When tax returns of several area nonprofits were published recently by Jackson blog Jackson Jambalaya .com, many readers were upset to learn that the president and CEO of the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership made nearly $380,000 a year. Some readers thought the number was too high and asked what the Partnership’s leader did to justify the amount of compensation.
Since the Partnership is a nonprofit, CEO Duane O’Neill’s salary is determined by a committee within the organization.
Speaking as a member of the committee, Madison lawyer Andy Taggart said, “Duane O’Neill is a huge bargain to the whole metro Jackson region, even if we paid him more than he’s now making. The review that was conducted when his salary was set was a consequence of a review of similarly situated cities around the country.”
An important thing for folks to keep in mind is that Duane’s job is not as a single city chamber director but as a regional director, Taggart said. “Duane is essentially the coordinator who conducts development efforts for a large chunk of central Mississippi — more than what we think of as the metro Jackson area.”
The Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, in addition to Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties, serves Copiah, Simpson and Warren counties.
According to the Form 990 submitted in fall 2009, the Partnership’s revenues totaled $2.3 million, and total functional expenses were $2.4 million.
O’Neill said the Partnership has approximately 2,000 member businesses in the tri-county area with an additional 600 or more in various counties throughout the state. Membership fees vary depending on business size. A typical annual membership fee for a small business is $300. Larger businesses may pay several thousand dollars annually.
The Partnership’s focus is on economic development, O’Neill said, and a particular focus for the group in 2010 will be the health care industry.
“I think chambers and economic development foundations should be hand in hand…People have to understand what we have to sell,” he said. “I feel strongly that (in Mississippi) it’s health care… We’ve got the talent. We’ve got the facilities.”
O’Neill said the Partnership has already hosted two meetings with doctors, hospitals and health care providers where they discussed how to come together and brand themselves as health care destination.
There is also a plan to host a summit in November with major national political figures, top scientists and pharmaceutical companies to discuss obesity research at University Mississippi Medical Center, he said. Mississippi is the fattest state in the nation, and “We are a walking laboratory for obesity research,” he said.
“This doesn’t mean that we give up on manufacturing,” O’Neill said. Some aerospace companies are looking at Mississippi now, and people emphasis Stennis or the Golden Triangle area, he said. “We say the workforce is mostly here in Jackson.”
• This is a developing story, and we’ll bring you more as we learn more. Keep an eye on www.msbusiness.com throughout the week and watch for our Feb. 8 print edition for the complete wrap up.