Bay County Chamber of Commerce

Bay County Chamber of Commerce

235 West 5th Street

Panama City, FL 32401


Phone: 850.785.5206

Fax: 850.763.6229





2015 Highlights
December 29, 2015

Can you believe this is the last week of 2015? We appreciate your membership and continued support of our organization. Here are some highlights from this year:


We set a goal of 950 members in 2015, and we started the year with 898. At our last Board of Directors Meeting, we approved our 952nd member. Thank you to our volunteers and all of our staff, especially Tamara Barnes and Stephane Balch who helped us obtain this milestone.  


Our Governmental Affairs Committee had an extremely busy year taking numerous positions on various activities such as: supporting the Governor on his efforts to grow Enterprise Florida to promote Florida and improve our business climate; the elimination of sales tax on the purchase of manufacturing equipment and the elimination of sales tax on commercial leases. In addition we continue to monitor Restore activities. Although we supported two projects, only one was chosen to move forward and that was the opening of the East Pass. We also supported a Local Preference ordinance with our local governments and agencies whereby local business is given preference before an out of town firm. We supported the newly formed Bay County Contractors Association on this initiative. Tyndall AFB Waterway Security was a hot topic. Tyndall listened to community concerns and now it appears there is little or no concern moving forward. We took two trips to Tallahassee this year with the first one in February to present the 2015 Legislative Agenda. Just last month due to session beginning in January, we delivered our 2016 agenda. In addition, staff has done numerous other visits throughout the year. Following staff changes earlier in the year, Brandi DeRuiter took over our Governmental Affairs and Military Affairs departments and she has done a terrific job.


We really have to stop and think about two especially impressive campaigns we have been successful with. In the past year this organization was responsible for getting a bed tax in the city of Panama City. No one else has been successful at this and look at the dollars our city now has to market itself and grow tourism on the east side of Hathaway Bridge.  Then, our Junior Leadership Bay class succeeded in bringing back drivers education to our school system. The school board staff tried on numerous occasions to get the county commission to enact the Dori Slosberg Act. We should be proud of just these two monumental accomplishments.  

Yet another important aspect of what we do is Military Affairs. Our MAC Chairman, Larry Carroll, has done an amazing job this year. Numerous events for leadership departing and arriving at both bases; the Gulf Coast Salute Air show at Tyndall; the Year of the Military Diver at NSA, honorees such as General Carlisle, growing of the honorary commanders to the full board of directors, the first MAC fishing trip and thanks to Larry we even have cool, new MAC hats. In addition, The Chamber maintains its involvement and support of the Bay Defense Alliance to protect and grow our military installations and we commend Tom Neubauer and that team for their ongoing efforts.


Education continues to be high on our priority list with successful Leadership Bay and Junior Leadership Bay leadership programs; Career Connections that targets students that are not necessarily college bound and Educators in Industry that target our guidance counselors to engage them in the business community so that they know the opportunities that local business can offer to our students. In addition, for many years we've been privileged to have a representative on the school districts, citizen's advisory committee that follow expenditures on the one half cent sales tax. We were also tasked to take a leadership role in Alignment Bay County. Although Career Source is the lead organization we have been involved at the Governing Board level and the Operational Board. The process is moving forward.


Our Events Department brings you informative and fun programs such as Tourism Appreciation Month, Industry Appreciation Month, First Responders Appreciation, First Friday, continuing education seminars, the Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony, and so much more that Elizabeth Smith continues to do very well with. Some of you may not know that Elizabeth technically carries two departments 1) Events and 2) our Foundation where all the education related programs take place. Good job Elizabeth. By the way, she even was successful in getting the Governor to our first event since Jeb Bush attended one of our Salute to Florida Heroes events. We were honored to have Governor Scott attend and speak at the IAC breakfast.


Our Communications Department is amazing. Brittany Cole touches every piece of printed and electronic communications that comes out of the Chamber. Bay Biz is the shining star and continues to serve being an excellent income generator while providing a service to our business community. It was even a local Addy Award recipient this year.


We've held three CEO welcome receptions this year and welcomed numerous individuals into our community. The Past Chairman's Council meets on a quarterly basis to keep past leadership engaged in the community and the Chamber. In addition, we believe our City Manager meetings are productive for those individuals to continue to work together and build relationships to grow our community.  We are excited to see what 2016 holds and we will officially welcome our incoming Chairman, Robert Carroll, at our Annual Dinner & Awards Ceremony.


None of this would be possible without each and every one of you, our members. We thank those who have supported us for years and we thank those who have just joined our team. Together we can make a difference.


If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact one of our staff members.




The mission of the Bay County Chamber of Commerce is to create superior value for all chamber members large and small, cultivate economic and personal development, promote and protect a competitive system of business, be a community leader while embracing Bay County’s opportunities and challenges.


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