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In Debt, Flagler Chamber of Commerce Seeking to Sell Building But Stay Put as Tenant

| July 12, 2016

flaglker chamber of commerce

It’s a little cloudy at the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce. (© FlaglerLive)

As debts have caught up with the organization, members of the Flagler Chamber of Commerce and Affiliates this afternoon learned that the chamber is seeking to sell the 10,000 square foot building it has owned, occupied and leased to other tenants since 2006.

The sale of the building at 20 Airport Road in Palm Coast–just off State Road 100, near the county airport–preferably to an investor, is intended to pay off debts incurred by the publication of its annual phone book and create a reserve fund, Chamber President Rebecca DeLorenzo said this afternoon in an interview just before the meeting with members at the Hilton garden Inn. The 54-year-old chamber, however, is not moving shop or closing. Today’s membership meeting was intended to “dispel the rumors we’re going bankrupt,” DeLorenzo said. “We’re not going bankrupt.”

The phone book has been an albatross around the chamber’s neck for a few years. In a 2015 planning session, the chamber’s board of directors elected to make 2016 the last year it would issue the book, which cost $50,000 to publish. With that last publication, the chamber fell $40,000 short, as customers were already aware that it would be the last volume, accelerating a migration away from such print products and toward the web and direct mail. DeLorenzo did not disclose the chamber’s total debt.

The chamber board then analyzed its financial condition and decided it was time to put the building up for sale. “Our goal is to sell it to an investor and maintain our position at the chamber,” DeLorenzo said. The alternative is not as clear. “As of right now we plan to pay debt on a monthly basis, with the bank that held the note on the building, we plan to pay that down,” DeLorenzo said. “We’ll work through it.”

The chamber bought the 11,000 square-foot property in 2005 for $145,900. The county property appraiser places the building’s current value at $908,000 and the land value at $278,000 for a total just market value of just over $1.2 million. Almost $900,000 of that is exempt from taxes, however. The chamber just lost one of its tenants: the county’s tourism office, which paid around $22,000 a year in rent for 1,000 square feet of office space in one of the suites. The tourism office is moving to a building on the county’s airport property, just behind the chamber’s building, for more space (and about $33,000 a year in rent).

Career Source, the employment agency, occupies 2,500 square feet, Office Divvy, the business incubator and co-work location, occupies 900 square feet (what used to be the chamber’s community room), and Politis and Matovina, the law firm, occupies another suite. The law firm is at the end of a five-year lease. It is negotiating a renewal with the chamber.

chamber president flagler rebecca delorenzo

Chamber President Rebecca DeLorenzo. (© FlaglerLive)

DeLorenzo has been president of the chamber since early 2013, following the somewhat more caustic tenure of Doug Baxter. Asked about her position now, she said: “I feel pretty secure in my position, the board of directors hasn’t told me otherwise.” There has been some turnover at the chamber, starting with what turned into the high-profile firing of Heather Thompson a year ago. She was the membership director. The event director position turned over at the end of June, and the front-desk membership services coordinator position was eliminated.

The chamber is down to six employees today, from twice that number before the economy soured. Membership is down to about 750, from around 800 members a year ago.

Preparing to put the building up for sale, the chamber put out a request for proposals to real estate brokers, interviewed them, and settled on Margaret Sheehan-Jones, the commercial broker with a number of recent, successful closings to her credit. The property will be for sale but off market for 30 days, DeLorenzo said, as it is shopped among likely interested investors. If nothing bites, the property may then be listed.

[This is a developing story., More details soon.]

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17 Responses for “In Debt, Flagler Chamber of Commerce Seeking to Sell Building But Stay Put as Tenant”

  1. flager me says:

    Chamber of ” what” Commerce?
    Our editor summed it up with a previous article—Customer service jobs at big box stores and restaurants that rake in millions and pay very little to our HS graduates-
    How has this Chamber changed the lopsided scale of customer service jobs vs. manufacturing or bring in corporations to this county which is usually neck in neck wuth Polk County in unemployment-
    If you are a HS senior – best to leave here ASAP to make a lif for yourself

  2. Algernon says:

    Many smart business people consider alternative financing methods when times and the economy change. This shows creativity and reflects an effort to use membership money for membership service instead of debt service.

  3. palmcoaster says:

    Very significant as close to a year of De Lorenzo firing Ms. Thompson and harassing members defending her, an action by VIP’s in the Board.
    For the past 15 years when then Chamber had over 1,100 members and only a crew of five or six that with Baxter grew to 14, and become a “Chamber to Build Egos other than Build Relationships” and the results are obvious.
    Administrators never get of their comfortable office bucket seats and visit current or potential new members with “Hi, How are you doing and how we can help” Also any contributed ideas about retaining old members and attracting new ones was received as a laughing matter by the De Lorenzo predecessor and looks like prevails given current 750 membership claim and probably in reality less.
    All the credentials ostensibly shown by an administrator can be wiped out or totally insufficient when his/her organization actions are influenced by authoritarian egotistical individuals whether administrators and board individuals, that do not take their members as their most important assets but instead themselves.
    Chamber is too busy campaigning in all elections, patting themselves in the back and winning and dinning their significant one’s over zero achievements. These actions and more is why ours and our friends businesses quit our membership 10 years ago.

  4. layla says:

    Not to be critical here, but when the Chamber cannot properly manage its own finances, something is very wrong here.

  5. A.S.F. says:

    Since Chambers of Commerce are primarily known as semi-expert slingers of manure, the tone and tenor of their explanations don’t surprise me at all.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Maybe the Chamber should start with cutting the pay of Rebecca DeLorenzo. The Chamber seems to be collecting money from local businesses and using the money to wine and dine their friends in the click. They could close the doors as far as I am concerned—the Chamber is a waste of time and money.

  7. Who Knows says:

    The chamber building was the vision of Dick Morris who was the greatest chamber leader Flagler has seen. He truely cared about the small business people in our community and would do anything to assist them. When the chamber built the building they borrowed 1.7 million to build and furnish the building. The rents from the other spaces were ultimately suppose to cover the large mortgage. Public records show the chamber has borrowed multiple times sense the original mortgage against the building. Mr. Morris ran the chamber with the help of one employee and many volunteers. While our community has grown it does not seem the membership grew to accomodate the large staff and other adventures the current leadership felt were necessary. With the current real estate pricing of commercial properties it is not likely they will sell the building for what is owed on it.

  8. steve miller says:

    What exactly does the chamber do for my small business?
    If the Chamber were a real business it would have been closed down by now rather then kicking the
    loan payments can down the road!

  9. michael murphy says:

    Stop giving each other a Pat on the Back and Raises, Best thing to do is put the Chamber in the Hands of the State.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Time to let the Chamber run by volunteers and get rid of Rebecca DeLorenzo and her $100k salary. The Chamber only benefits a few handful of people in the click. They no longer have maps of the city and have not been doing their part in the community. Doug Baxter got out because he knew where the Chamber was going. Rebecca should have known as well, and yet she accepted a salary the Chamber could not afford and just let matters go from bad to worse. This is not a good representative, this is an example of someone who needs to go get some career source training for a job they are suited for. The real estate market isn’t so great yet and I have my doubts the building will sell for what they need, unless of course the county buys it to bail them out, which is a possibility. I can vision the City and County fighting now since the property is at the airport.

  11. Kim says:

    What does the CofC do? Inthinkmthey exist for the benefit of their staff.

  12. Bruce Van Deusen says:

    The fact that the Chamber is considering a long term sale-leaseback arrangement to improve the bottom line is a good thing. It is responsible management for their board to suggest the idea.

    Many smart business people consider alternative financing methods when times and the economy change. This shows creativity and reflects an effort to use membership money for membership service instead of debt service.”

    I would encourage the folks above to take a fresh look at the Chamber, for it’s providing good value to the community. But a member can’t just join and wait for new customers to knock on their door – members need to participate in SOME Chamber activities to generate new business. It works for many, and might be worth trying for a few writers above.

  13. Joe A says:

    Is it just me or every time I read a story like this there always seems to a connection to someone in the current political cliche here in Flagler County, hmmm….

  14. Algernon says:

    To Anonymous: Correcting one item – The Chamber does have NEW maps available at the front desk for $4.00 to cover costs. Drop in one day and pick one up.

  15. Bruce Van Deusen says:

    In my comment, I forgot to credit and quote the second post above which said this: “Many smart business people consider alternative financing methods when times and the economy change. This shows creativity and reflects an effort to use membership money for membership service instead of debt service.” Apologies to whoever posted that. I agreed and thought it worth re-posting.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Why weren’t financial difficulties exposed long before now? Just another example of how we are kept in the dark and made to believe everything is just fine when it’s not.

  17. Who Knows says:

    Under past leadership Chamber Board members were never hired to do paid jobs for the chamber. Board members could not build the building, could not be employed, etc. Margaret Jones is on the chamber board. Unless she is offering her services for free they should hire an outside party to sell the building for them.

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