The relationship between the Effingham Chamber of Commerce and the Industrial Development Authority will continue, after IDA members ratified a revised professional services agreement with the Chamber on Thursday.
IDA members voted 7-1 in favor of the pact, with Arthur Rud, who has long been skeptical of the ties between the two organizations, casting the lone dissenting vote. The Chamber board also voted to approve the new professional services agreement.
The biggest change in the arrangement is the cost the IDA will pay to the Chamber for its services. Under the new plan, the IDA will pay the Chamber $50,000 for its services, a substantial cut from last year’s $75,000.
“This covers the extent and elaborates on what we had in the other professional services agreement,” IDA CEO John Henry said.
Under the contract, the Chamber will provide the IDA with a database of existing industries and corporate contacts, provide information to those enterprises on services and programs offered through government resources and provide surveys on specific needs to the industrial community.
Among the items outlined in the contract, the Chamber also will provide staff to serve as liaisons during prospect visits, a representative to work with incoming industries on their transition to the community and work in conjunction with the IDA in assembling and distributing community demographics, marketing materials and market information in business and industry recruitment.
The Chamber’s membership is in excess of 300, and it also has an entrepreneur friendly task force and a team of 50 ambassadors, IDA Chairman Chap Bennett noted, adding it gives the IDA a strong section of the community to put to use.
“We didn’t feel the $75,000 was the right number. We didn’t feel we were getting that dollar value,” he said. “It’s hard to measure. It is hard to measure what a visit from a Chamber member to an industry means to us. It could be priceless. It could retain them. They could be looking to expand.”
The Chamber is finishing up its round of existing industry visits, with about five more to go before the end of the quarter in January. Hiring personnel to conduct such functions — the Chamber also has met with EFACEC representatives to address their needs and discuss the Drugs Don’t Work program — could mean more than $50,000 in costs to the IDA, according to Bennett.
“We use this as that support mechanism, instead of hiring our own field team,” he said. “You get into the balance of what it’s worth, and this is a good number.”
Rud also voted against the IDA-Chamber agreement last year.
“I have nothing against the Chamber,” he said. “The mistake was made years ago. I’d love to have a place rent-free. They pay no insurance, no upkeep, no maintenance. The IDA is not in the welcome center business. I don’t think the taxpayers are being treated fairly by the arrangement we have. I voted against it then — I’m voting against it again.”
IDA member Charles Hinely said when the IDA building was built, they were encouraged to put in a welcome center. There was a price tag of $200,000, and the state was going to provide some funding.
“A lot of things were good ideas three years ago,” Hinely said.
Hinely also pointed out that the Chamber currently occupies one office in the building, “like they always have,” he said, and as they did when the IDA and Chamber were in the old Bank of America building.
He also backed the current arrangement as an improvement over the past IDA-Chamber relationship.
“Don’t you agree that contracting with the Chamber is better than what we were doing before?” Hinely asked.
Bennett, who also has served as Chamber president, said the idea behind the professional services agreement was to clearly document for everyone the relationship between the IDA and Chamber.
“You may not agree with the concept,” he said. “But it at least gives us something to clearly go on.”