Chamber gets $10,000 from city

The city of Princeton is giving the local chamber of commerce $10,000 for its budget this year, $5,500 more than the city gave the chamber last year.

The city council made the decision last Thursday, authorizing the money to come out of the city’s off-sale liquor fund.

The council, with member Dick Dobson absent, made the decision after hearing the $10,000 request from chamber president Scott Berry and vice president Genny Reynolds and getting into a discussion on it.

Council member Paul Whitcomb worried that if the city gave that much of an increase, others coming to the city with funding requests would press for more than what the city had given them previously.

Whitcomb also said that it would leave less cushion in city funds to draw from if the state should decide to reduce the amount of state aid that it had promised Princeton this year.

Berry actually began introducing the $10,000 request part way into last year, at which time the council told Berry to come back later in 2011 when the council would be setting its 2012 budget. Berry did return to the council in August and October, but the council did not at the time decide what to do about the request.

City finance director Steve Jackson noted that fact when the council asked Jackson last Thursday about where the $10,000 could come from.

Jackson also reminded the council that it had committed liquor revenue funds in 2012 to the Initiative Fund which loans money to businesses in Princeton and other towns in the area.

But even with the city not having budgeted to give $10,000 to the chamber this year, it doesn’t mean it still couldn’t be done, Jackson said. He explained that the council can revise the current budget, but that it usually does not do that until the end of the year.

Council member Thom Walker asked if some Princeton Economic Development Authority (EDA) funds could be used to help the chamber this year. Whitcomb responded that he didn’t think the EDA’s balance sheet was “too healthy.”

Whitcomb added that he believes the chamber board has been doing a good job, but still had the reservations he stated.

“We understand,” said Berry, who then continued that the chamber board had done as the council had requested, and that he feels the $10,000 if given would benefit the community.

Berry went into detail what he felt the new chamber board has accomplished in recent months. That includes the EDA and chamber board agreeing to have a joint committee to work on attracting more businesses to the city and helping current retailers.

He also talked about the chamber board’s plans to alter this year’s annual business expo which will be March 10 with the idea of helping the business vendors more. One change will be to have businesses offer “State Fair” type discounts, Berry said, where the purchase is made at the expo and the merchandise pick-up is later at the business to get the buyer into the store.

The chamber will also be re-examining all its annual events to see how they benefit the chamber, its members, the businesses and the community, Berry added.

Berry and Reynolds also mentioned a plan for hanging banners on a set of wires strung across a street to advertise events and perhaps advertise new businesses on the banner for a period of time. Other evidence of the chamber “moving forward,” he said, is the chamber working to see how the school district and chamber can do joint activities to help each other, and the chamber recently launching a business of the month recognition.

When the council passed its motion giving the chamber $10,000, it was also agreed that the city liquor store would donate a case of wine for the chamber’s annual gala.