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Freeport council supports creation of Chamber; membership drive begins

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Freeport council supports creation of Chamber; membership drive begins

FREEPORT — After more than a year of discussion, the Freeport Merchants Association, Freeport Economic Development Corp. and a task force have worked out a compromise to move forward with creating a Chamber of Commerce in Freeport.

Sande Updegraph, director of FEDC, told the Town Council at a workshop Tuesday, July 14, that the tentative name would be the Freeport Chamber and Marketing Alliance.

Updegraph asked the Town Council for $145,000 in financial support. Other sources of income would include chamber members and affiliates. As of now, the town's operating budget contributes $85,000 a year to FEDC, and $12,500 to FMA for public restrooms.

Town Manager Dale Olmstead said the town could help the chamber by redirecting funds from the Hilton Garden Inn Tax Increment Financing arrangement. Since the TIF is due to expire in about a year, the town could extend the expiration date by 20 years and reroute $48,000 to the chamber. In addition, the cap on the Destination Freeport TIF could be increased from $11 million to $19 million over the next few years, which could increase the amount of sheltered funds. The $97,500 the town currently contributes to FEDC and FMA, could be rerouted from the Destination TIF to the chamber, allowing the town to reduce its operating budget.

Councilor Joe Migliaccio said the chamber arrangement was "a long time coming," but urged Updegraph to consider phasing out town financial support over time and encouraged the chamber to become self-sufficient. Options discussed include sharing revenue generated and distributing it between the chamber and taxpayers.

"If ever there was a time to support business, now is the time," Olmstead said.

He said the Chamber Alliance would begin a membership drive by Aug. 1, and needs 600 members by Dec. 15 to become financially sound. Members can include non-profit organizations, current FMA members, independent or self-employed owners, businesses from out of town, and retired or friends of the chamber.

If the goal is not met, Updegraph said FEDC and FMA will continue to work as separate entities.

Councilors will meet Aug. 11 to discuss the two TIF amendments.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net