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Merger raises tourism issue

April 3, 2012
The Leader Herald

Members of the chambers of commerce in Fulton and Montgomery counties will vote April 26 on whether to merge the two groups and form a 1,400-member Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The boards of directors of both chambers already have approved the plan. A 10 percent turnout of each chamber's membership will be required for the membership vote to count.

Supporters of the merger say the larger group would be stronger. They say it would help improve economic development in the area and have greater influence on government decisions. They also have suggested the bigger chamber would provide more services to members and save businesses money by not having to join two separate chambers. Meanwhile, some of the small chamber-member businesses have said they're concerned the merger could have a negative effect on them, although officials from both chambers say the voices of the "mom and pop" establishments would not be lost.

One issue that stands out is tourism. Currently, Fulton County contributes money to the Fulton County chamber for tourism promotion, but Montgomery County handles its own tourism promotion. In addition, Fulton County owns the Vail Mills information center, which is operated by the chamber.

If the chamber membership agrees to the merger, tourism promotion would be awkward under the current setup. We'd recommend Montgomery County join Fulton County in allowing the chamber to handle tourism efforts. This would ensure a consistent approach.



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