Five Questions

By Hannah Wallace June 30, 2004

Charles Murphy, CEO of The Bank of Commerce, recently took over the 18-month chairmanship of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce mid-term, succeeding Tim Clarke, who stayed a term-and-a-half to sort out membership and leadership issues that had been plaguing the organization.

1. In what direction would you like to steer the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce?

Over the last few years, the chamber had lost its luster and political punch due to leadership issues. My direction is to get back to where we're serving the members and we become the true voice of business in our community.

2. What are some of your key initiatives?

We've just completed a membership survey. We'll be evaluating, testing, doing some strategic planning. The economic development arm is moving out of the chamber; there is the Young Professionals Group now. We are restructuring according to the individuals we serve.

3. What are some major issues facing Sarasota within the next decade or so?

Available developable land and the affordable housing issue. We don't have enough land in this community for workforce housing. There's also the management of growth in the city of Sarasota. How do we manage the quality of life downtown yet allow growth to take place?

4. What can we do about the north-south county split?

It's kind of a healthy situation because they are as proud of their communities as we are of ours. There are jealousies there, and maybe some things can never be resolved, but communications can certainly be improved. I'm not sure there will ever be complete equity, but if they manage the situation well, their prowess will increase. The chamber of commerce can no longer be an isolated entity. We have to have relationships not just in the county, but in the region, to be effective.

5. How do you feel about the CED (Committee For Economic Development) moving out of the chamber and what will take its place?

We'll still have an organization within the chamber to provide economic development. Since the name Sarasota is synonymous with our area, people looking to come down here go to our Web site that has a million hits a month. The chamber is a critical cog in economic development but will focus more on business development and retention of our members.

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