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Nov 3 2011

All local Media Companies

To Members of the Media:

I am writing, as a business owner and past Chamber of Commerce member, to share my concern about the growing trend whereby the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and other Chambers / CVB’s nationwide are increasingly competing with media members, rather than supporting them according to their original mission. This is an unacceptable abusive practice, plain and simple.

Competing with local media directly violates the charter of every Chamber of Commerce, which is to support and help business members prosper within the community. On the most fundamental level, the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce has an unfair competitive advantage because of its status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit funded with bed-tax revenue and member dues.

 

The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce currently sells advertising in magazines and on hiltonheadisland.org, that directly competes with locally-based media companies which are current Chamber members. Now, the Chamber has announced in the past plans for free classified advertisements and is considering distributing a restaurant guide through area hotels. These actions are in direct competition and direct conflict with the Chamber’s existing media members, depleting local advertising budgets that would otherwise be spent with local media members.

Where do we draw the line here? Is the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce in violation of its 501(c)(3) non-profit tax status operating arms length for-profit ventures? I will leave this to the tax lawyers, accountants, the IRS and our legal system to answer those questions.

On Hilton Head Island and across the country, Chambers of Commerce are becoming mini-governments, spending beyond their means and expecting others to pay for it. They have also crossed the line by entering into for-profit businesses better served by existing for-profit free enterprise member companies.

For the local Chamber of Commerce to fund and operate magazines and a website with paid advertising places the Chamber in direct competition for local ad dollars with all for-profit media members including newspapers, tv, radio, local/tourist magazines, billboard companies, destination marketing websites, etc.. This is simply abusive to all media and against the charter of a Chamber.

I would also like to point out that Bill Miles, the president and CEO of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, earns a salary of $315,000 annually, plus additional perks that raise his income closer to $400,000 per year. This is an excessive compensation system for a tax and member funded non-profit organization. Plus no one I have spoken with has seen full accounting details on this.

The Governor of South Carolina makes $106,000 annually. President Obama earns $400,000 each year. Hilton Head Island’s mayor brings in only $10,800 for his annual salary. Is Bill Miles more important than these people who serve us all? If Bill Miles wants to make this kind of money, I suggest he go into a for-profit business where performance and company profits dictate salaries, bonuses and benefits.

Furthermore, the latest abuse and waste of public money is building a new Welcome Center on Hilton Head Island at the exorbitant cost of $583 per square foot. Commercial buildings in foreclosures can be bought locally at $50 per square foot or less. How is it possible our business and community leaders allow this all to continue?

The Chamber needs to learn to operate within its means and to ensure that it does not directly compete with its members, no matter what business their members are in. If they can not operate from member dues, business expo’s, they need to reduce staff, reduce salaries like any of us have to do.

I respectfully suggest that a marketing committee made up of various local media members be formed to help make decisions regarding where and how monies are spent. Perhaps the Chamber’s board of directors needs to be reminded that they work for and, ultimately, answer to Chamber members. My solutions are simple – the Chamber and CVB should be separated, 22 employees in the age of the internet is absurd, all magazines produced by the Chamber discontinued, hiltonheadisland.org should be simply used to list all members like an online business directory, all information on Hilton Head should be directed to local media in this business. The days of abuse to all of us in the media business must end.

Thank you very much for your attention in this matter. I hope you will share my sense of disdain regarding these unfair and irresponsible actions on the part of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and its current leadership and help shine a spotlight on these injustices and hold those who have allowed this to happen totally accountable.

You may send your comments to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Sincerely,

Skip Hoagland
Domains New Media, LLC

 

We want to hear from you!

Send your responses to stopchamberabuse@hargray.com and state if you wish to be private or if your email can be published to this website.

You've Raised Very Serious Questions

I feel that you have raised some very serious questions about how our Chamber is being run and where the money is being spent to market our island and the businesses that support our Chamber.

Additionally, your questions raise the possibility that the Chamber board is a "hand-picked" board that continues to perpetuate the abuses alleged in your complaints. As such, an independent committee, made up of chamber members, needs to be chosen and convened to address your concerns immediately.

Those are my thoughts and you may advertise them as such.....

Kim D.