The Canal Winchester Area Chamber of Commerce is getting a financial boost from the city, which has agreed to fund a full-time executive director to focus on strategic planning and increasing membership.
The agreement approved 5-1 by City Council on Nov. 7 would provide funding for at least two years – $64,160 in year one and $66,845 in year two.
Council has the option to fund a third year at $68,580, according to the ordinance, which also spells out terms and conditions of accountability that include year-over-year membership growth of 15% annually; identifying “new, diverse revenue streams”; and “incremental” revenue growth of $12,000 in year one, $30,000 in year two and “self-sufficiency” by the end of year three.
What the ordinance doesn’t spell out yet is where the money is coming from.
The fund from which the money will be drawn will be determined as the city completes its annual budget approval process, said Amanda Jackson, the city’s finance director.
“For me, it’s a show of support to the existing businesses in Canal Winchester,” said council member Laurie Amick, who sponsored the ordinance. “The chamber has acknowledged that they have shortcomings and they have laid out an articulated plan of how they would like to overcome their shortcomings. … This is a short-term investment tied to very specific performance objectives.”
In October, chamber secretary Kristin Ankrom told council the organization has a candidate for the role who’s doing part-time work, including reaching out to members, organizing lunches and keeping up with social media – “what we need to survive.”
The chamber’s membership is roughly 180 businesses, which is much lower than nearby chambers in Pickerington (400 members) and Lancaster (500 members).
Ankrom said during council’s Aug. 15 meeting that some chambers receive financial support from their cities but that it’s usually “membership and fundraisers that keep chambers afloat.”
Council member Jill Amos said she could not support the plan because there is “no room for negotiations” on what the executive director would be paid.
She said the chamber’s proposal has been compared to the city financially supporting an executive director to lead the Canal Winchester Joint Recreation District.
Greg Pearce was hired in January after City Council agreed that the city would provide $20,850 in 2021 and $83,400 in 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025 to support the position. A “pro-rated” $62,550 is to be paid in 2026, the final year of the agreement.
The joint recreation district is operated jointly by the city and Canal Winchester Schools, which provides facilities.
“We spent a year between the school and the city negotiating salary, title and terms,” said Amos, who added that residents she has spoken to didn’t want to “pick up the tab” for the chamber of commerce.
Although council President Chuck Milliken said he would like to have seen more negotiation, “everyone sees the growth we’re having, and I just can’t imagine us not having a strong chamber.”