Lynchburg Will Not Renew Chamber Tourism Contract

Lynchburg, VA - It is official; the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce will no longer be the provider of tourism services for the Hill City.

The decision was announced Wednesday by the President of the Chamber, Rex Hammond, in an email to his Executive Committee.

For months, Lynchburg City officials have said that they have not reached an agreement on the future of their tourism contract with the chamber. Over the summer a deadline to finalize their plans was set for November.

Wednesday the big announcement was made. The President of the Chamber told his organization, "With a heavy heart, it is my unpleasant duty to communicate the City Council's response to our tourism proposal. In yesterday's email response to Tulane, the City Manager stated: "I have communicated the Executive Committee's position (final tourism proposal) to Council members individually and the consensus is that this process is at an end."

The dispute originated over a funding disagreement. Council members wanted adequate justification for a proposed $1.3 million tourism budget. Ultimately both sides would not budge.

At one point some city council members expressed their frustration regarding a lack of communication. Mayor Mike Gillette said this during a June council meeting, "We hear your discomfort, you are the customer, and we're coming to you to say here are some adjustments we would be willing to make. And yet we don't get that. What we get is more of the same pre-packaged numbers to justify a $1.3 million figure that's in their heads, which may or may not be appropriate" he said.

From here the city will be going out to bid in order to find a new tourism provider.

City Councilman Jeff Helgeson expressed extreme unhappiness with the decision.

"The city took an award winning fully accredited program and it's dismantling it" he said. He likened it to quote, "a hostile takeover."

Both the city and the chamber are expected to make public statements in the coming days.

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