SANFORD – Lori Williams hears it all the time.
The city of Sanford has definitely been in the news lately, and has gotten a lot of attention from not just the local but certainly the national press as well.
The problem is, it’s not really the kind of attention the city wants or needs.
The ongoing trial of Sanford resident George Zimmerman, who is being charged with second degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, brought national news cameras to Sanford to follow a case that brought with it charges of racial profiling and incompetence within the Sanford Police Department when Zimmerman didn’t get arrested within the few first days following the murder.
What’s so disappointing about this focus, Williams said, is that it obscures so many really good things going on in Sanford today – including the fact that so many of the business owners here are experiencing a solid uptick in business.
“When I’m around Sanford, it looks to me like it’s thriving,” said Williams, the district manager of TrueChoice Telecom, a carrier service.
Williams is also an ambassador for the Sanford Chamber of Commerce, which held its weekly meeting today at the Central Florida Zoo. As has been the case for months, the room was packed this morning as the gathering opened.
“It’s a weekly meeting, and we meet every Wednesday, and it always looks like this, pretty much every week,” Williams said. “It’s pretty busy.”
Membership is up, she added, as Sanford’s business community continues to experience improvements following nearly four years of struggling against the headwinds of a national recession and the collapse of the housing market.
As many small business owners in the room were quick to note, 2012 has been a better year for them than any time since the recession began in 2008.
“Because there was such a roll for a while, they’re still recuperating,” Williams said. “But we’re constantly trying to bring businesses in, and that’s a very positive thing for Sanford.”
The Chamber also works hard to promote everything going on in Sanford, Williams added – the positive things, not the controversial crime stories, she added.
“Whenever there’s anything going on in Sanford, we’re promoting it,” she said. “The business owners will give us an update, and the businesses in general are very supportive of one another.”
The Chamber also works on special events, noted Pam Czopp, the Chamber’s executive director. That includes sponsoring events like Taste of Sanford, which will be held in September at the Sanford Civic Center, and which becomes a showcase for local restaurants and businesses that provide food service.
“We have some great restaurants that have joined this year,” Czopp said.
Next week, on Thursday, June 21, the Chamber is hosting a special luncheon at Seminole State College, where educators there will offer advice to small business owners on free services available to them.
And the Chamber is also asking its members to help them collect supplies for the local schools before they reopen in August, Czopp said.
“We have our box outside in the hall, and we’re collecting school supplies,” Czopp said. “Our teachers get to go shopping. Please help us get that box filled up each week.”
Sanford business owners are also excited about the fact that the SunRail light rail line will include a stop in the city, potentially bringing even more jobs and economic development here in the future.
“The Sanford station is officially under construction,” said Mike Wacht, the public involvement specialist for the SunRail City Center in downtown Orlando.
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