A local businessman wants to raise $500,000 by August to fulfill Hilton Head Island businessman Skip Hoagland's vision of forming a new chamber of commerce for the island.
Entrepreneur Peter Buonaiuto pitched his idea of a new, separate Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau to about 50 local business people at Park Plaza Cinema on Wednesday afternoon.
Buonaiuto argued the existing Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce is inefficient and wasteful, with the majority of its expenditures going toward payroll and administrative costs and not marketing the island.
The existing Chamber of Commerce also has failed to jump-start tourism in the area, which has stagnated since 1998 at around 2 million visitors per year, he said.
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Buonaiuto hopes starting a new chamber of commerce and a separate convention and visitors bureau could still serve local businesses while delineating the efforts and dollars spent toward boosting tourism.
To get the new chamber started, Buonaiuto is asking 100 island businesses to contribute $5,000 in the next few weeks as seed money to begin building a formal strategic plan for the new venture.
If he can raise $500,000 by the end of the month, Buonaiuto will apply for a state grant for destination specific tourism marketing from the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. If approved that grant could match up to $250,000 for the effort, he said.
However, the grant application is open only a few days, from July 30 to Aug. 4, so the fundraising effort is under a very tight deadline, Buonaiuto said.
The concept of the new chamber began several years ago with Hoagland, who has rallied against the existing Chamber of Commerce for a lack of financial transparency. For more than a year and a half, Hoagland has fought the current chamber in court for thousands of pages of documents he argues should be public.
Hoagland is not a director or officer with Buonaiuto's effort, but he is an informal advisor and the two have worked together on the idea for several years, Buonaiuto said.
Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.