Hilton Head consulting agency announces forum to address chamber concerns

gmartin@islandpacket.comNovember 29, 2011 

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The Mission Resources Group, a business consulting agency on Hilton Head Island, will host a forum Dec. 15 to address what it contends are concerns among local businesses about the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

All Hilton Head and Bluffton business owners and managers are invited to the session, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Hilton Head Public Service District Community Room at 21 Oak Park Drive off Mathews Drive.

Agency leaders Paul Jacobson and Paul Gibson said they hope for a productive discussion about support programs for local businesses.

"There's a perceived imbalance of chamber resources devoted to visitor and convention businesses," Jacobson said. "It's been a long-standing issue here, but one that's growing more prominent."

Jacobson also wonders if the chamber should be competing with local businesses to market the area as a travel destination.

"We're hoping to evaluate the efficacy of (the chamber's) existing programs," Jacobson said. "I think there are a number of businesses in the area that may not have a firm grasp of what the chamber really does."

Chamber president and CEO Bill Miles countered that "we run a comprehensive program here and do a significant amount of outreach to local businesses."

"We're the designated marketing organization for Hilton Head, Bluffton and southern Beaufort County," he added. "It's our responsibility to promote this area as a destination. That's one of our main missions."

However, Miles said, the chamber does not suppress local marketing businesses.

Miles was invited to the forum but said he had other chamber-related business at that time and could not attend.

"There's nothing personal about this, and there's nothing negative," Jacobson said. "We're not going after Bill, and we're not going after the chamber."

Last year, the chamber drew scrutiny for Miles' annual compensation -- reported as $344,251 -- a figure Gibson said was "still a real lightning rod" of discontent among some in the local business community.

In preparation for the meeting, the agency requested one-paragraph descriptions from the chamber of its current support programs for local businesses. At the forum, attendees can offer input on each, but Jacobson said there would be "no negativity and no speeches."

"We want to get these concerns above ground and in public," he said. "Right now, it's all underground, and mostly negative."

Jacobson and Gibson are optimistic the forum will be well-attended.

"The room holds about 100 people," Gibson said, "and I hope we'll fill it up."

Follow reporter Grant Martin at Twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

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