Investor Spotlight: Ybor City Chamber of Commerce

April 28, 2022

Ybor City is one of only two National Historic Landmark Districts in Florida and The Ybor City Chamber of Commerce, celebrating its 92nd anniversary this year, is focused both on preserving and developing the historic district. Founded in 1886 by Vicente Martinez-Ybor when he moved his cigar factory from Key West to Tampa, Ybor City holds a unique place in Florida’s social and economic history as our state’s “first industrial town.” Primarily a regional entertainment center during the past decade, Ybor City’s central location, great transportation, and critical mass of “creative industries” is making it the ‘Greenwich Village’ of Tampa. Historic buildings have been turned into stylish offices, in-town residences, and boutique hotels without sacrificing their historic character. In addition to being a top tourist destination, Ybor City is a great place to meet, learn, greet and do business.

Lee Bell, President and CEO

Lee Bell joined the Ybor Chamber as President and CEO in 2019. Lee has worked as a leading executive in the not-for-profit world for over seven years in local and statewide organizations. Prior to his not-for-profit roles, Lee founded and operated a multi-million-dollar staffing, recruiting, and human resource business until he sold it. For over twenty years Lee held various leadership posts within Ashland Chemical, a $2.7 billion division of Ashland, Inc. Lee is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree majoring in accounting.

Ybor City is one of Tampa’s most diverse and distinct neighborhoods with a rich history. How would you describe Ybor City today? 

Ybor City is a place where the past is honored and preserved, the present is lived to the fullest, and the future is being carefully planned. Our community is always changing. During the next 5-10 years, the number of people living in the Ybor City area will triple. This will bring a new and vibrant work, live, play, and learn environment to Ybor City.

What makes Ybor City so special? 

Ybor City is authentic and real. Real history, real cigars, a real sense of community, and even real chickens! Ybor City has become a magnet for new investment and new businesses. As a National Historic Landmark District, Ybor City is committed to our history while weaving future growth into the fabric of Ybor.

The Ybor City Chamber is a fairly new EDC Investor, what are you looking forward to most with your involvement? 

The Ybor Chamber is looking forward to being an energetic participant in the transformation of Ybor City, Tampa, and Hillsborough County – which means we must be at the table. We value our public and private partnerships because they allow us to achieve the highest level of success for our investors and Ybor City.

What role do you see your organization playing in helping to shape our community’s future?

We are the front-line eyes and ears in the Ybor business community. We are here, in the heart of the action, constantly advocating for our investors. This is an exciting time in our region and Ybor City is right in the middle of all of it.