Though lately there has been cause for doubt, Columbia County commissioners in the past few days have demonstrated that they really do know how to enter partnerships for the mutual benefit of taxpayers and other organizations.
First, commissioners recently agreed to increase funding to the Greater Augusta Sports Council to $30,000, up from $5,000. "We decided to increase the amount of funding to the Sports Council because we had a good track record of success with them,'' says the county's community and leisure services director, Barry Smith.
The private agency has been outstandingly responsive to the county's needs as its recreation programs have grown - particularly with the recent expansions at Wildwood Park.
In some respects, the funding for the Sports Council comes at the expense of the Metro Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau. That agency's funding from Columbia County was based on a percentage of hotel/motel tax revenues, and had been on autopilot for years - with the amount climbing towards $140,000.
Yet commissioners believed the CVB's effort was merely gliding. When efforts to put the partnership on a better footing failed, Columbia County established its own tourism agency and boosted support for the Sports Council.
That's a good bang for the tourism buck. And a good partnership.
A younger partnership, but one with significant promise, got its formal start Monday when officials from McDuffie, Lincoln, Wilkes and Warren counties joined Columbia County in the Clarks Hill Partnership.
"This is a historical day, but it will lead to many historic things in the future that will out (shine) this event," County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said during ceremonies sealing the deal.
Spearheaded by state Sen. Jim Whitehead, the partnership will build on regional strengths: Clarks Hill Lake, of course, but also Thomson's airport and Wilkes County's hospital.
This partnership was formed after Columbia County officials failed in repeated attempts to set up a regional economic development relationship with the Richmond County Development Authority. It failed when Augusta leaders gave it an inexplicable cold shoulder.
It's their loss, because it encouraged Columbia County to take its substantial buying power and demographic heft and direct it toward communities more willing to work together.
That's what a real partnership is all about.
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