ENGLEWOOD — When Englewood residents Erick Phelps and Jack Gray started the Englewood Visitors Bureau website, part of it stemmed, they said, from a perceived lack of promotion by area chambers of commerce.
As former volunteer tourism director for the Englewood-Cape Haze Area Chamber of Commerce — a role he played for several years — Gray said he concluded that, ‘The chamber doesn’t really promote anything that’s not a chamber function.’
Mary Smith, the executive director of the chamber, disputes the claim.
‘We heavily promote local events and nonprofits whether or not they’re chamber-sponsored,’ Smith said.
An active member of the Rotary Club of Englewood, Gray promotes events in the area like the Englewood Music Festival. He started the website, he said, as a way to promote events and businesses.
‘What happens is that we have the offseason and people go broke,’ Phelps said. ‘People go out of business, and it’s been like that ever since I’ve been here. You know, as opposed to sitting around and waiting for other people to come up with solutions that happened over at Charlotte County or up in Sarasota that never trickle down here, Jack and I wanted to do something that affects our lives right now.’
Phelps is a real estate broker with Corin Bay Real Estate. He also chairs the Englewood Pioneer Days Festival Committee.
‘You had two counties that kind of split the town (Englewood) up,’ Gray said. ‘Sarasota is doing their thing, and Charlotte is doing their thing. You’ve got three or four different chambers of commerce that do things in the area in Charlotte, Boca Grande, Englewood and even North Port.’
Phelps said he thinks the Englewood chamber feels the website conflicts with the interests of theirs.
‘I don’t really understand that feeling because there is no chamber in Sarasota or in Charlotte county that does any sort of tourism development, so I don’t know where they get off saying that,’ Phelps said.
Smith said the services provided from the chamber’s website at http://www.englewoodchamber.com are sufficient to meet the needs of visitors.
‘I wouldn’t say (www.englewoodvisitors.com is a) duplication of services, but if the consumers are looking for visitors information, we have all that right here in our office,’ Smith said. ‘We have the building and the personnel who can help you. You can call us, get information on the phone and get free brochures whenever you need. We don’t see a problem with county lines (between Sarasota and Charlotte). We work very closely with both tourism bureaus, (the) Charlotte County Tourist Development (Council), as well as the Sarasota County side.’