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Chamber Update - August 2020

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August 11, 2020
August 10, 2020

Dear valued members,
Our local business owners and operators make up the backbone of Port Wentworth’s business community and, as such, we feel it is imperative to keep you informed of the latest developments regarding the Chamber of Commerce and its tourism contract with the City of Port Wentworth. The chamber uses this funding to carry out the annual destination marketing plan which is designed to attract more visitors to Port Wentworth and increase the city’s accommodation and hospitality taxes.
As you are aware, there are a small group of city leaders that are seeking to eliminate the contract with the chamber and have gone to great lengths – including spreading misinformation – to avoid awarding the contract to the Port Wentworth Chamber. Our organization is the obvious choice to promote Port Wentworth as a tourism destination as we are the most well-equipped, experienced and located right here in the city of Port Wentworth, where we already represent and lobby for the interests of businesses of all types and sizes. This chamber has earned the reputation of delivering results year after year.
At first, I was shocked and disappointed, especially given everything the chamber has accomplished over the past twenty-three years – building up the city’s tourism market, strengthening the local economy, and uniting the community to support local businesses. I quickly began to suspect that this groups true grievance is with my refusal to allow politics and outdated ways of thinking to influence our chamber’s methods of operation and approach to certain situations. Our organization is one of inclusivity and diversity, and we take the right actions for the right reasons. Sadly, this has made our organization a target. The chamber chooses to work with all people, regardless of gender, ethnic background, political affiliation, community ties, race, or sexual preference because, in this day and age, that is how all professional organizations should operate.
It is unfair to let personal opinions influence what should be a straightforward and objective government process. A small group of city leaders’ refusal to put personal feelings aside and conduct business in a logical manner that benefits all involved has – and will – continue to take a serious toll on our local economy.
In our last update to membership, we were unsure if Mayor and Council would vote to renew our contract at the June 25 meeting. The chamber was denied the opportunity to present our annual Destination Marketing Plan to Mayor and Council before the June council meeting after numerous requests for a workshop. Without reviewing our proposal, Mayor and Council voted to approve a 90-day contract with our chamber. This was done after a motion to approve our annual contract was made and then seconded, but did not pass.
Our Board of Directors previously voted to decline any tourism contract that was less than one year. The board reconsidered and decided to enter into the 90-day agreement following the tremendous amount of feedback we received after the June council meeting. I would like to personally thank each one of you that called, e-mailed, and stopped by the office to offer your support for this organization. After all, the chamber is here for you – the businesses and citizens. Without you, there would not be a chamber.
In the June update, I informed the membership that representatives of Port Wentworth had approached a chamber of commerce in another city to submit a proposal for the tourism contract. That chamber ultimately decided not to pursue the contract with Port Wentworth. Since then, representatives from Port Wentworth have reached out to other organizations with the same intentions.
The council also decided to hold an open bidding process, allowing area entities to submit bids in hopes of being awarded the city’s contract, and thus, a substantial amount of Port Wentworth’s hotel/motel taxes. The Port Wentworth Chamber of Commerce took the bidding process seriously and resubmitted our Destination Marketing Plan. The FY21 plan is an impressive portfolio of information, data, supporting statistics, and programs, detailing exactly how the contract – if awarded – would be used to continue the important work of lifting up local businesses and attracting visitors to our city.
Only one organization decided to discuss pursuing this option further. While I cannot give you specific details now, another update will be made publicly soon.
Our chamber of commerce is not one individual. It is not one business. Our organization is a collective that represents many businesses, professionals, and citizens that are dedicated to making Port Wentworth the best place to live, to do business and to visit. YOU are this organization. Any chamber or membership organization is comprised of the businesses they represent.
Our chamber, myself included, have always prided ourselves on transparency and truthfulness. While these updates are at times painful to write, it is the truth, and you deserve the truth. Our board members want the truth to be known. They are on our board as representatives of their respective businesses and organizations. The actions they take on the chamber board are a reflection on their businesses. Working together and working for the health of this city and the region as a whole is their number one priority.
As stated before, I feel it would be an incredible shame if Port Wentworth’s hotel/motel tax funds were to go to a chamber of commerce or organization in another city. Our money should stay in our community. If Port Wentworth decides to outsource the tourism contract to another city, then they are taking away the voice of the business owners and managers of Port Wentworth.
The COVID-19 crisis has taught (and continues) to teach us many things. Perhaps most importantly in the business community, it has taught us that we are all in this together. When we come together as a community, we are stronger together. Please stay tuned for our next video in the #Together4PW series which highlights many of you, our chamber members, and businesses.
Port Wentworth deserves its own chamber of commerce to work for the best interests of this community. We believe in you and that will never change.
It continues to be an honor to serve and to represent you.
Stronger together,
Trisha Growe
Trisha Growe, President & CEO
tgrowe@visitportwentworth.com, (912) 965-1999