Chamber seeks other funding source

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Messenger Publisher

Even without funding from the Pike County commission, the chamber’s economic development efforts "will go on," the chairman said Tuesday.

Gary Guthrie, chairman of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Trustees, said the commission’s denial of a request to increase funding to the chamber would not stop economic development efforts.

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"We’ll find other sources of funds to continue the efforts," Guthrie said Tuesday. "We’re going to have to reevaluate what we’re going to do overall

it might mean that we’re just not moving as fast" as leaders would like.

Guthrie said he was disappointed that the commission "wasn’t in a position to make a favorable decision" on the funding request.

The commission voted unanimously Monday to deny a $40,000 annual funding request from the chamber, citing a lack of funds. The commission had previously funded the chamber at $20,000 annually, but commissioners had cut county funds to the chamber this year ­ along with funds to more than a dozen other agencies ­ citing a lack of money in the county budget.

"We had to cut, cut, cut," said Commissioner Charlie Harris. "and instead of cutting employees, we cut funding to the agencies."

The chamber board’s request for increased funding simply was not an option, he said. "Pike County is growing and we want to continue to grow," he said. "But right now we’ve caught the county in a bad situation

if we’d gotten that tax that we’ve tried to get for the last three or four years I’ve been on the commission, we might be able to fund these agencies."

Four other governmental agencies ­ the cities of Troy, Banks, Brundidge and Goshen ­ all voted to be funding partners in the chamber’s economic development efforts. The City of Troy will increase its funding to $80,000 annually; Brundidge, to $20,000 annually; and Banks and Goshen each voted to begin contributing $1,000 annually to the economic development effort.

Chamber leaders had asked the government agencies for increased funding in April, saying now is the time to create an enhanced economic development effort ­ perhaps in the form of a separate economic development authority ­ to benefit Pike County. Chamber and community leaders decided last week that a committee comprised of representatives of the governmental funding partners would investigate the best option for that economic development effort.

"We’re still in the early stages of deciding and making sure an economic development authority is what we want and need," said Guthrie, who will serve on that committee along with attorney Keith Watkins, who has been active in economic development efforts in the past.

Guthrie said the committee will meet later this week. "(I hope) within the next month or so some of our direction will become a little bit more clear," he said.