New chamber President Hunter Hall spoke with several prominent community members at a meet-and-greet ceremony at the Chamber Wednesday morning. The Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors hired Hall on April 7 to grow chamber membership, meet current members’ needs and manage the chamber staff.
Before the meet-and-greet Hall said he was using a four-step process to improve the chamber’s operation — people, processes, membership and profitability. His first self-appointed task is to evaluate the current personnel and identify strengths. He said he has been meeting extensively with staff members over the past couple weeks.
His next step will be to look at what the chamber is offering current members and how it can help members further. One idea is to consider bringing in a health care reform expert to help businesses understand how the new law will affect them.
The hotel/motel tax increase, from five percent to eight percent, finally went into affect April 1, and the chamber hopes the increase will boost tourism revenues.
The extra three percent in hotel/motel taxes is expected to bring in $120,000 per year and will be used exclusively for tourism. Some of the money will go toward the long-awaited civic center, if the project is viable, though that seems unlikely at this point. There are several backup plans including improvement of the Hunter Street/Stallings Street corridor, erection of wayfinding signage in Newton County and Covington, building of the Miracle Field program, restoration of the historic jail and a historic center in Covington or the development of Chimney Park
The current 5 percent tax brings in around $200,000 in revenue every year. That money is split, with 60 percent going to the chamber of commerce and 40 percent going to Main Street Covington.
In related news, hotels benefited greatly from the annual Masters golf tournament which took place April 8-11. Occupancy rates ranged from 30 to 80 percent at area hotels.
Also, The Vampire Diaries has finished filming in Covington for season one, but season two filming is expected to start back in late June or early July.
The chamber’s annual golf tournament is expected to bring in more than $12,000 of revenue.
April 21’s Shred Day was a success said Lisa Oglesby, director of programs for the chamber, with more than 28,000 pounds of documents shredded. The paper was kept out of the landfill and will be recycled into paper tubes for paper towels and paper towels.
Economic Development Director Shannon Davis said work continues on an airport master plan, which is being developed to plan the future use of vacant land around the airport. The plan is being worked on by the engineering department at the Electric Cities of Georgia in conjunction with the city of Covington.
Davis said industrial and commercial land with direct access to the airport is rare, so the city and chamber are conducting the master plan to show the area’s potential and increase its attractiveness to future businesses.
She said the plan will consider questions, such as: If airport access was created on the southeast end of the runway, what businesses would make sense there? Where would hangar space be located? Would there be potential for aerospace industries?
Primary Candidates Forum – This forum will be scheduled for Thursday, July 8, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Newton County Library.
Governors Debate — The governmental affairs committee will arrange to have this debate in September and is trying to partner with Rockdale, Walton and Morgan counties. Aug. 10 is the run off election and candidates will be invited after that time.
Post Legislative Breakfast — This event is scheduled for 8 a.m. June 2 at DeKalb Technical College. Sen. Douglas and Marsay Simpson have confirmed. Rep. Doug Holt’s attendance is tentative. No response as of April 8 from John Lunsford and Toney Collins.
Candidates Forum — The Chamber will partner with Covington News for a Candidates Forum Oct. 7 at Turner Lake.
June Lunch with Leaders — This luncheon will be scheduled for June 23 at noon, at the Chamber office. It is by invitation only.
The Government Affairs Committee will invite Covington’s mayor and city manager and Newton County’s commission chair and administrative assistant to the Board of Directors’ meeting on May 13.