The nature of the relationship between the Effingham Industrial Development Authority and the Chamber of Commerce is changing, and it’s changing for the better, members of the two groups said.
The IDA has entered into a professional services agreement with the Chamber and in the process, the Chamber will be responsible for its own payroll, pension and employee benefits.
“The agreement that’s been in place for a very long time is subject to criticism,” IDA Chairman Chap Bennett said.
“There has been a lot of time spent on this by both boards. There’s been a lot of discussion over the last 90 days. I think it is a big improvement over the past agreement.
“It just bring clarity to who pays what. It’s really just a work order for the Chamber.”
The IDA’s relationship with the Chamber is now akin to its dealings with engineers, attorneys and accountants, Chief Executive Officer John Henry said.
“We can gauge it annually and adjust it accordingly,” Henry said.
Bennett said the financial relationship between the two entities has often been a number that has been hard to pin down and it’s been hard to determine what the IDA got out of that.
“Even on the Chamber side, this is going to help us out,” said outgoing Chamber president Freddy Long. “It helps us to identify, to spell out, what’s going on. We’re actually adding to the services we offer the IDA.”
While the IDA’s responsibility is to recruit new industries, the Chamber’s goal is to foster small businesses and the Chamber can continue to provide services to the prospects the IDA brings in.
“We’re getting bigger and bigger and busier and busier and we’re essentially a two-man operation. We need to hire some of those functions out,” Henry said. “We have a lot of services we can provide, but we don’t have the means to gauge those needs.”
Said Long: “Together, we’re bringing in those businesses and industries. We are going to see that they are welcome when they get here, and now it’s spelled out.”
As such, the IDA will pay the Chamber $75,000 a year for its services.
“There is an accountability component,” Henry said. “You can see what was done and who is responsible to whom. This agreement clarifies who is accountable for what.”
IDA attorney Marvin Fentress said there’s no question this pact is superior to the one it replaces.
“This agreement spells out what you expect to get in return,” he said.
Long lauded the IDA’s help and guidance for the Chamber.
“We as a Chamber can’t function without the IDA,” he said.
IDA member Arthur Rud issued his longstanding concerns about the IDA and Chamber relationship.
“We went through this a couple of years ago. We were supposed to be separating from the Chamber,” he said. “Now we’re getting closer.”
Countered Henry: “The Chamber has been one of our best allies.”
While there are changes to the coordination between the two, Henry said, it’s not the end of the relationship but rather a beginning of a different one. He said IDA board members don’t often see what Chamber and IDA staffers do for each other to help each other out.