photo courtesy Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

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