CORRECTION: The open house of the new Convention and Visitors Bureau, Chamber of Commerce and Development Authority offices will be held Thursday, Oct. 18. The editorial has been corrected to reflect that date.
Nature abhors a vacuum. So does government.
That was one of our worries, about four years ago, as Columbia County prepared to consolidate three health department sites into one new facility.
The upgraded facility itself seemed like a good idea. It made sense to put all of the health department’s services under one roof for efficiency’s sake.
The worry, though, was about what would happen to the three empty buildings. That space would be awfully tempting to county workers wanting to expand their environs. Spreading out bureaucrats into more offices would undermine the benefits of consolidating the health department.
Fast-forward to the present, and those former spaces are filled – and to Columbia County’s credit, none of the new occupants are county departments. Instead, they are either partner agencies or paying customers.
The final of the three spots, and the most visible of them, will hold its grand opening with an open house on Oct. 18.
The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce – a private organization – will show off the space it shares with the county’s Development Authority and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, in the health department’s former Columbia County Government Center clinic in Evans.
“What it provides is one-stop shopping for business and tourism, economic development, the business community and visitors,” says Tammy Shepherd, the president and CEO of the Chamber. “Our missions, we complement each other.”
The Development Authority and Chamber previously paid rent to private landlords; they’ll now pay the county for use of the shared space.
Like the Health Department, which consolidated three offices into one, the three agencies benefit from shared infrastructure and staff in the new facility. It’s good for them, and good for the county.
The other two former health department spaces already have been re-occupied for several months. The Columbia County Community Collaborative, which provides primarily at-risk and youth-oriented services largely through grant funding, took over the former Euchee Creek office. The University of Georgia Extension Service, a state agency that provides significant services to Columbia County residents – including the venerable 4-H program in schools – moved out of county space in Savannah Rapids Pavilion and into the former health department in Appling.
These changes provide more efficient services without expanding government. For county residents and taxpayers, that’s good news.