Hall: Cham­ber in a good ‘state’

The Covington News - - LOCAL - ROB DEWIG rdewig@cov­news.com

2014 has been a great year for the New­ton County Cham­ber of Com­merce, Pres­i­dent Hunter Hall told mem­bers at the an­nual “State of the Cham­ber” luncheon Thurs­day.

“The cham­ber as a whole, we’re very en­cour­aged with what we’ve seen” so far, he said.

So far in 2014, a to­tal of 15,519 tourists have vis­ited the county; that num­ber is ex­pected to rise to 31,038 by year’s end. In 2013, the num­ber was 28,550; the year be­fore, it was 25,112. “We’re clearly (adding) over 3,000 vis­i­tors a year.” More vis­i­tors mean more rev­enue for busi­nesses, so the more the mer­rier, he said.

Through its ho­tel/mo­tel taxes, the county has raised $173,432 to date in 2014; the num­ber is ex­pected to soar to $346,864, Hall said. In 2013, the to­tal was $264,977. In 2012, it was $222,733.

Sur­veys have shown that 70 per­cent of peo­ple rent­ing ho­tel rooms do so through cor­po­ra­tions; the rest are tourists. As an ex­am­ple, con­trac­tors work­ing for Bax­ter Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals rent ev­ery room in the Hol­i­day Inn and Hamp­ton Inn on Mondays, Tues­days and Wed­nes­days, he said.

But tourist num­bers are in­creas­ing in our ho­tels, as well. In past years, tourists have stayed an av­er­age of one night; now, they stay for two or three.

Another fo­cus of the cham­ber, of course, is in­dus­trial and com­mer­cial re­ten­tion and at­trac­tion. And there, too, things are look­ing up.

In 2014 to date, the cham­ber has fielded 17 re­quests for pro­pos­als (RFPs) from com­mer­cial busi­nesses, and 20 for in­dus­tries. Those are “healthy” num­bers, Hall said, be­cause they sig­nal true in­ter­est from a busi­ness.

Of the in­ter­ested com­mer­cial busi­nesses, 13 are still ac­tive and three have “closed,” or com­mit­ted to move to the county. Five more will close by year’s end, he said.

On the in­dus­trial side of the ledger, 12 of the 20 RFPs are still ac­tive, mean­ing the com­pa­nies re­main in­ter­ested by un­com­mit­ted. Two have closed – Heavy Ma­chine Inc. and Honey-Comb.

Peo­ple in busi­ness look for sev­eral things when mov­ing to a com­mu­nity, Hall said, in­clud­ing schools, recre­ation and shop­ping.

With the county’s schools, he said, “we’re begin­ning to tell the story.”

“We have good num­bers (from the schools), we’re see­ing good things, and they’re pro­duc­ing a good work­force,” he said. “That’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant when we’re re­cruit­ing an in­dus­try.”

To help new­com­ers be­fore and af­ter they de­cide to move to the county, the cham­ber will launch a new web­site – www.ilove­cov.com – in four or five weeks, he said. The site will in­clude in­for­ma­tion on re­lo­cat­ing to the county.

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