Daytona Regional Chamber Celebrates Opening of HQ

Daytona Regional Chamber Celebrates Opening of Renovated Headquarters

Business owners are often told one of the secrets of success is being nimble and flexible, ready to meet new challenges and take advantage of opportunities. It is advice the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce has taken to heart.

Earlier this month the organization celebrated the opening of its renovated headquarters on E. Orange Avenue with a ribbon cutting and a week of open houses for members and the public to experience the new facility.

Chamber President and CEO Nancy Keefer recently sat down with EVOLVE News publisher Howard Holley to talk about the new facility and why it was important to update the organization’s offices.

The conversation began with Keefer explaining why it is important for business owners to reimagine their businesses.

“In today’s world things are changing so rapidly, you’ve got to be so nimble, so flexible in how you deal with business,” Keefer said. “How you recruit business, how you stay in business and how you grow your business. So it’s critical that they have opportunities, places that they can get together and collaborate, and that is some of the things we do at the Chamber so it’s an exciting time to help businesses grow.”

Keefer said the need to be flexible and willing to change is something the Chamber embraced to be able to serve its members and the business community, and the renovation is a key part of that effort.

“When we started the process to look back at our building it was back in 2018 and at that point in time we kept saying there needs to be a hub for business, a place where people can comfortably land, in a comfortable setting, a safe setting,” she said.

But even the best laid plans can go awry, and like businesses around the world, the Chamber’s plans in 2018 hit a stumbling block.

“That was pre-Covid, and we thought at the time what a brilliant move,” Keefer said. But the pandemic forced business to find creative ways to meet customer needs while maintaining safe protocols as the world entered a period of unknown challenges. Rather than let that put a monkey wrench in the Chamber’s plans, the organization moved to meet changing needs.

“We’ve got a lot of new home-based businesses starting up, they don’t like clients in their home so we’re going to be ahead of the curve and we’re going to be this expanded lobby,” Keefer said. “The way business is done has changed. People are struggling with bricks and mortar. Probably that concept of a business hub was ahead of its time in 2018 but now it’s a necessity after Covid.”

Instead of shelving the plans and waiting for that elusive “new normal,”: Keefer said the Chamber reimagined what their headquarters should look like.

“We went back to the drawing board and took over all of the building all but 1,600 square feet that we’re going to leasing to the city of Daytona Beach for the economic development team,” she said. “Again, that opportunity to bring together two entities that are trying to build business, retain, grow recruit all in the same building kind of gives it a one-stop shop.”

But the effort to reimagine the role of a chamber of commerce did not stop with design changes and new features to the office space. Keefer said adapting to the changing needs of members and changes in the business community as a whole also had to be addressed.

“We’re constantly evolving,” she said. “I think that part of the situation we’re in is our membership is a very broad demographic so we have to be able to attract the smallest businesses up to the largest, so we look at our programming at all times and really want to make sure we are hitting on something for all the demographics of our chamber of commerce.”

Keefer said that included putting a “big focus” on small businesses in 2020, bringing in a vice president of small business and creating programming specifically geared toward small business with an emphasis on a variety of training topics from procurement to DEI initiatives to digital issues.

“All sorts of topics that sometimes smaller businesses don’t have access to,” she said. “They’re busy with their business, running their businesses, so we want to just be there to make it a little easier for them.”

Keefer said the renovations were done to offer a broader array of training opportunities and to make the facility available to members after business hours, with a key-coded side entrance so members can use the business center side of the office for late meetings.

The upgrades also include a podcast studio for both audio and video recording with professional equipment, Keefer said.

While the physical structure has changed, the fundamental purpose of the Chamber to serve its members and increase opportunities for business success remains central to the organization’s mission.

“When you have a business need, call the Chamber,”: Keefer said. “We’re not going to be the answer to everything, but we typically know how to filter what we can do and who businesses need to go to that we can’t help.”

As far as her vision for the new facility, Keefer said she is excited for the community to experience the new space and hopes it will become a hub of activity.

“I want the lobby busy,” she said. “I want people in there all the time. I want the energy of what that brings to a community. I want people to see the space as value.”