Letters to the Editor

Smarter spending of public money on chamber dues helps all – Penny Rich

Penny Rich, Orange County commissioner
Penny Rich, Orange County commissioner

Recently I became concerned about Orange County’s financial allocations to our two local chambers of commerce (The Herald-Sun, July 4). On investigation I discovered that nearly half-a-dozen of our county offices were contributing membership dues individually.

As we continued to look into this, we learned that more than $20,000 was being spent on membership dues. This may be a sound investment, and it was a question worth exploring. As we suspected, there was some duplication and waste, but luckily the issue appears to be easily remedied with one master Orange County membership in addition to each department negotiating individual program partnerships as needed to meet their goals.

This is part of the job of a county commissioner: helping to ensure strong fiscal responsibility and the delivery of services that make good use of tax payers money. Over the summer the county manager’s office will examine our future role with the two chambers of commerce.

All this being said, I want to be very clear: I am a believer in the work of the Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce and Chapel Hill/Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and their culture of supporting and nurturing professionals, and for the multitude of networking opportunities they provide our business community.

Both of our Orange County chambers of commerce strengthen the business climate and promote quality of life in our communities. The chambers help neighborhood businesses and organizations recognize the power of working together to achieve our economic goals. We’ve seen successful collaboration in downtown Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The chamber is a strong voice for our business community, and their board works hard to maintain a diverse range of offerings despite the economic challenges. They continue to provide members with access and visibility, strategic networking, and a commitment to create our county’s next generation of leaders.

As an elected leader and a small business owner, I know that collaboration enhances our residents’ quality of life and supports economic sustainability and growth. I am grateful we are making smarter decisions that include a new relationship with our chambers. I remain hopeful that Orange County government and our local chambers of commerce can partner on economic development creating a smart alliance that helps our communities thrive – independently, and together.

Penny Rich

Chapel Hill

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