Originally created 06/20/02

Chamber president resigns

Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce President James "Jim" West is resigning.

Mr. West on Thursday said he has told members of the chamber's executive committee that he will be leaving the organization sometime this year.

The economic development organization's chief for the past 4 1/2 years, Mr. West said he plans to work out the details of his exit with the committee during the next several days.

"We've had some conversations; we all know it's going to happen," he said. "The details are yet to be decided."

Mr. West, the chamber's second president in five years, has been under pressure from both business and political establishments for months.

The chamber has not landed a significant new industry in more than a year and its criticism of leadership in the local government has drawn the ire of politicians.

The career economic developer said he no longer wants to walk the political tightrope.

"This is a community that needs Moses, and I happen to be named James," he said.

Chamber Chairman Robert Osborne was in a meeting this morning and not immediately available for comment.

The chamber issued this statement:

"The Executive Committee has accepted the resignation of Jim West, president and CEO of the Augusta Metro and Columbia County chambers of commerce. The Augusta Metro and Columbia County chambers of commerce express their thanks and appreciation to Jim West for his leadership and service to our community. Mr. West will be seeking other opportunities. The chamber will soon announce its plans for interim leadership and then a search for a new president."

Mr. West replaced chamber president Al Hodge, who was ousted in 1997 for his role in the Titleist fiasco, in which Augusta officials secretly lobbied the golf ball manufacturer to locate in Richmond County after the company had already narrowed its search to Columbia County.

The debacle caused a rift between the Augusta Metro and Columbia County chambers of commerce.

Mr. West, who took the position in January 1998, said he cites helping bring the two organizations back together as one of his two major achievements.

"I came here right after the (Titleist debacle) and there was a lot of mistrust throughout the communities," he said. "I think we have done a lot to rebuild that trust relationship."

He said his other achievement was getting the chamber more involved in local and state governmental issues, such as air quality, economic development incentives and interbasin water transfers.

"It was all done in the name of economic development," he said.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486 or dcline@augustachronicle.com.


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