No coverage in paper this morning, but among the private organizations that experienced no cut in taxpayer subsidies from the Little Rock City Board for 2019 was the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, which will continue to get a $300,000 corporate welfare handout to subsidize its expenses even as the city budget takes a $387,000 haircut from 2018 and non-uniform employee pay increases have been omitted.
UPDATE: Director Kathy Webb voted against the handout. Director Ken Richardson voted present, effectively a no. Director Erma Hendrix was absent.
The Chamber distributed its annual document extolling its job creation activities (built so as to suggest without the chamber no job development would have occurred).
It also made some limited financial disclosures.
For example, we learned the chamber budgets $1.148 million for regional economic development. That is, it works throughout the 12-county metro area to land jobs (touting some in North Little Rock for example in this report.) It appears that taxpayers cover nearly half the cost.
The city contributes $300,000 (in two parts, $100,000 of which goes to a regional alliance). The publicly backed and run Little Rock Port Authority contributes $48,000. Unnamed “regional partners” (outside Little Rock) contribute $150,000 to the regional programs. That’s almost $500,000 in total flowing to the chamber from public sources. Private contributors provide $650,000.
Main expense: $573,000 for pay and benefits and phones for employees (who also have used their time to campaign for
Given that taxpayers and their pennies on food, clothing and other necessities pay about half of the cost of chamber employee salaries, you’d think we’d be entitled to more information about what they say and do in the name of attracting business to not just Little Rock, but Cabot, Conway, Benton, Bryant, Perryville and beyond. Note that Little Rock taxpayers contribute better than two-thirds of the public subsidy. Could we maybe get the chamber to stand up for local control of the Little Rock School District?
UPDATE: Here are the other taxpayer-originated contributions to the chamber’s regional effort in 2018, in addition to Little Rock’s $100,000:
Clark County $6,714
Conway County $6,211
Faulkner County – Conway $15,000
Jefferson County $22,608
Lonoke County – City of Cabot $14,353
Lonoke County – City of Carlisle $1,337
Pulaski County – Maumelle $5,011
Pulaski County – North Little Rock $18,191
Pulaski County – Sherwood $5,603
Saline County 2018 $8,722
White County – Searcy $6,611
Some others may be added in 2019, chamber CEO Jay Chesshir said.