BY SABRINA BATES
DRESDEN (August 18) — Talks for a possible merging of the county’s Chamber of Commerce and County Economic Development department circulated in January. After a Tuesday, August 18, 2020, meeting of the Weakley County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, both boards agreed to move forward with a proposed structure of the combined venture.
During Tuesday’s meeting in downtown Dresden, two members of the Chamber Board, who were a part of the joint committee to talk about how a combined department would be structured, Hal Bynum and Robb Newbill explained what led to the merger conversation.
Bynum said he and Newbill were charged with fact-finding, research and laying the groundwork for a seven-member executive board. He said both divisions would have guidance committees working under the executive board, to steer each leg of the organization. The board will have three members nominated by the county’s Economic Development Board and Chamber Board of Directors and include one representative appointed by Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum.
“The key is in the initial choosing of the executive board members. This will bring new vitality and re-energize what the county is doing with industry and retail. It seems almost as if we leave things the way they are, we are competing with ourselves. Re-energizing, slimming and revitalizing are important to make this work. To do it differently, but not do it better wouldn’t make much sense,” Bynum explained. During the fact-finding process, Newbill and Bynum emphasized other counties with a similar set up of the proposed merger have had success tightening down and moving forward.
An overall executive director of the combined program will be guided by the seven-member executive board.
Cities throughout Weakley County have already contributed to the Economic Development department through their inter-local agreements. Pushing out the merger requires new sets of by-laws, new agreements and legal counsel from the county attorney. Potentially, a budget would be set up by the 2021-22 Fiscal Year.
Dresden Mayor Jeff Washburn talked about the county’s joint Economic Development Board and the mandates for those who sit on the board. Each municipality should be represented on the proposed executive board.
“We’ve got to have accountability from these departments. I support what you’re proposing; my concern is making these cities feel comfortable (with representation),” Washburn shared.
“The meat and potatoes of this will be who we nominate. We want to make sure we have people represent us and that we are getting represented,” Chamber President Cory Davis said.
After the Chamber Board of Directors voted in favor of moving forward with the proposed merger, members were asked to provide nominees to Davis.
The Weakley County Economic Development Board approved the merger proposal last month and is in its nomination process.
Executive Board nominees will be discussed by each board during their meetings next month.
BY SABRINA BATES