A city's chamber of commerce is supposed to be the face of its businesses. Its first and foremost responsibility is to support those businesses and help them grow. That is a big part of a city's economic development - not only attracting new businesses, but also helping existing ones stay healthy and thriving.
Glen Rose is fortunate to have a strong core of businesses that have been here for years, as well as a steady stream of newer entrants. While many other small towns have dust blowing down their depressed main streets, which look like a scene out of The Last Picture Show, Glen Rose's downtown is still very much alive.
Two new restaurants are preparing to open downtown - China Wok and a Cajun restaurant off the square. Downtown has a new art gallery and children's store and this year several new plant nurseries, health care facilities and other businesses have opened on U.S. Highway 67, the commercial strip.
In a turnabout of how business expansion often occurs, with big-city companies spreading to small towns, Glen Rose businesses are expanding to Granbury.
Audrey Caylor has opened a new outpost of her successful Caylor Creek boutique, Hollywood & Vine has a restaurant on the Granbury square and Big Cup Eatery opened in a shopping center on the main drag, U.S. Highway 377. It's great to see them expand, but we want to keep them happy in Glen Rose, too.
As wider highways advance toward town and development heads closer this way, we need a viable chamber of commerce to help guide the business community into the future. Small businesses, especially, need advice and support on subjects from taxes to health care to insurance.
Unfortunately, the Glen Rose/Somervell County Chamber of Commerce's vital mission has become obscured by controversy. Stories of infighting, personality conflicts and disagreements over direction have been circulating around town.
The departures of several key chamber officers and members, including Caylor, Darrell Best, Kelly Hoodenpyle and former events coordinators Tonya Fonseca and then Angel Smith, for various reasons, also raised questions about what was going on behind the scenes.
It's been sad to see the chamber's office door with the “Closed” sign on it during this transition while the remaining chamber board scrambles to regroup and line up volunteers to staff the office. (The chamber will stay downtown until its lease ends next February.) To volunteer or to join, call Rhonda Cagle, the chamber's acting president, at 254-897-9228.
The remaining board members need the community's support to get the organization going again and rebuild the chamber's reputation. It's no doubt going to be tarnished by recent revelations of some free-spending on events — including hundreds of dollars for beer for contestants in the St. Patrick's Day golf tournament.
But kudos to Jimmy Gosdin, the new president of the Glen Rose Economic Development Corp., for having the courage to give the Glen Rose City Council a list of those expenses in the interest of transparency and to start heading in the right direction.
It should be noted that some, but not all, of the events received some 4B monies. After the departures of the leadership and chamber office staff, the remaining chamber board members were left holding the bag and scrambling to figure out how much money was spent on what.
One thing that is certain is that more than $12,807 was used to pay for the events coordinators' salaries. The rest of the expenses will have to be sorted out.
For now, though, it's clear that a chamber-based events coordinator funded with 4B sales tax money is not a good idea. The chamber did not live up to its contract with the GREDC, which oversees the distribution of 4B money returned to the city by the state for economic development purposes.
There's plenty of blame to go around. Too many people apparently spent too much money without asking hard questions. Once again, the public's money was squandered. By the way, in the interest of transparency, you can see a list of the expenses on our Web site, www.theglenrosereporter.com.
City Council and GREDC member Sue Oldenburg was right to demand an accounting of events coordinator expenses. It's too bad that some of the people responsible for letting expenses get out of hand are now gone, leaving others to clean up their mess.
Rather than search for blame, however, it's time to get behind the chamber and keep it going in a forward direction. A city without a chamber of commerce sends a negative signal to those who might be thinking about starting a business in Glen Rose. It's time to start sending a positive signal that the chamber is open - for businesses.