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Local News

May 11, 2014

Council to determine future of CVB funding

GREENVILLE — The Greenville City Council may determine the future of funding for the Greenville Chamber of Commerce’s Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) during their upcoming meeting.

Two items on Tuesday’s agenda address the CVB. The first would approve funding through the final two quarters of the fiscal year, which ends in August. The council already approved funding through the first two quarters back on Jan. 14, which ended on April 1.

The second agenda item would approve moving money the city currently provides to the Chamber for in-house tourism promotion for the upcoming fiscal year, a recommendation of the council’s subcommittee on tourism. The subcommittee is made up of council members Steve Reid, Velma Del Bosque-Hobdy and Renee Francey.

“We were all three united in thinking that our CVB needs its own identity,” Reid said. “We just feel like Greenville has a lot to offer. We’re not saying that the Chamber hasn’t done a good job, but we feel like it can be taken to another level.”

The discussion on the future of the Chamber’s role in regard to tourism began in the winter of 2013. The city provides funding for the CVB to the Chamber from out of its hotel/motel tax. The money, which is distributed to several other organizations as well, is designed to promote tourism and put “heads in beds.” Members of the council began to question the Chamber’s record keeping and the increase in funding they’ve received since 2003.

Through the ensuing months, the Chamber has attempted to address the subcommittee and council’s concerns, Chamber President and CEO Brendon Payne said.

Payne has met several times with the council’s subcommittee for tourism to negotiate further funding for the CVB.

“We have yet to hear any specifics as to why they want to take this action, other than issues that have been addressed through this entire process that we have come up with solutions for,” he said. “We’ve agreed to do whatever we need to do address any concerns they have.”

According to Reid, the subcommittee initially  was concerned with the Chamber’s reporting, which then expanded into reevaluating the Chamber’s role in tourism.

“There are specific guidelines of how hotel/motel tax money can be used, and we felt that the initial reporting of how many heads were put in beds was lacking,” he said. “That’s what prompted it. Have they made some corrections? Yes. But once the door was open for us to explore other options, that’s the route we chose to go.”

Payne said if the city council decided to move the tourism funding in house, the Chamber would have to reevaluate its role.

“We would have to evaluate what our function is going to be in partnership with the city,” he said. “Those are things we haven’t negotiated at all. We would work toward the smoothest possible transition for the sake of our partners involved, including hotels and restaurants.”

Payne noted the Chamber has a full-time CVB staff member and five other employees that devote a percentage of their time to tourism functions.

“Our understanding is that the city is not planning on hiring new staff, but to relegate this function to existing staff that already perform a full-time job,” he said. “I would wonder why we have employees at the city that have this much time to spare.”

Reid confirmed that the city would not be hiring any new staff members, but disagreed that such a decision would negatively impact Greenville’s tourism industry.

“I think there are three people right now who would work jointly on this project,” he said. “It’s not that different from what’s going on right now. Right now, Milton [Babb] is who you would label the CVB guy, and their claim is that they get help from the other Chamber workers. Conversely, Milton helps a lot on other Chamber stuff. I would argue that there is not one person focused on CVB, which will be no different when the city would take it over.”

The council will meet at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

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