Egos, personality conflicts and lack of accountability has left the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce without city funding after this fiscal year and the possibility the tourism office it runs closing.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to honor the current agreement through the fiscal year ending June 30 – it could have given the chamber 30 days notice and not paid out the remainder of the $40,000 it has annually been funding the chamber for nearly seven years – but then to sever funding.
Through an agreement with the state, but using city money, the chamber runs the local tourism bureau.
Mayor Christian Price said the city has budget problems of its own and wondered how the city could justify funding a group of businesspeople who should have figured out how to fund themselves.
“At what point do we decide if taxpayers should continue to fund (the chamber),” he said.
New chamber board chairman Mike Richey, who owns Maricopa Ace Hardware, was before the council Tuesday during a quarterly review of the group’s public service agreement with the city and said he knew, “Personalities, egos and an unwillingness to participate from the chamber’s viewpoint” has hurt the chamber’s image.
However, he said the chamber is reinventing itself and would better use city funding. He told the council that for the first time in several years the entire board of directors was voted into office by the membership, and a search is underway for a new CEO/president.
“The chamber hasn’t had effective leadership since the end of 2010,” Richey said, adding he is “thrilled” with the quality of people who have been applying.
“With the right leadership we can turn this thing around in a hurry,” he said.
City Economic Development Director Micah Miranda said the city has issued about 1,400 business licenses, of which some 750 businesses are physically located outside the city.
The chamber has 340 members.
Richey said he was hoping to encourage platinum members to double their monthly dues to help fund a new president.
“I’m willing to lead the charge,” he said. “It’s just too important; we can’t fail.”
Price and councilmembers Peg Chapados, Julia Gusse, Marvin Brown and Leon Potter agreed a strong chamber is good for the city, but this one has been using the city as a crutch for too long. Vice Mayor Edward Farrell and Councilman Bridger Kimball were absent Tuesday.
Chapados said the quarterly reports of how the city money is being used are not thorough. Gusse wanted assurances the chamber would be a stronger partner for the city.Richey said he would follow up with more detailed reports and membership already is getting more involved with some volunteering during the March 23 Salsa Festival. He pointed out, though, some of the chamber’s money woes sprang from losing the beer concessions at city events now run by Action Alliance.
“We’re trying to get to the point where we don’t have to come and ask for money,” Richey said.
Price said he thought the council should honor the current contract and give the chamber the three months remaining in the fiscal year to figure some things out and to talk with the city about how the two can be better partners.
Still to be decided is whether the council will continue its platinum membership.
After the meeting, Richey said he would be taking the council’s thoughts to his board, which is working its budget for the next fiscal year.
The council’s decision “will definitely affect our (CEO/president) search.”
And, “it’s possible” the chamber will lose the tourism bureau, he said.