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VISION QUEST: New chamber president challenges members

June 20, 2012
By BOB PETCHER, , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

There is a new business sheriff in town -one that is a well-respected figure in all of Florida and one trying to motivate his deputies to partner up with others to boost a positive business climate in all of the greater Fort Myers Beach community.

FMB Chamber President Frank (Bud) Nocera discussed a vision created by the organization's board of directors and how tourism comes into play in the equation at monthly chamber meeting at Charley's Boathouse Grill last Thursday.

Business-driven meets community-oriented.

"We are an information company. Our job is to provide the residents of Southwest Florida and all of our potential visitors information on your business. Our success depends on how well we do that," said Nocera, who has been on the job all of two weeks.

The former chief operating officer then president/CEO of Visit Florida in Tallahassee, former vice president of community services at The Florida Aquarium, Inc. in Tampa, former destination marketing consultant at Destination Marketing International in Fort Myers and former director of tourism sales at Jacksonville Convention and Visitors Bureau knows what it takes to make a business successful. He also knows it'll take more than just his small staff to succeed.

He called on the attending chamber members -and roughly all 400 represented businesses- to help with his visioning.

"We have a very small chamber staff. We cannot implement this," said Nocera. "It is only going to happen if you participate in making this reach its potential. We must be member-driven, not staff-driven."

The former director of marketing and tourism for the City of Fort Myers as well as former executive director of the Lee County Convention and Visitors Bureau, assistant county administrator for economic development and deputy and acting county administrator is also seeking outside participation for a "unified voice" in the business community.

"The vision is also about a chamber of commerce that works in partnership with the City of Fort Myers Beach," he said.

After addressing Mayor Larry Kiker, Vice Mayor Bob Raymond and Town Manager Terry Stewart in attendance, Nocera made a promise to the Town officials.

"This chamber and I stand ready to work with you for the betterment of this community. We will be partners. We will be friends. And, we will be respectful," he said. "Our goal is a chamber of commerce that is held in high esteem by our business community, our town government and our residents of these islands."

Social media usage and a strong website will help draw visitors to the Beach. The man who has more than 30 years of public and private sector experience in all phases of marketing and management will need a few tricks up his sleeve.

"Our vision and job number one is to have this chamber become the number one online source for information on Fort Myers Beach for both visitors from way outside the area to potential visitors from outside the area and also for residents of the greater Southwest Florida area," he said.

Nocera referenced Miles Media Group in Sarasota, one of the top website developers in the U.S. He stated he had called old friend Roger Miles with a hearty request.

"The first thing I said was that I need one of your websites that will absolutely kick butt. The second thing I said was that I had no money to pay for it," he said. "At no cost to the chamber of commerce, they are designing a website for us. I truly believe it will be groundbreaking for any chamber of commerce."

A website that has weekly changing content about Fort Myers Beach businesses and is regarded as the go-to site for insider information is the goal. Nocera would like to have chamber members deliver a weekly message via video about the new and exciting things to come to the Beach.

The vision came during a planning retreat last year by the FMB Chamber Board of Directors.

"In that retreat a strategic plan was developed, and the board created vision for what this chamber can be and will be," said Nocera. "It's not about the new guy at the chamber. It's about chamber members. It's about a community working together to achieve common goals. It's about making these visions real. It's about creating value for your membership dollars. It's really about you."

Nocera called the notion of tourism on Fort Myers Beach "fundamental" and applauded the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau for their efforts.

"We are lucky to have one of the finest visitor and convention bureaus in the nation. As we look at tourism in 2012, tourism and marketing is largely web-based. It's about delivering information and content to the consumer, but it's also about engaging the consumer, getting them into a dialogue with you and learning what they want and need and trying to fulfill those needs," he said.

He also recognized Quenzel & Associates for its "yeoman" efforts on "very limited resources" from the FMB Chamber.

"The chamber has just not had the money to invest in what perhaps it should have been investing in Internet design and implementation," he said. "Yet, Quenzel has seen to it that this chamber has had a web presence.

"We are going to be taking an opportunity that Quenzel has already provided to us to really maximize the use of social media as a platform to deliver such things as chamber exclusive deals to consumers. It will also allow potential visitors to come to the website and tell us what do they need to make a great vacation. Are they looking for a romantic getaway? Are they bringing their family? Do they want to go fishing? Are they interested in a kayak/canoe excursion? Would they like to see restaurant menus?

"We are going to learn what they want and connect them to our chamber's members' information that can best fulfill their needs. This is going to be visitor information, caught daily and served fresh."

The amusing catch phrase pleased his listeners. So did the idea of having two information kiosks on each end of the island. He envisions used moveable 16-foot Airstream concession trailers in the future.

"Imagine accommodations being able to email the availability and rates on a daily basis and having it appear on a big screen TV in front of the visitors as they are standing there," said Nocera.

In the next month or two, the Beach Chamber will be holding a fundraiser honoring the islands' shrimp industry.

"Our goal is to raise at least $60,000 in this festival with seafood, live music, a great auction, fundraising and sponsorship," said Nocera. "It's only going to succeed if the members of this chamber of commerce is behind it. This chamber is going to have fun and this chamber is going to be great.

"The future of this chamber of commerce is really, really very bright. The road map to our future has already been put in place, long before I got here."



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