Effingham County commissioners have approved a new professional services agreement with the Chamber of Commerce, but it the decision was not unanimous.
In a 4-1 vote, commissioners approved paying the Chamber $4,500 a year in exchange for the services it outlined in the agreement.
Commissioners approved 5-0 in December 2014 the first contract with the Chamber, with the Chamber providing tickets to certain organization-sponsored events. The pact also allows the Chamber to use the Effingham County Recreation and Parks gym for the annual Taste of Effingham.
Chamber Executive Director Rick Lott said the annual leadership retreat, which has been held at either Jekyll Island or St. Simons Island in years past, will be conducted in Effingham County later this summer.
“We’re trying to be responsive,” he said.
Commissioner Reggie Loper cast the dissenting vote and questioned the Chamber’s effectiveness.
“I don’t see where we get any service from the Chamber,” he said. “I don’t know what they actually do for us for that $4,500. What is the purpose of the Chamber in the county?”
Among its outlined services, the Chamber holds the annual community leadership retreat, maintains a master calendar of events, has a liaison at industrial prospect visits and provides a representative to incoming industries, works in conjunction with county staff to acquire and distribute demographics, marketing materials and market information to help with recruiting business and industry.
The Chamber also promotes the county through rack cards and displays outside the county and supports and encourages small businesses and entrepreneurs within Effingham.
The Chamber also provides a table for eight at the annual Chamber meeting. Loper said those seats were mostly empty at June’s event.
“They provide a table for eight people and there were two people there,” he said. “That was a waste.”
Loper said the Chamber exists to stage the annual leadership retreat and providing liaisons on prospect visits. He also said the IDA should provide a representative to act as a contact for incoming industries.
“Most of the things I talked about is what they’re supposed to do,” he said.
Chairman Wendall Kessler added he has his own concerns about the agreement and asked if the deal could be amended to allow for more passes to the Effingham Day at the Capitol, instead of the two the county gets. Kessler asked if the county could get 10, and Lott agreed that could be done.
The Chamber ended the Holiday Classic after a 20-year run, but it has held the annual Oktoberfest since 2010 and the Taste of Effingham for five years.
In 2009, Effingham IDA and the Chamber entered into a professional services contract that now pays the Chamber $45,000. In return, the Chamber maintains a database of existing industries and corporate contacts and administers to services in industries in need. It also assists the IDA in prospect visits, and IDA members praised the Chamber’s efforts in renewing the agreement earlier this year.
The Chamber also has instituted a workforce development committee and has held two annual job fairs.
Commissioners adopted a hotel-motel tax two years ago, with the Chamber getting a portion of the proceeds to spurt its tourism efforts.
Lott said the Chamber is working toward the betterment of the county.
“The Chamber of Commerce does an awful lot of things that the county or others don’t do,” he said. “Since most of our revenues come from our members and service agreements, everything we take in goes right back to the community we serve. We value our partners and appreciates all the things our county provides.”