Hilton Head Chamber asks members for input amid recent scrutiny

gmartin@islandpacket.comDecember 23, 2011 

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The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce recently sent surveys to members asking how it might improve its services.

The survey was distributed earlier this month, amid public scrutiny and criticism of the chamber.

Chamber spokeswoman Charlie Clark said the survey is distributed at one- or two-year intervals to all chamber members, but acknowledged that the recent developments influenced the survey's release.

"Was (the timing) coincidental? Absolutely not," Clark said. "We think now is a great time to take a look at what hundreds of our members have to say."

The Mission Resources Group, a Hilton Head-based consulting firm, hosted a forum Dec. 15 to gather suggestions about how the chamber could improve member services. The forum was not commissioned by the chamber, and the chamber did not participate.

Since then, local businessman Skip Hoagland announced his intention to form a rival organization for tourism marketing, citing among his reasons alleged pervasive discontent with the chamber's lack of accounting transparency.

Clark downplayed the impact of the recent developments on the chamber's future.

"That scrutiny comes from one community member who ... isn't even a chamber member and a forum that was attended by less than 20 people," she said.

She added that early feedback from the survey, which was accompanied by an explanation from president and CEO Bill Miles and went to each of the chamber's 1,600 members, was very positive.

"So far, we've heard from about 300 members," she said. "Nearly 70 percent describe themselves as either 'very satisfied' or 'satisfied' with the chamber."

She noted that in 2011, 388 new businesses joined the chamber, which had a 91 percent retention rate for the year.

Paul Jacobson, president of the Mission Resources Group, said he is glad the chamber is surveying members.

"I think it's excellent they're doing it," he said. "At the end of the day, (I support) anything that helps the chamber be more open to input and ideas."

Attempts Friday to reach Miles were unsuccessful.

Follow reporter Grant Martin at Twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

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