Op Ed: Chamber responds to Ard's comments

  • Wednesday, July 3, 2013

By Brian Tucker

It is unfortunate that the article “Chamber says no to request to market city” [June 28, 2013] ran without any direct input from myself or anyone else at the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce, especially considering that the entire article was framed around two inaccurate and inappropriate quotes from Councilwoman Ard. Councilwoman Ard and I have had numerous conversations and at no time have I ever uttered the words she attributes to me.

In fact, my comments to Councilwoman Ard were the exact opposite of her quotes in the article.

During our discussions I asked for the following:
n Written expectations for how the funds should be spent
n Written expectations for how the funds should be accounted for
n We also asked that City Council unanimously agree to above

To date, I have not received this information. In my conversations with Councilwoman Ard, I emphasized the need for both parties to clearly define expectations to ensure that things are handled properly and professionally. Clearly defining expectations is the only way to avoid having to “quibble” after the fact.

During these conversations with Councilwoman Ard, I offered a couple of thoughts on how we could serve as the DMO [Designated Marketing Organization]. The first option was to continue with the campaign created by CASE solutions and the GBA that has shown very positive results, and the second option would be to help partially fund the Chamber's Visitors Center. The chamber operates the only Visitors Center in Georgetown. We handle thousands of phone calls and visits from tourists, vacationers and residents and receive no funding from the City of Georgetown. I discussed the planned expansion of our Visitors Center to allow designated rack space for businesses that are required to collect and pay Accommodations Tax.

The Chamber plans and executes an annual destination marketing budget of more than $800,000 in our capacity as DMO for Georgetown County. In this role we provide monthly reports on the status of the campaign and provide detailed financial information to members of the Tourism Management Commission and the County's Finance Department. The Chamber will not take any public tax dollars without a clear understanding of how the money should be spent or how the money should be accounted for. At no point will we shy away from our accountability when spending public dollars.

Shortly after this conversation with Councilwoman Ard, I did brief my Board of Directors on the request. While there was no formal action taken, there was a lengthy discussion among the Directors. The Directors were, and continue to be, concerned that City Council remains divided on this issue and virtually every other issue facing the City. There is no shared goal, vision or agenda.

By not accepting to serve as the City's DMO, the Board felt that the Chamber would be in a better position to advocate for responsible government that serves the businesses and the citizens of the City of Georgetown.

Our City's history, waterfront and unique small town charm sets us apart from any other destination in the United States. Every town and city is desperately searching for something that makes them stand out. The City of Georgetown is an absolute treasure. With a unified vision and genuine leadership, the City of Georgetown can shine. I implore members of Council to work together toward a common goal — A prosperous, vibrant Georgetown.

I am always available for comments, questions or observations at btucker@visitgeorge.com or (843) 655-2312.

Brian Tucker is president and CEO of the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce.

Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

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