This holiday season, "Take It Easy"
I used to say that the biggest fictions in "Chamberworld" were a staffer’s job description and a CEO’s calendar, but here’s an even bigger myth: a chamber professional’s holiday.
I know you’re probably taking some days off at this time of year, BUT you event planners and communicators will keep on worrying about deadlines. Chamber public affairs pros will scan state news websites and bosses will worry about everything, including 100 problems facing your members, the economy and the mayor.
BUT, in the immortal words of Glenn Frey and his neighbor Jackson Browne: “Don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy.” Your set of wheels is the drive to deliver, know, anticipate, assist, sell, please, build, articulate and show up. They hum and occasionally thump under you, even when you’re standing on a corner in Winslow, or next to an electrified tree resting in a bowl of water on your living room floor.
Just for a couple of days, "Take It Easy." I don’t want you crazy in 2017! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah! Onward to an exciting New Year!
Chamber Public Policy Leaders Meet in Cleveland
Senior government relations leaders from 21 metro regional chambers recently met to discuss priority issues, political activity, and advocacy best practices. The meeting was hosted by the Greater Cleveland Partnership, who also provided an update on how hosting the 2016 Republican National Convention impacted the city’s ongoing growth.
Highlights of the discussion include:
Transportation: Chambers across the country supported regional ballot measures to increase funding for critical transportation and transit projects. Nationwide, voters approved referendum that raised more than $200 billion in revenue, including chamber-backed initiatives Atlanta, Ga.; Austin, Texas; Charleston, S.C.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Los Angeles Calif.; Raleigh, N.C.; San Francisco, Calif.; and Spokane Wash.
Education & Workforce: Improving education at all levels to address workforce needs is crucial to economic vitality. Participants discussed chamber efforts all along the cradle-to-career spectrum, including an early childhood education funding ballot initiative in Cincinnati, K-12 reform in Milwaukee, apprenticeship programs in Denver and Charleston, scholarship programs in Detroit, efforts to upskill workers in Grand Rapids, and efforts to align talent supply with employer demand in Atlanta.
Political Action: Chambers are relying more on Super PACs, organized as 527 or 501(c)4 organizations, to promote key issues and influence elections. Participants also expressed an interest in increasing the scope and effectiveness of candidate development activities. From candidate identification and recruitment to policy education and campaign consulting support, ACCE will develop resources over the coming months to share best practices from around the country.
Advocacy Communications: Email newsletters remain the primary form of communicating policy priorities to members, but policy blogs, video updates and social media are more important than ever. The frequent updates help to raise awareness of chamber priorities and drive additional traffic to chamber websites. In fact, some policy blogs receive more web traffic than the main chamber websites. Examples discussed during the meeting include the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Policy Blog, Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Insights video series and the Indy Chamber’s Team 317 social media ambassadors program.
Special thanks to the Greater Cleveland Partnership President and CEO Joe Roman and Senior Vice President Marty McGann for hosting the event. Additional thanks to the Metro Atlanta Chamber for sponsoring the meeting and MAC’s Chief Policy Officer Katie Kirkpatrick for facilitating the discussion.
For more information about how you can get involved in ACCE’s Government Affairs Division, contact Will Burns at [email protected].
Close Finish for Orlando’s WCF Bid
Orlando, Inc. (Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce) put together a powerful bid to host the 2019 World Chambers Congress, but in the end, voters from around the world gave a slight edge to Rio de Janeiro. Executive Director Jim Thomas, who crafted and presented the bid on behalf of the Orlando, Inc., the Central Florida Partnership and Visit Orlando expressed both pride in the team’s work and disappointment. Mick Fleming, who serves as vice chairman of World Chambers Federation was also saddened by the news, in part because the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives planned to combine its annual convention with the World Chamber Congress, producing the largest chamber gathering in the history of the world. In the end, issues like U.S. visa access provided a slim measure of victory for Brazil.
The World Chambers Federation Congress in 2017 will be in Sydney, Australia in September. ACCE will provide registration “scholarships” (rebates) for the first ten North American chambers that enroll in the Sydney Congress. Two different airlines have agreed to reduce fares 40 percent.
Hewlett Foundation Grant to Boost ACCE Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Work
Increasing diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the chamber movement is a major priority for the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE). We believe that communities with a local chamber fully committed to diversity and economic inclusion are better equipped to improve community, civic, and economic vitality.
ACCE’s diversity and inclusion efforts received a boost earlier this year when the Community Growth Education Foundation was selected to participate in a William and Flora Hewlett Foundation pilot project. The Hewlett Foundation selected 10 of its deeper learning grantees to receive a planning grant to help build capacity and strengthen organizational effectiveness in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion.
As part of the project, ACCE will better articulate the business case for chamber-led efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in communities across the country. We will also arm chamber leaders with the resources they need to make the case to their boards of directors, business members, and other community stakeholders.
One element of our efforts over the next year will be to develop a chamber-specific business case for economic inclusion. We have commissioned professors Chris Benner Ph.D., of the University of California, Santa Cruz and Manual Pastor, Ph.D., of the University of Southern California to lead the research effort. The goal for the publication is to spark a dialogue around economic inclusion and diversity issues throughout the chamber industry.
ACCE’s focus on D&I began with the 2011 launch of the Diversity & Inclusion Division to provide chamber professionals a forum to discuss workforce, workplace and marketplace diversity and inclusion initiatives. Through D&I Division programming and peer sharing, ACCE advances equity issues throughout the chamber profession and encourages chamber leaders to pursue efforts to build more economically and socially inclusive regions.
You can learn more about ACCE’s D&I Division online here.
Smoky Mountains communities unite to support area tourism
As the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee begin the recovery process following the Nov. 28 wildfires, Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevier County (Tennessee) tourism officials have united to reinforce a strong message delivered by Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner.
"If you really want to do something for Gatlinburg, come back and visit us,” Werner said in a Nov. 30 press conference, encouraging visitation as a show of support to the popular vacation destination located next door to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the nation’s most visited. Werner lost his home and business in the fire.
The area has received an overwhelming outpouring of donations, phone calls and support from community members. First responders from across the country helped battle the blaze.
“The generosity and concern shown to our community is a blessing beyond words,” said Mark Adams, Chief Executive Officer of the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “But it has also reinforced to us that our community is not just here at home. Our community is all the folks who have visited with us through the years, who feel a very special connection to our cities and these mountains. They continue to ask us how they can best help us because they, too, want to see this area rebuild.”
According to Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Council Director Mary Hope Maples, tourism is the county’s largest industry. “Tourism is the lifeblood of Sevier County and its three gateway cities—Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Our tourism officials have an obligation to our residents to sustain our tourism industry to ensure that employees have jobs to support themselves and their families.”
A Community Resource Center opened on Dec. 1 to assist residents with insurance claims, unemployment filings, building permits for both residential and commercial structures, driver’s license replacement and other processes necessary during the rebuilding process. In addition, several employment agencies are on site to help displaced workers find jobs.
Sevier County tourism officials are reinforcing the message that the vacation destination’s many attractions, theatres, restaurants and lodging properties are operating as usual after recent wildfires in the area. In Gatlinburg, the area surrounding downtown Gatlinburg experienced significant losses this week; however, the heart of the city’s town is intact. The structures along Gatlinburg’s main strip still stand, including Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, Ole Smoky Distillery, the Gatlinburg Space Needle, and the Convention Center.
Businesses in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville suffered no damages, and are operating as usual. Dollywood, the state’s most-visited ticketed attraction is open. Also, Smoky Mountain Winterfest festival, which spans all three cities, continues through Feb. 28. Restaurants and lodging properties in Pigeon Forge are operating on normal schedules.
“Many people have asked us how to help. One of the best ways to help the Smoky Mountains recover from the wildfire’s impact is to come visit us and help keep our community strong and working,” said Brenda McCroskey, Chief Executive Officer of the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce.
“We are happy to report that businesses along the Parkway in Sevierville, including Tanger Outlets and Apple Barn and Cider Mill, are open as usual and ready to help you enjoy your Smoky Mountain vacation,” McCroskey added.
“As we strive to keep our folks working so that they can support themselves and their families, our greater community can help us in several ways,” said Leon Downey, Executive Director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “If you have reservations, don’t cancel; come and see us during Winterfest. Consider us as you make your plans for spring break and next summer’s vacation. This will help us sustain our businesses and jobs.”
For more information about Smoky Mountain Winterfest as well as other information about visiting Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevier County, please visit www.SmokiesFun.com.
How can I not love this job!?
In late November, I had the pleasure of visiting three very different communities: Greenville, S.C.; Carmel, Ind.; and Madrid, Spain.
The first features a stunningly beautiful downtown in a region that has attracted major international manufacturers. The second embodies the best of suburban/exurban living, with prosperous neighborhoods, vibrant retail, abundant high quality health care and vibrant small employers. And Madrid is a major world capital struggling successfully to recover from a deep, long recession.
In these places, I met with chamber board members determined to drive their organizations and regions to new heights, largely through bolstering private business success. The Greenville Chamber is a mature, well-resourced operation, led by a new CEO—a proven professional with the skills and wisdom to kick things up several notches. OneZone—in Hamilton County, Ind.—is a recently merged entity serving multiple communities, with daring volunteer and staff leaders. Everyone involved is determined to plan the future they want, rather than stumbling forward on hopes alone. And the Madrid and Spanish chambers are navigating the transition from a government funded, public-law chamber into a privately funded, service focused advocacy organization.
If we can help these organizations—and we do; if we can learn lessons from them to share with others—and we can; if we can be inspired by their energy—and we are, ACCE and the chamber movement will be vibrant for years to come.
Free E-Newsletters Worth Subscribing To
Ever wonder how ACCE’s Education Attainment Division (EAD) team stays up to date on all things education and workforce development related? We take advantage of the many free e-newsletters available and wanted to share a few of our favorites with you. From equity to fundraising, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a collection of the ones we have found to be most valuable.
Collective Impact Forum Newsletters
Content related to collective impact, includes case studies, tools, and resources from Collective Impact Forum / Note: You must make a profile to receive emails.
Economic & Workforce Development
Content related to economic development, workforce, and labor issues, includes resources curated from around the web and programs of the Council for Community & Economic Research (C2ER).
National Skills Coalition Monthly
Content related to workforce, education, and training policies, includes news curated from the web and resources created by the National Skills Coalition.
Content related to economic development through science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, includes news curated from around the web and analysis from the State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI).
U.S. Chamber Center for Education and Workforce Monthly
Content related to business engagement in education and workforce development, includes resources created by the U.S. Chamber Foundation.
Community College Daily or Weekly
Content related to issues and legislation that affect community colleges, includes resources curated from the web and articles written for the American Association of Community Colleges.
Education Dive Daily
Content related to trends and advancements in either the K-12 or higher education industries, includes headlines curated from around the web.
Content related to research on the U.S. education system, includes original data and research reports from Gallup.
InsideTrack Innovation Bulletin Weekly
Content related to innovation in higher education, includes headlines curated from around the web
Lumina Higher Ed News Daily
Content related to higher education attainment, includes news curated from around the web and resources created by Lumina Foundation.
Equity & Youth
America’s Promise Alliance Weekly
Content related to issues affecting the successful education path of young people, includes resources curated from around the web and a list of funding opportunities.
Content related to economic and workforce policies that affect low income people, includes analysis and resources from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).
Philanthropy and Fundraising
Inside Philanthropy Daily
Content related to fundraising strategies, includes insights into funder mindsets and fundraising tips.
Philanthropy News Digest RFP Alerts Daily
A daily roundup of recently announced requests for proposals from private, corporate, and government funding sources / Note: Creating an account allows you to filter your RFP preferences.
Philanthropy News Digest RFP Bulletin Weekly
A weekly roundup of recently announced requests for proposals from private, corporate, and government funding sources
Five-minute (or less) video series on important developments in education policy from the Alliance for Excellent Education.
Pew State Line Daily or Weekly
Content related to trends in state policy, includes news curated from around the web and policy analysis by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Content related to workforce and workplace trends and practices, includes analysis and news from the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM).
Do you know of any e-newsletters to add? Email [email protected] with your suggestion and it will be added to this list.
DOL Releases Final Overtime Ruling
Months of anxious waiting have come to an end – the Department of Labor (DOL) last week released the final revisions to its overtime exemption rule. The new rule, which takes effect December 1, doubles the exempt employee annual salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476. DOL estimates that the change will impact 4.2 million workers.
Under current rules, full-time, salaried workers who make at least $23,660 per year may be exempt from overtime pay. DOL’s initial proposal would have increased that floor to $50,440, more than a 110% jump. Additionally, the proposal called for automatic increases to the salary threshold, a large bump on the “highly compensated employees” (HCEs) threshold ($100,000 – 122,128 annually) and also sought feedback for changes to the duties test and nondiscretionary bonuses.
The final ruling inches back from the proposed rule, but the threshold still remains more than double the current level, at $47,476, or $913 per week. The threshold for HCEs also soars to $134,004. The new thresholds will also be set to increase automatically every three years.
These changes come as a big win for labor groups, which have been pushing for an update to the current overtime rules. The hope is that the additional pay will help many laborers lift their families out of poverty – as proponents of the new rules claim the current salary threshold is too close to the poverty level for a family of four.
Many chambers and small business owners expressed concern over the problems that the new regulations may cause. They claim that rather than boosting pay, many workers will find their hours cut, benefits rolled back or flexibility decreased in order to avoid or offset having to pay additional overtime. The administrative burden is also of significant concern – with organizations having to assess each employee’s new eligibility, and in the case of those who will remain below the threshold, time and hassle of tracking and reporting time.
The Lubbock Chamber quickly expressed their “disappointment” over the final ruling, saying the federal government may have been hasty in making their decision before a study of the full economic impact could be done. Likewise, the Columbus Chamber issued their own statement of concern about the impact on small businesses and the workers they employ, also suggesting the Secretary of Labor should “conduct a detailed and extended economic analysis."
Compliance will be a major concern for businesses of all sizes, and many chambers will help educate their members. The Greater Des Moines Partnership and other chambers have already announced seminars and trainings around the new rules to help member businesses understand what they will be required to do – to assess their employees for raises, reclassification, or other changes.
Still, some hope to block or adjust the new rule before it goes into effect at the end of the year. Lawmakers in the House and Senate also introduced last week the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act, in order to ensure what they call a more “balanced and responsible approach” to updating the federal rules. House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Chairman, Tim Walberg (R-MI) stated “Our nation’s outdated overtime rules are in need of modernization, but it must be done in a responsible way that doesn’t stifle opportunities for working families to get ahead.” Stay tuned to the ACCE Government Relations Division for more on that.
In the meantime, several organizations have provided resources that may be helpful to chambers and their members:
- Society for Human Resource Management FLSA Overtime Rule Resources
- The DOL has provided guidance specific to nonprofits on the new pages: overview and guidance.
- Venable LLP has a an overview webinar covering all relevant FLSA rules in this area as they apply to nonprofits and also tips on governing compensable time for non-exempt employees.
Flint-Genesee Chamber Challenges the World with Social Media Campaign
For many chambers located in areas hit by disaster, one of the hardest aspects of the recovery process is to make the world aware that the affected town or region is indeed “open for business.” When devastating pictures and stories of despair dominate non-stop media coverage, all this bad news can have lasting negative consequences on the local economy.
As Flint, Mich., finds itself in the midst of the ongoing water crisis, many of its businesses are feeling the pinch as a result of all the negative publicity. In response, the Flint-Genesee Chamber of Commerce launched in March a social media campaign to drive business and tourism to the city of Flint. According to the chamber’s news release, the #ChooseFlint campaign, which runs through early April, "challenges people to visit a local business or attraction, take a photo and share it on social networks – and then call on three friends to do the same." The chamber launched the campaign on its Facebook page with a video illustrating different ways to #ChooseFlint.
Elaine Redd, the chamber’s director of communications, says the nationwide support has been tremendous. “So many people have asked how they can support Flint during this time,” says Redd. “One of the ways they can help is to tell everyone they know that Flint is open for business. Make a conscious choice to ‘Choose Flint’ by patronizing Flint restaurants and other businesses, and challenging three of their friends to do the same.”
Superman and the Chamber of Commerce
It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a borrowed idea.
As Superman and Batman battle in thousands of theatres in the coming weeks, it’s worth looking more closely at where the first of them – Superman – came from. Like a host of other successful creations of popular culture, Superman emerged from more than one mind.
Most of these beginnings can be seen in an MGM movie, “The Secret Six,” which came out in the spring of 1931. This film features six masked businessmen who were fed up with a local criminal and put him away. The criminal was named Slaughterhouse Scorpio and was loosely modeled on the famous evildoer of Chicago, Al Capone. The movie also included an idealistic, crime-fighting reporter named Clark. (This is Clark Gable, in one of his first major roles. He stole the show!)
So here, in one film, were key parts of the Superman story: secret identities, “good” vigilantes, and a crime-fighting reporter named Clark. Superman’s creator, Jerry Siegel, would name his idealistic reporter Clark despite the overwhelming (to that point) unpopularity of the appellation “Clark.” (That name did not even place among the most popular 200 boys’ names of the 1920s.) Siegel would later admit he named Clark Kent after Clark Gable.
Superman with his Clark Kent alter-ego emerged for Siegel in late 1933. That was only 18 months after “The Secret Six” opened. It’s hard to imagine Jerry Siegel suddenly invented his Superman independently from “The Secret Six,” which also included secret identities, “good” vigilantes, and a crime-fighting reporter named Clark. That is a long string of coincidences.
“The Secret Six” film was in turn influenced by something else. The movie was partly based on the “real” Secret Six, a group of Chicago business people who went after Al Capone and other gangsters in the early 1930s. These businessmen were a committee of a chamber of commerce, the Chicago Association of Commerce. They were extraordinarily effective by most counts, including Capone’s himself. At one point the criminal said, “The Secret Six has licked the rackets. They’ve licked me. They’ve made it so there’s no money in the game anymore.” The group hired a chief detective, Alexander Jamie, who brought in his brother-in-law, Eliot Ness, to help on the federal side.
The “real” Secret Six (apart from their leader, who of necessity was a public figure – the president of the Chicago Association of Commerce) maintained secret identities because they didn’t want to be killed by Capone or his henchmen. But their secret identities were a part of their glamour and their idea for crime fighting was widely copied and popular in the media. Soon there was a Secret Five in Kansas City and later a Secret Seven in Cleveland, both formed by their local chambers of commerce. And, of course, speaking of media influence, the Chicago chamber’s fight with Capone inspired MGM to make “The Secret Six.”
Secret identities, which had been known before (as in “Zorro”), were extremely popular in the early 1930s thanks to people using them for real-life, high-profile, life-and-death activities. Also popular was the related idea of business vigilantes fighting the bad guys. And when Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion on Oct. 17, 1931, people could take heart that these groups were effective even against the most famous criminal of all time. This may later have been of some comfort and inspiration to Jerry Siegel, whose father died in 1932 when his store was robbed by hoodlums.
Jerry Siegel was a master chef, but he didn’t cook from scratch. He chose the ingredients available to him when he created Superman. And many of his ingredients were from the biggest crime-fighting story of his era, the catching of Al Capone, and from the movie loosely based on that story. Siegel’s genius was in taking his hero to the skies and making him human at the same time with a unique, very personalized secret identity, complete with love interests.
It is interesting how the high-profile struggle against one criminal by, of all things, a chamber of commerce, could have so many ramifications in American cultural life. Business people’s fight to take down the world’s most famous criminal (Capone) resulted, indirectly, in the birth of the world’s most famous superhero (Superman). Superman, in turn, begat Batman and a host of other comic-book heroes.
The Chicago Association of Commerce didn’t create Superman; Siegel did. But Superman couldn’t have existed without the chamber’s Secret Six and the MGM movie made about them. Without secret identities, without the concept of “good” vigilantes fighting crime, without a crusading journalist named Clark – just what would there have been left for Superman to be?
Mead is senior vice president of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives and the author of “The Magicians of Main Street: America and its Chambers of Commerce, 1768-1945.”