DeKalb very likely will fund downtown event planning position

DeKALB – It’s all but certain that the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce will be taking over downtown event planning for the next year.

But whether the chamber will be able to maintain – and possibly expand – the program Re:New DeKalb has carried out for years is still unclear. Chamber and city officials are confident that the position will be a boon for DeKalb.

“We feel very positive about the discussions that were taking place last night, and what this position can bring to the city of DeKalb going forward,” Matt Duffy, executive director of the DeKalb Chamber, said.

DeKalb aldermen gave an initial nod to funding an event coordinator out of the chamber office at $45,000, reversing their earlier stance of funding the position at $25,000.

The amount will be finalized at the council’s June 10 meeting, where they are expected to vote on the budget. Until the budget is approved, the council could choose to change the funding level for the position again.

The chamber has requested the city grant because Re:New DeKalb is shifting its priorities. Re:New leaders have said they want to expand the organization’s focus beyond downtown DeKalb, and plan to become an entirely private organization.

Assistant City Manager Rudy Espiritu said the council will sign a contract with the chamber, detailing their expectations about the position by the end of June. Espiritu said both the city staff and the council acknowledged the benefits of downtown events.

If the council does go through with the plan to award the chamber $45,000, Lindsey Engelsman, Re:New DeKalb’s marketing and special events coordinator, would move to the chamber. Duffy said the chamber has to work with Engelsman and the rest of Re:New DeKalb to ensure a smooth transition.

Duffy described the council’s discussions as being positive, although some aldermen expressed reservations about funding the position for more than a year.

“We felt very positive about it,” Duffy said. “Beyond the one year that was discussed, there’s still some unknowns.”

One such unknown is how much city support will be needed to maintain the position in the future. DeKalb Chamber President Mark Smirtz previously said he envisioned the position being funded by the city for three to five years.

Although the chamber has expressed interest in expanding the scope of activities the events coordinator operates, Duffy said it still needs to see how the position works within its organization.

“Until we’ve gone through it,” Duffy said, “we won’t know exactly what that timetable is.”