Cape Coral Conversations: Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral President Donna Germain

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After an extensive nationwide search, the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral recently announced its decision to promote from within when its Board of Directors announced Donna Germain as its new President and CEO.

Germain, a Cape Coral native has worked for the organization since 2004. In her 11 year career with the organization, Germain has served as member relations manager, marketing and communications director, and interim vice president.

In addition, she was the staff liaison for the Leadership Cape Coral program since 2011, and was appointed this year to the Florida Association of Chamber Professionals’ Board of Directors.

Germain takes over the top position in the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral after former President and CEO Michael Quaintance stepped down from the post in April to pursue a teaching career.

As she begins to get acclimated to her new position, we had the opportunity to sit down with Germain to discuss her plans and visions as she begins the latest phase in her professional career.

 

First of all, congratulations on your appointment as the President and CEO of the chamber.

Thank you.

 

Looking back, what made you decide to apply for president?

This was something I have been working toward for a long time. Mike (Quaintance) and I had conversations, and we knew he was going to be pursuing a teaching career and he had those conversations with the chamber board as well. I always knew that the chamber was something very special to me and was going to be my career. I didn’t necessarily know that when I first started here, but the longer I worked here and the more I grew within the organization it became something I truly believe in and became more passionate about with each year.

The further along I went and developed within the organization, the more responsibilities I was given. I took on the Leadership Cape Coral Program and other initiatives. It became apparent to me that this is what I wanted to do long term. When Mike was ready to retire, I knew I wanted to pursue being the president of the organization.

 

What were your first thoughts when you were told you were being appointed the president of the chamber?

I was ecstatic, but it hadn’t really sunk in yet. It was something I had been working toward so long, and going through the process of the national search in regards to filling the position. I knew I had a lot of support, you never know how it is actually going to go. Never once through the whole process did I think I had it in the bag. But, I was very excited just to hear those words that I got the position. At the same time, the reality of being the president of the chamber also hit me. As happy as I was about getting the job I was also thinking at the same time that now I have to be president of the chamber.

 

What will be your first steps as the new president of the chamber?

My first steps are focusing on growing membership and membership retention. We have gotten to a great place since the downturn in the economy. During that time, our membership was down in the five hundreds. Now we are over seven hundred and fifty members. It is growing. But, I would like to see us get back in the thousands. We have a lot of businesses in Cape Coral. I want to see us reach a lot more of them.

 

What do you see as the Chamber’s role in the community moving forward?

The Chamber has always been a big part of supporting and serving the community. Obviously we would like to continue with that foundation of being an active member of the community and working with city government on different city ordinances, policies, and things like that.

We have been a great provider of community events. Things that really bring the city together. I would like to continue that and create a good mix of business and events. Help the city and our businesses grow, while being a good community steward.

 

Why should a business become a member of the chamber?

The chamber is an excellent way to market your business. We do it in a way to where you have to participate actively in promoting your business. You hear all the time that business owners, particularly small business owners spend all their time working in their business rather than working on their business. This helps you work on your business. Even if you can’t attend a single meeting, we have our website, newsletter, and different things that help you promote your business without having to be there to promote your business.

We have 2.3 million referrals a year on our website that is just from our member directory. That is people searching for our members. It is the best $375 a year you will ever spend on your business. I don’t think people always look at the chamber as a marketing tool, but we are a marketing and advertising tool for our members.

 

Being born and raised in Cape Coral and coming from a family who owned and still own their own local business, you have a unique perspective on the local small business community. How will that experience play into moving forward in your role as the president of the chamber?

My experience growing up in a small business, and actually many members of my family including my husband and myself still run small businesses today, gives me that knowledge of the struggles and challenges that comes along with owning a small business, particularly in this area.

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