During the July 7 meeting of the Hazard Rotary Club, club members welcomed guest speaker Hazard-Perry County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Betsy Clemons to present updates about the Chamber’s recent activities during and following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chamber of Commerce, said Clemons, has continued to work on several projects throughout the pandemic, and the city and county has a lot of momentum and energy from it, she said. Much of this, she said, comes from working together with other organizations such as One East KY, the Economic Alliance and more.
“We try to provide networking between our businesses and help people connect to each other,” said Clemons. “It brings together creative energy. I think since COVID has happened and it’s opened back up, we have a lot of energy. There has been a lot going on.
“I feel like we’ve gotten a lot done during COVID,” said Clemons, stating that the city and county have both worked together to make improvements to the downtown area, worked on water and infrastructure issues and tackled financial aspects for both sides. Many projects are still ongoing, she said.
Among the projects being taken on are a restaurant tax, recruiting and retaining new businesses, creating an entertainment district and more.
“One of the things we’ve worked really hard on, a few years ago Hazard and Perry County did not have a restaurant tax. A lot of these cities and counties, because the class they were in, they were able to apply for and charge a restaurant tax,” said Clemons. “That money is turned in so counties can build or improve their parks, their trails and just do some extra things we’ve not been able to do since the coal severance money went away.”
She said Hazard and Perry County’s rank did not qualify them for applying for a restaurant tax, so there are missed opportunities.
“It’s really crazy how it’s divided,” said Clemons. Clemons said the Chamber of Commerce is working with other counties to try and plan a way to challenge this.
Another project the Chamber is working on, said Clemons, is aiding with the creation of an entertainment district in downtown Hazard. To accomplish this, she said, the city and county are working on the recently purchased Grand Hotel property and have also applied for a grant to build a stage at the City Hall amphitheater.
“We’re thinking about doing some kind of open area entertainment district where vendors can set up there,” said Clemons, explaining that the Grand Hotel space would allow for tables and chairs to be placed in an open lot to create outdoor sitting and dining areas. The stage portion is hoped to be added to the amphitheater by this fall, she said.
In addition to those projects, the Chamber is working with other organizations to recruit and retain new businesses, support existing businesses and establish networking between them. One of the new businesses that is scheduled to come to Hazard, said Clemons, is Ollie’s, which will be located in the former Goody’s/Gordman’s location. The inner demolition for this transformation is already in process, and the business is expected to be open by this fall.
The next Hazard-Perry County Chamber of Commerce will be held on Tuesday, July 27, on the campus of Hazard Community and Technical College at 8:30 a.m.