TRAVERSE CITY — Members of the Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce hope to create a related charitable organization to help fill a role left vacant at the county level.
Chamber members will soon file to create the Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Foundation, a 501(c)3 that would be eligible for grants and to receive tax-deductible donations.
The move comes about a year after the Leelanau Board of Commissioners voted to disband the county’s Economic Development Corporation. County commissioners cited redundancy of service, as well as concerns that EDC officials echoed aspects of Agenda 21, a United Nations treaty that promotes environmental stewardship and sustainable development.
Since then, local Leelanau business owners wondered whether a county-wide entity would emerge to offer guidance on economic development matters.
“We’re trying to step up and help fill a need and provide more services to Leelanau County businesses so we can continue to sustain, if nothing else, or create a job or two to help our county be more viable,” said Tim Haring, president of the Chamber board.
Haring said the new foundation would raise money to put on forums, fairs and seminars, as well as help local businesses find financial opportunities.
He hopes members of business communities across the county could come together to form a board for the new foundation.
The Leelanau Board of Commissioners voted to pay for the $850 application fee to form the foundation. They also agreed this week to pay another $10,000 to the Chamber to help them create a new, interactive website. The money would come out of $14,000 of 2 percent tribal gambling funds earmarked for economic development.
Paul Skinner, the chairman of the Empire Chamber of Commerce, said there’s a real need for centralized business services.
“Basically, I head up a Chamber that has somewhere in the region of 45 members, which is pretty darn small by anybody’s estimation. We need to be part of a larger group so we can actually make a greater impact,” Skinner said. “It would be helpful if we had a facility, or entity, with contacts out to all the various bodies that are out there that can help us attain more funding for all sorts of projects from promotion to infrastructure.”
The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce maintains two 501(c)3’s, said Laura Galbraith, the senior vice president of finance.
The classification is helpful for pursuing grants and also to encourage donations, which would be tax deductible.