Chamber Seeks More Funding from County

May 21, 2020
By: Dwayne Page

The Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce is asking for more financial support from the County.

Chamber Director Suzanne Williams, joined by Chamber President Lisa Cripps and Vice President Jen Sherwood, addressed the county budget committee Wednesday night at the courthouse asking for an increase from $17,500 to $25,000 in the county’s annual contribution to the chamber, a non-profit organization, established to promote local economic development and tourism. Along with the request, Williams provided members of the budget committee copies of the 2020 Chamber budget, current Chamber activities, and a DeKalb County Tourism Report.

The county currently contributes $17,500 while the City of Smithville provides $15,000 each year to the chamber. Among Upper Cumberland counties, DeKalb County ranks at the bottom in chamber funding contributions. In comparison, White County and Sparta each contribute $30,000 to the Chamber there along with proceeds from a hotel/motel tax which funds grant matches. Smith County donates $50,000 and Carthage $10,000 to its Chamber while Clay County appropriates $120,000 for its Chamber made up of all proceeds from that county’s hotel/motel tax including a tax on houseboats and the City of Celina also adds another $12,000 to the Chamber in Clay County.

The DeKalb County Chamber’s projected income for 2020 is $79,348 which includes membership dues and fundraisers in addition to the county and city’s contributions while expenditures are expected to exceed $82,000.

Williams said Tourism in DeKalb County has grown to $49.54 million and currently ranks third among the 14 Upper Cumberland Counties behind Putnam at $140.15 million and Cumberland at $127.80 million.

In addition to promoting DeKalb County and raising funds to support the Chamber, Williams said she also spends much of her time writing and administering grants for the county among other tasks. Over $73,000 in grants have already been secured for the county this year with more expected. The latest to be funded is a $3,500 TVA Telework Technology Grant for the UT Extension Service Conference Room at the County Complex.

In a letter to the County Mayor and Commissioners, Williams outlined Chamber supported goals for the upcoming year

“This year we are choosing to focus on and accomplish several major goals including New DeKalb County Resource Guides to be distributed at the Smith County Welcome Center and for newcomers and visitors, the new Alexandria Park and Playground, improvements to DeKalb Tee Ball Fields, a new Telework Technology System for the County Complex Conference Room, next year’s 50th Smithville Jamboree super celebration, and downtown Smithville murals,” said Williams

With the workload ever increasing, Williams said the Chamber could use a financial boost from the county.

“We are not a donation. We are an investment. You will never lose money by putting it into the Chamber. Any grant Tim (Stribling) has ever asked me to write I have done it and I am glad to do it because these things are important for our community and in making us the best we can be. But it has gotten to the point to where I can hardly do it all on the little bit (funding) we (Chamber) are getting (from County) because I am having to spend so much time fundraising along with my responsibilities as the Chamber Director, Chamber Secretary, Jamboree Secretary, and grant writer and administrator. I am doing all these jobs. I ask that you seriously consider this request. I promise you will not regret it because I will make sure it comes back to you three or four fold. I have done it consistently over the years,” said Williams.

The budget committee has not yet acted on the request.