The last time the City of Lathrop signed a contract with the Lathrop Chamber of Commerce, questions arose about how that money – which came from taxpayers – was spent.
Now nearly five years later, and with a new Board of Directors and Executive Director on board, the organization once again has the backing of the City of Lathrop after undergoing an extensive period of image-building to repair the fractured relationships with businesses and the community at large that came from alleged mismanagement.
With a unanimous vote of the council, the newly reformed organization, which is tasked with promoting business within the community and retaining existing businesses, will receive $24,000 in $2,000 monthly increments over the course of the next year to bolster the city’s growing business community and create new programs aimed at promoting the community.
According to new Lathrop Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Wall, who was asked specifically during questioning by the council about past indiscretions, said the organization has now taken steps to prevent what he called the “self-serving components” that existed under previous leadership. When Vice Mayor Paul Akinjo interjected that the council was “lambasted” after things surfaced previously with the chamber, Wall was quick to respond.
“I was one of the lambasters at the time and I have forgiven you,” he told Akinjo and the rest of the council. “That’s why I’m here – to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.”
Wall five years ago criticized elected officials about their questioning of chamber spending but has since found things weren’t as he was told they appeared.
In addition to maintaining office hours and working with the city to promote both new and existing businesses and serve as the voice for the business community, Wall said that the organization will start new programs like “Hire Me First” which is modeled after a successful endeavor in Tracy that looks to promote the hiring of local people into new jobs that become available.
Wall said that the chamber will work closely with certain technical training programs such as Manteca Unified’s be.Tech Academy to create a list of young people from the community that possess certain skills that could be beneficial to businesses – creating the added benefit of employing those with the skills and the ability from within the city limits.
Coupled with the City of Lathrop’s dedication to bring businesses to the community that will cut down on the need to commute – something that they’ve already done with the addition of Tesla and other businesses that are coming – the new programs and a refocused chamber mission could bolster the city’s position when it comes to attracting prospective partners who appreciate the logistical location that Lathrop provides.
And in order to prevent what happened before from happening again, Wall said that the newly formed Board of Directors will be much more active in decision making processes, and the city will likely have a full accounting of where all of the $24,000 is being spent to ensure oversight and transparency.
Despite the fact that this is only the second time that the matter has been discussed at the council level, Wall also said that he and members of the board have been working since August to craft an agreement that works for both the chamber and the city, and efforts have been underway for some time to repair fractured relationships with businesses who felt they weren’t represented the way they were told they would be when they offered financial support to the chamber in the past.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.