In a release Monday, Dec., 28, 2020, the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors consisting of: Larry Solinger, President; Debbie Memoli, Vice President; Mel Brinson, Past President; Beth Sowers, Secretary/Treasurer; and Directors; Cynthia Welch, Nancy R Koucky, Jennipher Johnson, Todd Combs, Dotty Manning announced the new business plan which included selling the newly constructed building and the property on which it occupies.
"The chamber building has been sold and our Welcome Center will be relocating to an on-Island location that will provide a great deal of accessibility for our members and visitors.
Your Board of Directors fully intends to continue to serve you and the Pine Island Community productively. The proceeds from the sale provides the opportunity to better serve our members and the community as we proceed forward into the ever-changing virtual world of business.
We value your input so please do not hesitate to contact the chamber or one of the board of directors personally with your questions, ideas, and concerns."
The Chamber was first incorporated in 1961. It purchased the property in 1967 and funds were raised to build the CBS structure which was completed shortly thereafter.
The business plan included being staffed by volunteers and business members who would rotate duties. Business members were allowed to promote their own businesses as long as they included other like member businesses. This allowed the Board to pay off the small mortgage and regular expenses since its only income was membership dues.
Around 1995-96, after the Board had previously decided to hire a professional director, the Chamber ran out of money within about a year and contemplated selling the property. The board decided that Gail Johnson and another board member coordinate a "garage" sale to raise funds to keep the doors open for another month. In the meantime, the new Chamber President, Jerry Myers suggested that since mangoes were in season and otherwise not being fully appreciated, it might be a method to raise funds to hold an event celebrating the "mango".
Originally chaired by President, Al Mills, and a past vice-president/secretary chaired the event until 2005.
During those years' and at the height of the MangoMania event, the Chamber raised about $70,000 per event. Again, and with some money in the bank the Board, presided over by Sally Tapager, decided to hire a full time Administrator in 2002. Jennifer Jennings, the last administrator resigned this year.
An arsonist set fire to the original building in 2012 and new construction on the present building was completed 2014. The property is presently valued at 407,015.
When asked what the Chamber did for them, most members that responded said that after the slow demise of Mangomania, the Chamber had done very little toward promoting their businesses. Further, that they felt a degree of obligation in being members and for the cost there was little benefit. (Pine Island News Photo: 1970 - Chamber of Commerce Pres., Joe Cherry presenting an award to Mrs. Newt Harrington)
Questions to be answered; a) What is to become of all the hard work performed by the present and former members and volunteers, b) where will the proceeds be allocated, and what becomes of the business "bricks" sold to members, c) what does the Chamber plan to do for its members?
Pine Island News and its job printing shop has been a member since 1969.