published Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Catoosa Chamber gets break on rent

by Beverly Carroll

RINGGOLD, Ga. — The Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce has found a more sympathetic majority on the County Commission.

The commission voted 3-2 this week to halve the rent county charges the Chamber for offices in the Catoosa Colonnade.

Supporters of decreasing the payment from $15,000 a year to $7,500 cited the Chamber’s continued services as the “business face” of the county.

“We are developing points of contact for economic development and the Chamber is one of them,” Commission Chairman Keith Greene said. “We should show our support for local business, and this is one way to show our support.”

The County Commission in January 2007 had shifted from providing free office space for the Chamber to the $15,000 annual fee. The new $7,500 rent was made retroactive to January.

Chad Young, county attorney, made the request on behalf of the Chamber, citing that business has been slow. He said the Chamber agreed to perform specific duties in return for a reduced rent.

“Catoosa County has been fortunate in that we have not felt the full brunt (of the economic downturn),” Chamber board Chairman David Wilson said. “But some of our patron members have had to step down their contributions, and we’ve had a few businesses go out of business.”

Mr. Wilson said the Chamber is working out payment arrangements with struggling members, and by reducing the rent, the commission “let us keep our flow.”

Commissioners DeWayne Hill and Ken Marks voted yes on the resolution. Commissioners Jim Cutler and Bobby Winters were opposed.

“I support the Chamber,” Mr. Cutler said. “My wife and I belong to the Chamber. But it didn’t make sense to me to give them a $620 a month discount when I was never shown anything other than, ‘Business is bad, can you cut our rent?’”

In January, Chamber officials said membership in 2008 grew by 100, bringing total membership to 405.

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