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Grass Valley OKs $10,000 for Chamber, questions Jeep tours

Dave Brooksher
Staff Writer

The Grass Valley City Council has authorized $10,000 in funding for the Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce.

That’s enough to fund the visitor’s center, but the chamber was also seeking an additional $20,000 necessary to start a Jeep tours business.

Keith Davies, the chamber’s CEO and executive director, said the city had agreed to that $30,000 at an earlier date but the language of that agreement stipulated that approval was subject to a vote by the City Council.

“They had an out,” Davies said. “There was a sentence in there that allowed them an out because they had to vote on it.”

The Jeep tours operation would be run by the chamber, and the chamber would keep all revenues generated. That aspect of the plan drew criticism from the council.

“The only way that your business model works … It only works with a $20,000 subsidy from the city,” Councilwoman Lisa Swarthout said after reviewing Davies’ financial projections.

“My question is are we not just starting a new business?” asked Councilman Howard Levine, echoing doubts expressed by Swarthout.

“It sounds to me like it’s an industry or business that should be in the private sector.”

Davies, who owns a similar business in Ojai and sold another one in Palm Springs, said that a thriving Jeep tours business would increase tax revenues while benefiting the local tourism sector. But it’s fun for locals, too, and it could be a serious boon for the chamber, he added.

“If we hit a home run, this could make up for that loss of funding,” he said.

Despite getting just a third of the funding his organization requested, Davies said he is not discouraged.

“It’s not a no, it’s a maybe,” he said, “And we’ll see with further conversation.”

At Swarthout’s request, the city did earmark an additional $30,000 for community funding requests to be reviewed again in the coming months — more than enough to cover the Jeep tour startup.

But without that funding, Davies said he won’t be moving forward on his own dime.

“If the city wants to help us get to the next stage, we’d love it, but we don’t know if it’s going to happen or not,” Davies said.

“I hate just bringing in enough money to pay the rent and payroll and not being more of a benefit to the community,” he added. “To really benefit the community, we need to raise more money.”

To contact Staff Writer Dave Brooksher, email dbrooksher@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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