Comment & Observation
By JOE LEE III
As a veteran chamber member and twice president, the Grenada County Chamber of Commerce has been close to my heart since my first term on the board of directors some five decades ago.
Like many volunteers who have worked with the chamber over the decades, I have watched it change over the years. Chamber members were instrumental in bringing McQuay (now Modine) to Grenada. Same for Rockwell International (now ICE Industries) and countless other community projects large and small.
Although others did the heavy lifting, I was fortunate enough to be the chamber president when Newsprint South (now Resolute Forest Products) came to town.
The chamber originated the Grenada Lake Festival, which evolved into the Thunder Water Safe Boating Festival, attracting tens of thousands to Grenada Lake each year.
Chamber accomplishments over the years are too numerous to mention, but also over time the organization’s mission and responsibilities changed. For a while the City of Grenada took over industrial development. Then they gave it back to the chamber, some years later tourism responsibilities were turned over to the Grenada Tourism Commission with the passage of a tourism tax in 1992.
Industrial development was taken over by the Grenada Economic Development District in 2010. This left the chamber with only one purpose: retail development.
The goal of retail growth, noble and needed as it is, has developed its own barriers over the past decade or two. You can blame it on the big box stores. You can blame it on the Internet.
You would be correct in both cases, but that would not change the fact that local small town retail is not what it used to be. The retail base for all small towns – and large cities, too – is not what it used to be.
The Grenada County Chamber of Commerce has been struggling with a shrinking retail base for years – trying to do more with less revenue.
It has been obvious to chamber leadership for a long time that going solo was not the answer to competing with our neighbors – and certainly inadequate in national and regional competition for more retail.
Fortunately, the Greater Grenada Economic Development District, under the leadership of Matthew Harrision, is willing to take on the job of merging the GGEDD and the Grenada County Chamber of Commerce.
We have no doubt that under his leadership the whole will be substantially stronger than the sum of the two parts.
The community would be remiss if it did not take time to thank Chamber Pres. Steve Guard for seeing the necessity of the change and initiating the merger.
Steve, along with chamber executive committee members David Melton and Nick Liberto, wisely assessed Grenada’s future needs and had nerve enough to take the necessary action. (As a member of the executive committee, this writer was fortunate enough to play a small part in the matter.)
The real credit, however, goes to the Chamber Board of Directors. We salute them and thank them for having the vision and fortitude to take this step to make Grenada more competitive with other area communities, and, indeed, even regional developers.
Grenada’s future is brighter due to the efforts of all those involved.
Thank you for your vision and your action.