Our Opinion: Scrutiny reveals virtues of city-chamber partnership

Jefferson City’s economic development partnership with the area Chamber of Commerce is not an aberration in Missouri, nor is it inefficient.

The relationship has come under scrutiny recently, including allegations that the city’s “no-bid contract” has invited a “cozy relationship” lacking written documentation of performance.

We commend scrutiny of public agencies.

At the very least, such scrutiny demands accountability and interrupts complacency.

Jefferson City and Cole County governments both contract with the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce for economic development services. The annual cost now is $200,000 from the city and $150,000 from the county.

After hearing responses from city and chamber officials, and conducting our own investigation, we are satisfied the partnership is the best economic development approach available at this time.

No-bid contracts between municipalities and chambers are a common practice in Missouri, according to the Missouri Municipal League.

“You really don’t have many entities that provide those kind of services; it’s pretty unique,” said Richard Sheets, the league’s deputy director. “ There’s just not much available out there.”

As for the criticism that the relationship is cozy, we would characterize it as a common interest in community development.

Orderly growth is a shared interest among city, county and chamber. If each partner is satisfied with the effort, comfort — not conflict — prevails.

With regard to written documentation, the chamber has maintained written transcripts of periodic power point presentations at City Council meetings. Those transcripts and other documentation now are also available at City Hall and on both the city and News Tribune websites.

In addition to contracting with a chamber of commerce, some metropolitan municipalities created economic development departments and some rural governments contract with regional boards.

For Jefferson City, neither option is attractive. The chamber is a regional organization and creating a city agency strikes us as an expensive, added layer of bureaucracy to duplicate existing chamber efforts.

In the final analysis, the recent public scrutiny and official response invited a timely review of the city-chamber partnership.

We believe the shared mission and chamber resources reinforce the wisdom of the city’s decision.

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