Lynne Hermanson
Special to The Gardner News
The Gardner City Council voted to remove their agreement with the Gardner Edgerton Chamber of Commerce from the consent agenda to a later date at their Feb. 3 meeting. Council members discussed a possible split from Edgerton, or the chamber joining with the Southwest Johnson County Economic Development council.
Jason Camis, Gardner Edgerton Chamber of Commerce President, made a presentation at the beginning of the meeting.
“Chamber is doing well and continues to grow,” he said. “We have double the membership from 110 members in the five years I have been here.”
Camis said the past year has been their busiest year, and there are new and innovative things for the community.
The chamber met with businesses 400 times and gave out 758 new resident bags, he said.
“We are excited about 2020,” Camis said.
He said there were few changes in the contract, and they work to provide value for their members, especially with networking events.
“We push inclusiveness and not an exclusive chamber,” Camis said. “We’re not a country club.”
Gardner has been in a holding pattern for tourism due to not knowing when the Hampton would open originally, he said.
Camis said they would like to include a visitor profile study and marketing plan as part of their contract.
Some members of the city council had concerns that Gardner contributes more financially to the contract with the chamber than Edgerton.
Camis said Gardner’s commitment is $35,000 and Edgerton’s is $2,000.
“Don’t you think it’s a problem,” Rich Melton, city council vice president, said. He asked Camis if they were planning to ask Edgerton for more funds.
“Both cities have grown enough so rapidly to have separate chambers,” Todd Winters, city council president, said.
Winters said Gardner gives significant contributions and wanted to know Edgerton’s contributions and if they were comparable.
Camis said they also serve other municipalities’ businesses such as Paola, but that 90 percent of the businesses they serve are in Gardner and Gardner oriented things.
Melton said he loved the Gardner-Edgerton Chamber of Commerce magazine, but wants to make sure they are getting the most value and not picking up the loss.
Mark Baldwin, council member, asked if the chamber and Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Council could join together.
Camis said the SW Johnson County Economic Development Council was an outgrowth of the chamber.
“There are a lot of communities like that where they work hand in hand or all together,” he said. “It could be something we explore, but it is sticky because SWJEDC is more into recruiting and private.”
Melton said they should pull the item off the agenda for the meeting , so the chamber could get with Edgerton before they meet with Gardner again.
“I’d like to see an investment increase with them to the chamber,” he said. “It should be 50/50, as that is the way partnerships work.”
Steve Shute, mayor, said he didn’t know if it should be 50/50.
“I am wondering if we should be separated,” he said. “It might be time to make that split.”
Randy Gregoryck , council member, asked Camis if the visitor study profile would be before or after the contribution.
Camis said it would be part of the contribution.
“The biggest attractions aren’t in Gardner but neighboring,” he said. “Hillsdale Lake is the biggest attraction around, and we don’t know if we are capturing the travel money; also with Gieringer’s Orchard.”
Camis said they were worried they were missing opportunities for tourism and economic development to Gardner.
The consent agenda item was moved to the March dmeeting to give the Chamber of Commerce time to meet with Edgerton and decide if splitting into two chambers for both cities is the correct move.