Chamber of Commerce ribbon cuttings are a common sight in Columbia County.
With approximately 530 new members added to the county chamber's rolls since it incorporated independently with 300 members in 2003, Columbia County Chamber Executive Director Gordon Renshaw said his organization is playing host to 10 to 15 ribbon cuttings a month.
But on occasion, his chamber has ventured east to inaugurate new business members from Richmond County. Recently, the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce also has driven west for ribbon cuttings for their new members in Columbia County, most recently on Friday with a ribbon cutting for Columbia County's first SunCom Wireless location at Liberty Square on Washington Road, in Evans. The Augusta chamber also is playing host to a ribbon cutting for OfficeMax at Mullins Crossing today.
Augusta Metro and Columbia County chamber of commerce leaders insist that such crossover is something positive for the business community and not a turf war.
"There's no rivalry whatsoever," Renshaw said.
His Augusta Metro chamber counterpart echoed those sentiments.
"No, I wouldn't characterize it that way," said Sue Parr, president and CEO of the Augusta Metro chamber.
"We want to make sure businesses have all the opportunities available to them and bring all of that to bear," she said.
Renshaw said his chamber is working on initiatives with "regional impact," but is not aggressively seeking members in neighboring counties.
"There is a gentleman's handshake agreement on our part that we are not soliciting chamber members directly within Richmond County," he said.
"At the same time we are having a significant amount of businesses that are joining the Columbia County Chamber and it's mostly attributed to both of them seeing a lot of value with our chamber."
Renshaw, contacted while out of the office Friday, did not have the Columbia County chamber's membership rolls available to him, but said his organization's Richmond County membership is "a growing and significant number."
Parr said her chamber has more than 1,200 members, 89 of whom are in Columbia County.
She said businesses join a chamber because membership provides visibility, opportunities to become involved with other members and networking contacts.
Chambers of Commerce are also the "voice for business" in a community and strive for an improved economic environment, business expansion and development, she said.
Parr said she thinks membership in multiple chambers is a "good business strategy," and that both chambers have "ambassadors," existing members who serve as liaisons to new members.
Renshaw said he encourages mutual chamber involvement for his Richmond County member businesses.
A SunCom area manager said his store is a member of both chambers, but Renshaw said that store has yet to join his organization.
On occasion, Renshaw said, some national chain stores in Columbia County join the Augusta chamber first, not realizing there is a chamber recognized for its growth in Columbia County. However, he said, such instances are rare and he is not concerned by it, as those businesses typically join the Columbia County chamber soon after.
"I don't feel like we're trying to get out of anyone's shadow," Renshaw said. "I think if anything our chamber has earned the reputation and spotlight that it has."
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