The Melbourne Regional Chamber (MRC) held their second annual Board & Community Leadership Retreat, presented by Hedrick Brothers Construction, at the Hilton Melbourne, FL on Thursday, December 10, 2020. This one-of-a-kind event convened two different panels, three distinct fireside chats, and included an economic update from Dr. Jerry Parrish, Chief Economist & Director of Research for the Florida Chamber Foundation. The event’s audience of 100 participants were comprised of MRC board members, elected officials, business owners, and key community partners from across the region. Rick Peckham, former play-by-play announcer for the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lighting and 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame Honoree, was the guest facilitator for the retreat.
The Economic Recovery, Resilience, & Reimagine Panel focused on the region’s economic rebuilding and revitalization initiatives. Panelists discussed current and future development projects and were asked how each entity has accelerated recovery and improved the resiliency of their business. The panel members included many of the top local leaders who impact the Space Coast economy.
Lynda Weatherman, President of the EDC of Florida’s Space Coast said, “The ad valorem tax is critical for our future and when it was going to sunset, we went to the Chamber and they took it on. It won’t get reported on anywhere, but that is necessary for the incentive packages we offer.” Additionally, Weatherman commented on the next challenge facing the Space Coast, “This county lacks a sense of place or brand recognition and that is critical to move us forward. We all need to sit around the table and define who we are and what we want to be moving forward.”
The panel’s discussion also led to the importance of businesses in the region speaking with a unified voice on important issues. “The Melbourne Regional Chamber is the voice of business in our community,” said Greg Donovan, Executive Director of the Orlando Melbourne International Airport.
“The Chamber is continuing to head in a new direction where we champion advocacy efforts on behalf of our members and convene stakeholders to explore topics that impact and shape the economy and quality of life on the Space Coast.” explained Jeff Robison, Melbourne Regional Chamber Board Chair-Elect and Principal at Lightle, Beckner, Robison. “Our effort to communicate the very tangible needs of many diverse businesses and employers located within our region has demanded of us a new perspective. Our overall business climate must reflect that we understand how to leverage opportunities while also being good stewards of such a unique place. We’re being responsive to the changing needs of our community, and that requires new thinking.”
Next was the Transportation & Infrastructure Panel where panelists talked about the infrastructure needs of the region to accommodate growth, expansion plans, and other transportation related issues.
Georganna Gillete, Executive Director of the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization said, “The Ellis Road widening is the number one priority for the Space Coast and we need the Chamber’s voice and support to help us achieve our goals.”
The retreat’s final sessions included fireside chat conversations focused on Housing, Workforce, & Water Quality, which were topics that bubbled up from the Chamber’s 2019 retreat.
“A multitude of issues, challenges, opportunities and solutions were discussed during the retreat. The Chamber is using those powerful discussions to formulate its legislative agenda for 2021 legislative session as well as determine advocacy areas of focus for 2021,” said Michael Ayers, President & CEO of the Melbourne Regional Chamber.
Panelist & Fireside Chat Details:
Economic Recovery, Resilience, & Reimagine Panel consisted of Peter Cranis, Executive Director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism, Dale Ketcham, Vice President, Government & External Relations for Space Florida, Lynda Weatherman, President & CEO of the EDC of Florida’s Space Coast, Kendall Moore, Managing Partner at Moore Law Group, Dr. Jerry Parrish, Chief Economist & the Director of Research for the Florida Chamber Foundation, and Kim Agee, Executive Director of Melbourne Main Street. The panel was moderated by Jeff Robison, Principal at Lightle, Beckner, Robison and Melbourne Regional Chamber Chair-Elect.
Participating Infrastructure and Transportation Panel panelists were Georganna Gillette, Executive Director of Space Coast TPO, Katie Mitzner, Public Affairs Manager at Brightline, Greg Donovan, Executive Director for the Orlando Melbourne International Airport, Bill Crowe, VP of Engineering and Construction for Port Canaveral, Eva Rey, Director of Community Management, Amenities, and Communications for The Viera Company, and Frank Abbate, Brevard County Manager. Moderating the panel was Shannon Lewis, Melbourne City Manager.
The Housing Fireside Chat speakers included the Director of Brevard County’s Housing and Human Services Department, Ian Golden and the Founder at Steadytown, Keith Donald. The chat was moderated by Bruce Moia, Chair-Elect of MRC’s Business Advocacy Committee and President at MBV Engineering, Inc.
For the Water Quality Fireside Chat, we were joined by the Executive Director of the Marine Resource Council, Leesa Souto, the Executive Director of the Indian River Lagoon Council and Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, Duane De Freese, and The Director of Brevard County’s Natural Resources Management Department, Virginia Barker.
The Workforce Fireside Chat speakers were the CEO of CareerSource Brevard, Marci Murphy and the
Superintendent of Brevard Public Schools, Dr. Mark Mullins. The chat was moderated by Natasha Spencer, Chair of MRC’s Business Advocacy Committee and Senior Vice President and Branch Manager of Shelter Mortgage.