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Gardner looks to ‘reboot’ North Fort Myers Chamber

July 24, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

John Gardner is looking to start a new chapter in the history of the North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce with a reboot.

He calls it Chamber 2.0, which he hopes will bring the organization into the 21st Century, increase membership and further the mission of the Chamber, which is to serve the businesses in the area.

Gardner took over as interim president last month following the resignation of Al Giacalone, and hosted his first Business Leaders Luncheon last week at the Shell Factory.

Article Photos

John Gardner, interim president North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce.

His first initiative was to ask members what the Chamber can do for them.

Gardner, who owns Lee County Insurance and who participates in many of the area's civic groups, said the Chamber is having problems figuring out what it wants to do and what to offer its members.

While a printed directory is great, Google provides names and numbers, as does the Chamber website.

"We can't rely on what we did in the past because technology has changed so much of it. We need to figure out how to use that technology to help our members," Gardner said.

Gardner said the Chamber has stagnated in recent years with membership and fallen behind the curve. It isn't that the chamber needs to change its mission, it wants to change the direction it takes to get to the mission.

"We're not going to throw the baby away with the bathwater. There might be features we need to add as well as members we need to add," Gardner said. "We need to become more engaged and not just exchange business cards."

To go into the future, Gardner is reaching into the past, speaking with previous members while attempting to recruit new ones. He is also speaking with area stakeholders to get their input and influence and funding.

"We have some developers and folks having a big impact on the community. We need to engage them in the business community," Gardner said.

There is a lot of activity in the area and interest as the areas to the south are building out. In North Fort Myers the pilot program for faade improvements has received interest, with Merchants Crossing the chief proponent. But until it happens, Gardner said it's only a concept.

If it does happen, Gardner wants the Chamber to be at the center of it, if it can stay relevant and give businesses support it needs.

"In order to remain relevant, we have to keep up with what our members need and want. We can't continue to be the chamber of the past and I can't do it by myself and we can't do it without more members and funding," Gardner said. "Otherwise, we'll just be meeting for lunch."



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