The Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce is moving back to Estero Island.
The Beach Chamber will vacate its long-time office building at 17200 San Carlos Blvd. and is expected to move on the other side of Matanzas Pass Bridge sometime in mid-December. The move is officially Nov. 30, but could be sooner as chamber officials are planning an "office garage sale" this Saturday (Oct. 23).
In the meantime, the small Chamber staff (one full-time employee, four part-time employees) will work from their individual homes and out of its mobile tourist information center ("Roxie") that can be seen either on Old San Carlos Boulevard or in Santini Marina Plaza.
The Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce will be moving out its longtime building in the very near future.
"It's no secret that the chamber has had some tough finances over the past couple of years," said FMB Chamber President Bud Nocera. "My goal for this upcoming year is to get the chamber financially secure.
"We are planning on going into space that is half our current size. We don't need to be in 3,000 square feet of space and pay all of the maintenance costs and monthly utilities. It's smart of us to cut our expenses and get into something that more meets our needs.
Rumors have the new location within Key Estero Shops at 1661 Estero Blvd., but Nocera would not confirm since a lease has not been signed as of yet. He did say an expected move-in will happen once building improvements are completed for the new offices. One thing is sure: the local chamber will keep its telephone number of 454-7500.
"In the interim, Jane (Ross) and Cindy (D'Andrea) will be working out of their homes and Doug (McElheny) and I will be working the Roxie," said Nocera. "We will have the chamber phone line transferred to the cell phone there."
The relocation has been cited as one of the Beach Chamber goals for 2014, along with cutting expenses and increasing revenue.
"One thing a good business will do is take stock of its location and overhead to see if it is meeting its customers' needs and its own fiscal goals," Nocera wrote in a recent letter to the editor. "Perhaps the most important goal for 2014 will be to move this Chamber back to Fort Myers Beach. If we are to be the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, we need to be located on Estero Island."
Through his letter, Nocera is calling 2014 a "transitional year to further our mission of business advocacy, education and visitor services." He maintains the local business organization will continue its mission to promote and protect the interests of the business community.
"Our commitment to this beach community is stronger than ever," he wrote. "Our commitment to delivering ever-improving member and community services remains paramount all with the overarching goals of helping our community and making beach businesses' cash registers ring."
The building that housed the Chamber since the early 1990s is owned by the Chamber Foundation. Nocera said a leasee is expected to move in once the chamber officials depart.
"We were notified by the Foundation that they have found somebody to lease the offices to," said Nocera. "So, we want to honor that and their request to be out before the end of the month."
According to FMB Chamber Foundation Board President Fran Myers, there is no definitive occupant as of yet but there are feelers interested in the building.
"I think it is really unfortunate that the building will have to be sold or re-rented because they couldn't really afford to pay the rent," she said. "I feel really sad about that."
Myers said the Beach Chamber used to be in Key Estero Shops before moving off the island to its present location. That particular move was cited as a business decision by its members at the time.
"They wanted to be out and catch people before they got to the Beach," said Myers.
Now, finding the right occupant or buyer in a down economic time could prove difficult.
"We're just trying to do whatever we can to not lose the building," said Myers. "Very frankly, the chamber and the foundation will benefit if we can sell it."