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Chamber funding discussed

Messenger Publisher

The meeting’s agenda was clear: Discuss the chamber’s request for additional funding for enhanced economic development; discuss the structure of the organization; and answer questions from funding partners.

And after more than hour of discussion, participants walked away with a new committee in place to research and recommend a structure for an economic development authority; a $10,000 pledge from a local business owner; and encouraging words from one of two remaining uncommitted funding partners.

The Thursday afternoon meeting, hosted by the Pike County Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Committee, was designed to bring action on the chamber’s month-old request for increased economic development funding from local government sources. To date, the cities of Troy, Goshen and Banks have pledged to increase funding. Brundidge and Pike County ­ which are already funding partners ­ also have been asked to increase their funding levels but have not done so yet.

At the meeting Brundidge Mayor Jimmy Ramage indicated the council is ready to make that commitment. "Our concerns were that the economic development effort be separate from the Chamber," he said. "And from what you’ve told me

that answers my questions." Several Brundidge council members in attendance nodded in agreement.

Harry Sanders, county administrator, represented the Pike County Commissioners at the meeting. "I think the biggest question is simply where the money will come from (for the county)," he said. The county, which has been asked to increase its funding to $40,000 next fiscal year, remains financially strapped. He said the commission meets again June 24 and he plans to tell the commissioners about the discussions at the Thursday meeting.

Those include:

· Formation of a committee to research and recommend the best structure for an economic development authority in Pike County. The committee will be chaired by Gary Guthrie, chairman of the Chamber’s board, and will be comprised of representatives from each of the governmental funding partners who agree to contribute to the effort. "Let the government agencies that make the funding commitment be the ones to make recommend how to structure" the authority, Ramage said.

· Making a formal request, in writing, to the government agencies that they resolve the funding request at their next meeting. "I think we definitely need a deadline," Guthrie said. For Brundidge, that meeting is Tuesday; for Pike County, June 24.

· Agreeing to work within the existing structure of the economic development effort until a new structure is approved. "We can get the structure worked out if we can get all the players together to make an investment to fund the services," said Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford. "Before we go into that structure, I’d like to know we all have the same definition of economic development."

· And reaching a consensus on that definition as a process that includes both commercial and well as industrial development.

Alex Whaley, owner of Whaley Construction and past chairman of the chamber board, said he believes so strongly in the importance of funding this effort that his company will donate $10,000 as a funding partner.

"This isn’t a service; it’s an investment and it needs to be thought of that way," he said.