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Chamber breakfast an opportunity to network

July 10, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

The North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce gives its members and prospective members ample opportunity to come together, network, and become more involved in the community.

On the first Wednesday of every month, members get together at the Perkins on North Cleveland Avenue bright and early for breakfast and an opportunity to meet and discuss Chamber issues in a non-formal setting.

Breakfast networking has become a way for new members of the Chamber to become involved, especially if they are unable to make the monthly after-hours social of the business leaders luncheon (as they are likely still at work).

For this gathering, John Gardner decided to open up a round table discussion on issues that affect Chamber members. He called it "meaningful networking."

The topic: What do you want the Chamber to do for you?

Gardner said questions like these are very important. In a time where things seem to be changing more than ever, he said the ability for the chamber to change could be the difference between survival and not.

"I use the analogy of Blockbuster Video or Kodak, and Chambers will become like them if we don't migrate with the times," Gardner said. "What do we need to do or stop doing?"

Brian Mayle said that with technology and the Internet, people can find businesses much more easily.

"The Chamber used to be the only place to find a directory and get information. You don't need that as much anymore," Mayle said. "Getting more participation in the networking events would be great."

Alec Ackerman, who works for Northwestern Mutual, told of what other chambers have done well, such as Fort Myers.

"They're trying to appeal to a younger crowd so the Chamber lasts for generations. They held a young professionals event at a place that appeals to a younger crowd, which was a good change up," Ackerman said.

Gardner said attracting millennials is difficult because they are so unique as individuals. He said that 80 percent of his clientele is retired, but they have to also embrace younger people.

"They're the future. I won't be around forever and I don't know many business people who are under 40 in this community, but maybe that's something wee promote," Gardner said.

Another issue discussed, a problem many organizations have, is the apathy among most of its members. Many of the meetings and events are attended by the same few people.

"It's amazing the number of people who send us their $250 check and we never see them. The feel it's their community duty," Gardner said. "God bless them, but I really want engagement. You get out of it what you put into it, otherwise, you don't know what you're getting."

Apathy resulted in the dissolution of the annual July 4 parade in North Fort Myers years ago. Many of the people who organized it moved on, and when nobody else took over, the parade was no more.

Al Giacalone, Chamber president, said being able to speak to people in this environment helps him with ideas on how to grow his business, Rockstar Realty. He said he would like to bring in title companies.

"Title companies are developing their own app that I can pass on to customers. It's that kind of exposure we want," Giacalone said.

For more info on the North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, go to



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