Chamber conference first-timers share expectations

From the Tallahassee Democrat

Roughly 110 first-timers are attending the year’s largest business and social retreat during the annual Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Conference at Amelia Island.

They represent businesses and industries, from startups to longtime staples. They’re bankers, architects, developers, childcare providers and others who touch every corner of Tallahassee.

“We continue to inch up each year,” said Dana Noles, the chamber’s vice president of events. “You find that companies are inviting more of their employees or there’s a transition in leadership and they’re getting them involved. Then they become the next generation of attendees that come to the conference.”

The three-day whirlwind event packs featured speakers and workshops in a relaxed setting where attendees nix their suits for polo shirts and Bermuda shorts. The weekend centers around moving Tallahassee’s business community forward and making the most of the city’s unique assets. And first-timers, chamber officials said, are vital players in reaching the overall economic goal.

“For first-timers, one of the key things I’d emphasize is don’t stay in a corner,” said chamber chairman Reggie Bouthillier, a shareholder at Stearns Weaver Miller law firm. “Get out there and network.”

First-timers share what they hope to gain, see or experience:

Andy Loyd, sales and operations manager at King Arthur’s Tools

“I am a first time attendee employed in a family owned business that was formed in Tallahassee 27 years ago. I was asked to represent my company and gladly accepted the opportunity to do so. I’m hoping to get support from like-minded people who can help my company continue to grow. I hope to use them as a resource to tap into at the community level.”

Lisa Garay, chief financial officer of EMI architects.

“I joined the Chamber last August and was disappointed that I had missed the annual conference. Everyone was talking about the great connections they had made and about the excellent speakers/topics that were covered. This year, I look forward to meeting other members of our business community and attending the roundtable discussions. The volleyball tournament will likely be a blast, as well.”

Tiffany Hamilton, broker/Realtor at Ekk and Hamilton Realty. 

“One of the reasons I wanted to attend was because of the feedback I received from previous attendees. They were impressed by the programs the chamber put together and they enjoyed the different breakout sessions with industry experts and the collaboration that takes place in a more relaxed atmosphere. You’re networking but it doesn’t feel like the traditional networking because you’re in a more relaxed atmosphere. And there’s always a takeaway.”

Greg Hulen, executive vice president of Seminole Boosters. 

“I am new in my leadership role at Seminole Boosters Inc. and was told the conference was an excellent way to meet the leaders of the Tallahassee business community.”

Menia Chester, baker and owner M. Latrell and Company LLC.

“I don’t know what to expect. I do believe in participating and learning from others. I’m excited about sharing and learning.”

Autumn Calder, planning manager for Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency

“I hope to broaden my perspective on our private sector and gain connections that will help me in my role in PLACE, serving the Tallahassee Leon County community.”

Contact TaMaryn Waters at or follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter.