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Local Gov't Around GA

How Do Other Counties Fund Chambers of Commerce?

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Since Tuesday’s called Commission meeting at which there was a decision by the Evans County Board of Commissioners to deny a funding request made by the Claxton-Evans Chamber of Commerce, a plethora of misinformation has circulated in the community over whether or not tax dollars have always funded the Chamber of Commerce in Evans County, who made the decision to stop, when that decision was made, and how other areas prop up private organizations. 

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We examined the operating budgets, Chamber of Commerce appropriations, and development authority appropriations of 39 cities and counties of comparable size and in areas where more resources are available. 

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The findings illustrated that, by and large, it is not the trend to fund the local Chamber of Commerce with county or city tax dollars. Regardless of size or operating budget, appropriating the fund for services rendered is almost exclusively through the local development authority.

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Notable points:

  • The City of Claxton has a larger Operating Budget than Evans County does. 
  • Of the seven government entities closest in range to the operating budget of Evans County and the City of Claxton, none appropriate funds to the Chamber of Commerce. 
  • Only seven of the 32 in the chart below (when excluding Evans County and the City of Claxton) directly send funding to the Chamber of Commerce and in at least one of those instances, it is because there is no Development Authority to direct funding for economic development. 
  • In some counties, appropriations to the Chamber from the respective development authority are expressly prohibited. 
  • In Emanuel County, no funding is appropriated to the Chamber by the county, but an agreement exists between the Development Authority and the Chamber of Commerce. The two also share an executive director, one staff member, and a few other costs, according to county officials. 
  • No county that touches Evans County appropriates funds from their county budget to the Chamber of Commerce. 
  • Evans County stopped funding the Chamber of Commerce directly in June 2017, which is contradictory to statements made by Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors at Tuesday’s meeting who claimed the funding has been continuous for the last 17 years.  (This is evidenced by the documents from Evans County at the bottom of the article)

The first chart is ranked by population. NOTE: Terrell County, which appropriates $35,000, has no operational development authority in the county.

Other notes:

  • The City of Reidsville is a dues paying member only.
  • Monticello’s appropriations go to a downtown development authority.
  • Glennville expressly marks ‘Tourism/Welcome Center’ as a $0 expense in their annual budget.
  • Rincon uses of the budgeted promotional funds internally and as a function of government, not a private entity.
  • Early County cut their Chamber funding, which runs through the development authority, after a $150 million solar company relocated to the county.
  • Dooly County expressly states that no additional funds, other than the $6,250, go to the Chamber despite the $190,000 in appropriations to the Development Authority.
  • In Statesboro, there is no Chamber funding and the Chamber does not receive any of the hotel/motel tax collections.
  • Dalton funds their development authority almost exclusively by the hotel/motel tax.
  • Lowndes County handles tourism, economic development, and the conference center internally through government operations.

The second chart is ranked by total operating budget amount.

Not included in the chart are additional government entities which send no money to the Chamber of Commerce and make no reference to the Chamber in their annual budgets outside of citing statistics provided to the county by the Chamber – notably free of charge:

As stated in the chart, the City of Reidsville is only a dues paying member of the county Chamber, but that is also the case in Bibb County where $1,000 goes to dues annually and $2,000 for the annnual Chamber meeting.

In the City of Marietta, the Chamber of Commerce directs money to the local government and in the City of Alpharetta, where there is an annual budget of $73 million, only $38,000 total is divided among three different Chambers of Commerce.

Jessica Szilagyi
Written By

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of The Georgia Virtue. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta, a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast,' and she has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers." Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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