Still here

Scaled-back Rockdale Chamber vows to keep backing business

I t’s an indication of just how eventful a year the Rockdale Chamber of Commerce has just endured that both its outgoing and incoming chairpersons felt compelled during last week’s annual meeting to announce that the organization was still in existence.

Both Debra Jackson (outgoing) and Mike Walko (incoming) told members “we’re still here” at Thursday’s annual meeting in the New Salem Clubhouse at Fair Park.

What’s happened in recent months, of course, is that the Chamber declined to administer the funds generated by the city’s hotel-motel tax.

That represented a considerable loss of revenue for the 60-year-old organization. In fact, the Chamber will no longer fund the position of president, the paid position which in the past has guided the day-to-day activities of the 259-member group.

And the Chamber will no longer be the organization which directs Rockdale’s many special events during the year, including the Tejas Art and Book Festival and others.

But the Chamber has been able to obtain some of those hotel-motel tax funds from the city, which is now charged with administering them, and will be able to keep its most highly-visible presence in Rockdale.

That would be the rock house headquarters at 1203West Cameron (US 79). There will be a major difference, of course. Instead of the two-person staff, with a president and a secretary, the operation will continue in 2013 with only secretary Denise Brock.

The rock house will continue to work hand-in-glove with the city as its new stewardship of hotel-motel tax funds takes root and grows.

The Chamber, meanwhile, pledges a “back to business” approach, refocusing on local merchants and their needs. It will continue to host an annual banquet this spring.

And, of course, the Chamber’s live-wire ambassador corps will be on hand to provide volunteers for Rockdale boosting events whenever, and wherever, they are needed.

“We enjoyed putting on the events,” Jackson said. “But our focus will aways be on our local businesses.”—M.B.

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