September 27, 2012
not likely soon
The Holly Springs Main Street Chamber and Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce met last week to discuss the pros and cons of merging both organizations.
The outcome was fruitful in planning to work more closely on projects that will help serve the entire county, but merger is not likely soon.
“We discussed a lot of opportunities and challenges,” said Andy McMillon, interim director of the Holly Springs group. “I believe the final discussion was more about finding areas on which we could work together to help the whole county.”
The meeting was well attended by both Chambers’ board members, he said.
A decision was made at the meeting to set up a joint sub-committee to continue the discussion of mutual cooperation, he said.
“The subcommittee will report back to the respective boards and we will go from there,” he said.
Sarah Sawyer, executive director of BACC, was pleased with the discussions.
She said the two organizations have worked together closely in the past.
“It’s about taking the county to the next level and to make it a better place through the work of the Chambers,” she said.
Funding is a big issue for the Chambers because of the large geographical land mass in the county to serve, she said.
Leadership Marshall, a program that was highly successful but discontinued due to the economic recession, was thought important and the groups wanted to try to bring it back.
“Leadership Marshall is a large program and requires a lot of time,” Sawyer said.
And it stretched the staff and resources of BACC, Holly Springs Chamber and the county Extension office to produce it, she said. Other counties that offer leadership training have staff dedicated to implement it, she said.
The group discussed how to reach out to smaller communities in the county such as Potts Camp or Mt. Pleasant, and concluded more funding is needed to cover all the communities of the county, Sawyer said.
Supervisor George Zinn, who is active in attendance at both Chambers’ events, said there was a balance of joiners and splitters at the meeting.
“The main standoff in this whole discussion comes down to finances, in my opinion,” he said. “If the necessary funds were there for manpower (staffing), there would not be a problem. But for the Holly Springs Chamber to include that much additional territory was next to impossible.”
He said the groups will first discuss how the two Chambers can work together on projects, quoting one person who said, “Why not have a nice little courtship before getting married?”
The take-home message is to keep talking and find ways to work together on projects, Zinn said.
One point made at the meeting was that growth anywhere in the county helps the whole county, Zinn said.
Charles Terry, District 1 supervisor, said he thinks the meeting was upbeat.
“The dialog helped us to bring out one or two good points, one being that the citizens of the county need to be educated as to what the chambers do,” Terry said. “Overall, I think it is going to be a good effort for the Chambers. I always use the phrase that everything begins with one person’s idea, becomes dialog and dialog becomes action.”
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