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Chamber stands on its own

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We, the Board of the Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce, are writing this letter to address a statement made in a recent advertisement in the Cedar Key News. The statement was made that the City Of Cedar Key should stop subsidizing the Chamber of Commerce at the expense of the city and its residents  We would like to present the facts to you about how the Welcome Center was established and the service this business organization provides to our community
In 2009 the City of Cedar Key was awarded the USDA Community of the Year Award.  As the then Mayor Sue Colson said at the ceremony, we received this award because the city partners with other organizations such as the Aquaculture Association, the chamber, its churches, Lions Club, Historical Society, Arts Center and the library because the city recognizes the value these partnerships bring to all of the residents and visitors. Partnerships fill many needs the city alone cannot fill.
We are proud that the chamber serves our community so well solely through the support of our members and our fund raising efforts and we recognize the contributions made by all of the other city partner organizations here in Cedar Key that are putting forth tremendous effort to help Cedar Key stay strong.
The City of Cedar Key’s CRA was established to promote commerce, including tourism and redevelopment of our community.  In 2010 the CRA asked for proposals from any group or individual to operate a Welcome Center in the old Creswell House which had been purchased by the CRA but had sat neglected for many years. The Cedar Key Chamber was the only group to respond.  The City recognized how vital a Welcome Center would be to our community by increasing the progress of two of our most important industries—local business and tourism—and that the City would benefit from an improved tax base. Initial plans by the CRA were to provide the building for no rent, but the Chamber Board felt that in order for this to be a true partnership, we should pay rent and all utilities. We then set about assisting with the renovations and were able to get much of the work done at discounted rates which brought the whole job in under budget. The Chamber paid for the wood carved “Welcome Center” sign and presented this $3,500 sign to the city.  In total, the Chamber invested over $20,000 in material and labor. We continue to maintain this city asset, at our cost, for such things as landscape and tree maintenance.
For two years the Chamber has allocated $43,000 to operate this Welcome Center with no subsidy from the City or CRA. We do it through membership dues, selling items at the Welcome Center, working the festivals and through our Labor Day Auction. Business has been great this past year and we hear from our visitors what a wonderful, informative and relaxing place tourists have to learn about our business members and our island’s culture and history. Since the Welcome Center has been open, we have hosted thousands of visitors and our staff, which we fund, has worked hard to educate our visitors about our businesses, our town and our natural resources.
 Only by working together and supporting all of the people and organizations in Cedar Key can we continue to have a strong city and a strong economy.
 Sincerely,
Board of Directors

The Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce