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Local governments face a slow, uphill battle for recession turnaround

Hannah Nequist on Friday, November 21, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 
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Expanding on a 2013 publication, Pew Charitable Trusts has released a report exploring local governments' slow recovery from the Great Recession. According to the report, Recovering From Volatile Times, more than half of the 30 major U.S. cities reviewed saw governmental revenue decline from 2011 to 2012, double the number from 2010 to 2011. Although nine cities had surpassed their pre-downturn revenue peak in 2011, four of them fell back below that level again in 2012.

Decreased property values has had a staggering impact on these numbers, as many localities face collecting lower property taxes. Many cities saw property tax revenues hit their low point several years after the housing crisis, as the process for valuing homes, assessing taxes owed, and then collecting them takes time. 

As many federal assistance programs hit their expiration date, cities face the road to recovery with decreasing support. State funding also has scaled back dramatically, placing a higher burden on local governments, which are already tightening their belts. In Phoenix, for example, a $201 million loss in intergovernmental aid amounted to 10 percent of the city's total revenue in 2012. 

Not all cities saw year-over-year losses from 2011 to 2012 though, as Boston, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, New York and Seattle exceed their prerecession revenue peaks mostly due to gains in sales and income taxes as well as increased charges and fees. Minneapolis was able to gain benefit from large construction projects - the city approving $1 billion in residential and commercial projects in 2012. Cities that collected sales and income taxes saw an average rise in sales tax of four percent from 2011 to 2012 and an income tax increase of three percent.

Spending cuts and cautious investments were also a theme from 2011 to 2012. Overall spending fell in nearly half of the 30 major cities reviewed, and those that did increase only did so by an average of two percent. With weak revenues forcing low levels of spending, some critical services remain in jeopardy. Half of the cities cut public safety spending, with six reporting the lowest level of spending in that category in six years. 

While the report focuses on 2012, many cities are still struggling to reach prerecession levels for both spending and revenue. The effects of the weak national recovery are still impacting local governments, but with the housing market on the rise and declining rates of unemployment, there just might be a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Tags: Budget, Government, Property Tax, Recession

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Need Membership Stats, Salary Survey info, or Operations Survey details? Find it all in ACCE's Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking

HERO Team / Sarah Myers on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 
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Is it time for your chamber's annual reviews, board retreats, strategic planning or annual reports? Find metrics to benchmark your chamber's performing using ACCE's new survey platform Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking. The system is FREE to ACCE members and you can access it 24/7, 365 days per year.

Use your ACCE login to get started. If you don’t know it, request it here or email HERO@acce.org.

When you first login to DCB, you will see a “splash” or intro screen. Simply click “Close” at the end of the splash screen and you will be launched into the platform where you will see the survey sections for Chamber Profile (required data) and Operations Survey. There is also a Salary Survey section that is open to CEO members or their delegates. CEO's can email permission to HERO@acce.org

Start by reviewing your Chamber’s data in the Chamber Profile and complete any questions which are blank. The Profile section is required. Note the fiscal year you are working with. Currently the system is defaulting to FY2013. For immediate reports and comparisons, you will want to use FY2013. We did just open up data entry for FY2014 which you can now enter at any time, and those reports will be available in the early new year.

After you’ve updated the Chamber Profile, review and update all the sections under the Operations Survey and in the Salary Survey. Note the fiscal year you are working with. There are several new questions to answer in all of the survey sections. The Salary Survey has been expanded to include Senior Staff, Mid-Level, Sales Staff, and Support Staff, in addition to the CEO.

If you participated in previous surveys, your data was migrated. In the Salary Survey, only the CEO data was migrated because there are so many new questions in the survey. Please be sure to check the information for each fiscal year available. You can enter FY2014 data for those of you who have completed and audited your FY2014.

There are 2 options for viewing the results, both of which have robust filtering options for the best comparisons:

  1. Under “Compare Chambers” for each of the survey sections, apply the filters, and you can see your chamber’s responses to each survey question, compared to the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles of other participants. For Membership Statics, Revenue and Expenses, see the data under the Operations Survey. For Salary data, see the Salary Survey section.
  2. Under “Reports and Charts” for each survey, you can select the filters to apply, then download either the full Operations Survey Report or the Membership Statistics Report in the Operations Survey; or download the CEO Report in the Salary Survey. These reports show where your chamber stands with the calculations for revenue, expenses, membership stats, and more, compared to the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles. Note that we are working on building additional Salary Survey reports right now and will have these available soon!

Here are additional resources to help you get started:

 

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Charleston Metro Chamber Wins Big for Area Schools

Michelle Vegliante on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 4:02:00 pm 
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The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce had a lot to celebrate on Election Day. The chamber's successful Yes4Schools voter education campaign led to the extension of Charleston County’s Education Capital Improvement Referendum. Voters approved extending the referendum by 68 percent.

The Education Capital Improvement Referendum will extend a one cent sales tax for school construction for an additional six years. 

Issued as a strategy to fight overcrowding in schools, this sales tax extension will help provide funding to ensure educational settings are safe, up-to-date, and conducive to learning. The referendum’s project list, which includes 35 school facilities across the district, will allow for new construction as well as the expansion of existing overcrowded facilities.

For more information see Chamber's Press Release

 

Tags: Education, Policy

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Urban green spaces serve as a catalyst for economic development

Hannah Nequist on Tuesday, November 4, 2014 at 9:00:00 am 
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Klyde Warren Park, Dallas

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) has recognized Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, Texas with this year’s Urban Open Space Award. The award, which began in 2009, highlights exceptional open urban spaces that enrich and revitalize their surrounding communities. In addition to garnering national recognition, the individual or organization responsible for creating or maintaining each year’s winning project receives $10,000. Past winners include The Parks and Waterfront at Southeast False Creek in Vanvouver, BC; Railroad Park in Birmingham, Alabama; Citygarden in St. Louis, Missouri and Campus Martius Park in Detroit, Michigan.

The Klyde Warren Park, a deck park built over the recessed Woodall Rodgers Freeway in Dallas, is a 5.2 acre urban green space that is operated by the private nonprofit Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation. The park hosts daily free activities ranging from fitness boot camps, children’s theater and live music. The built environment includes walking paths, a botanical garden, restaurant and much more.

Originally envisioned in the 1960s when the freeway was first recessed, the idea for a deck park surfaced again in 2002, started gaining financial support in 2004 and the park was completed in 2012. Now, it serves a sort of new town square, bridging Dallas’s downtown arts and culture district with adjoining mixed-use neighborhoods. By increasing pedestrian connectivity, Klyde Warren Park has begun to heal the urban fabric of the city and encourage ongoing transformation for downtown Dallas through improved quality of life.

This year’s other finalists also have strong ties to economic and neighborhood development. They include: Columbus Commons and Scioto Mile in Columbus, Ohio; Guthrie Green in Tulsa, Oklahoma, The Railyard Park and Plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Washington Park in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Each of these new public spaces has served as a catalyst for economic growth in the areas surrounding them. In the words of ULI’s award jury chair, M. Leanne Lachman, “Each finalist encourages communities to stay and actively participate, enlivening their neighborhoods and tightening the fabric of their cities.”

To learn more about Klyde Warren Park and this award, explore the following links:

 “Dallas’s Klyde Warren Park Selected for ULI Urban Space Award”, Urban Land Magazine

Klyde Warren Park

Urban Land Institute’s Urban Open Space Award

Tags: Economic Development, Green Space, Placemaking, Urban Space

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Immigrant Growth in Metros, Suburbs

Ian Scott on Monday, November 3, 2014 at 4:00:00 pm 
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Recently released analysis of the 2013 American Community Survey data by the Brookings Institution reveals that the US immigrant population is growing and in a majority of large MSAs, much or all of that immigrant population growth is happening in suburbs.

Read: Immigrants Continue to Disperse, with Fastest Growth in the Suburbs

The paper reveals a slight uptick in immigrant population growth from 2012 to 2013, with most of that growth concentrated in the nation's large metro areas. Immigrant populations grew significantly in traditional gateway cities like New York, Houston and Chicago, but the fastest growth rates were largely concentrated in the Southeast. Knoxville, Nashville, Raleigh, Charlotte, Louisville and Charleston all saw their immigrant populations more than double from 2000 to 2013. Only the Los Angeles and El Paso MSAs saw drops in foreign born residents over that period. During the same period the share of immigrants living in the suburbs increased from 56% to 61%.

Further evidence that immigration is not just a border issue or big city issue, its a national issue with ramifications for cities and suburban areas across the country.

 

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Dayton Area Chamber Devotes Winter Magazine to College and Career Readiness

Michelle Vegliante on Friday, October 31, 2014 at 3:10:00 pm 
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The Dayton Ohio Area Chamber just released the Winter 2014 edition of its quarterly magazine, Focus, and has devoted the issue to the topic of assessment and curriculum standards. The magazine’s cover story, “The Business Case for Common Core” features a compelling case for business support of the curriculum standards and includes a Q&A with Ohio State Senator Peggy Lehner and Ohio State Board of Education Vice-President Tom Gunlock around the topic.

Included in the pages is also a feature article on Internships, highlighting how local business leaders who participate in K-12 internship programs see a high return on investment, as well as a spotlight on recognizing diversity in the workplace.

Click here to read the Focus Winter 2014 issue. 

 

To learn more about how chambers are making the case for college and career readiness, visit the Next Generation Standards and Assessments Chamberpedia Page. 

 

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Making Places Better

Ian Scott on Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 10:30:00 am 
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Since its inception, ACCE's Economic and Community Development Division has emphasized the place-making and product development side of economic growth. After all, its the piece of economic development in which every chamber of commerce has a role. Earlier this month our friend Rob Radcliff at Resource Development Group articulated this point in a blog post too good not to share. 

Read: Tell The Story or Change The Story?

From client communities as diverse as Miami and Rocky Mount, Rob cites a common laundry list of issues corporate leaders want to improve: "Talent, infrastructure, housing, access to capital, K-12 education, entrepreneurism, higher ed-business collaboration, physical product, government regulation and tax structure." These are big scale, systemic issues. Success is constantly measured on a scale, not with a check box. Regions don't have to be perfect on all these fronts, but they have to be improving. Rob's words: "Companies want to be places that want to be better."

Making places better. That's the clarion call for chambers of all sizes in all kinds of markets. You are responsible for economic development so identify the areas where your organization can best drive advancement and get to work!

Tags: Economic Development

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Business Growth in Missouri

Hannah Nequist on Monday, October 20, 2014 at 11:30:00 am 
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Business Growth
Entrepreneurial support is blossoming in the Show-Me State, as new programs and support land in St. Louis and Springfield. Namely, the Kansas-based Pipeline, an entrepreneurship grooming program, is expanding services into St. Louis and other parts of Missouri after receiving a new grant.

Pipeline is a yearlong fellowship program designed for successful high-performance entrepreneurs to work as a team to build new technology and life-science businesses. Not only will qualified entrepreneurs in St. Louis be eligible to participate as fellows, but this will also mean holding one of the program’s meetings in the region, bringing focus to the local entrepreneurial community.

The St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce has also committed to entrepreneurial support by naming Jason Hall the vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation, adding to his current responsibilities. Over the next four years, Hall hopes to increase the regional funding capacity by $100 million to support startups by forming a sidecar investment fund. This fund, for which Hall plans to hire a private fund manager, will match early stage private sector investments.

Springfield, MO has been cultivating a supportive environment for startups for many years. The area is now gaining national attention for these efforts, and has been named a “Best City to Start a Business” by WalletHub. The eFactory, a technology-focused entrepreneurship center and business incubator at Missouri State University, has also received recognition, being named the 2014 Community Impact Award recipient by Trade & Industry Development magazine.

Earlier this month, eFactory committed to helping a new start-up business, as Share a Gig was awarded the prize at the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s Go BIG Pitch Competition. Share a Gig will receive $5,000 and a six month lease at eFactory to help develop its idea to bring full gigabit internet access to residents and businesses of urban markets without the traditional costs of building out a high capacity gigabit fiber network. 

To read more about these victories for Missouri, check out the news stories below:

Tags: Economic Development; economy; entrepreneurship; http://www.pipelineentrepreneurs.com/

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Tennessee Focuses on College Access to Address Labor Shortage

Jessie Azrilian on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 3:00:00 pm 
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With a November 1 deadline approaching, high school seniors are signing up in droves for Gov. Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise program. So far, over 35,000 students have applied for the landmark initiative which provides free tuition to the state’s two-year community colleges. Tennessee is the first state to offer free college tuition without income or academic requirements, and the program has already exceeded its goal of enrolling 20,000 seniors.

Through Tennessee Promise high school seniors apply for state and federal financial aid, and the state will fill the remaining balance of their tuition. Students can apply the program to any of Tennessee’s tech colleges, community colleges, or any public or private 4-year university that offers an associate’s degree. Students are required to complete a FAFSA, attend mandatory meetings through their senior year, and complete at least eight hours of community service each semester while in college. The program’s estimated cost is $34 million per year, which will be covered by an endowment created by the state Assembly as well as excess lottery reserve funds.  

The business community is taking heed of this program aimed to match students’ skills with projected future workforce demands- skills developed at career technical and community colleges. The Tennessean reports that in the past week business leaders from all across the country, primarily from chambers of commerce, have called the Governor’s office inquiring about the program.

In Tennessee, chambers have been on the forefront of increasing education attainment as an economic development driver.

  • The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce is focused on boosting higher education attainment to address a massive predicted labor shortage in the next decade. The chamber leads the Nashville region’s Vital Signs initiative, which convenes education and economic development leaders to connect education programs with employers’ workforce needs. They are working on a regional strategy that supports the Tennessee Promise program as well as encourages working adults to complete un-finished degree programs.
  • The Knoxville Chamber, through its SpeakUp4Biz campaign, advocated for the Tennessee General Assembly to pass the bill that would fund the Tennessee Promise program at no additional cost to the state.
  • The Kingsport Chamber began its focus on higher education as an economic development priority through a city-led effort called “Educate and Grow,” which offers scholarships to Northeast State Technical Community College (NESTCC) for any city high school graduate meeting entrance requirements. The program was adopted county-wide and became the model for the Tennessee Promise.

While the Governor's college access initiative is unprecedented, the application requirement that students complete a FAFSA form excludes a group that will comprise a substantial portion of Tennessee's future workforce- undocumented students. The FAFSA requirement ensures that this “last dollar” scholarship program remains affordable- students receive the maximum amount of financial aid based on their eligibility, and the state fills in the remaining balance. Undocumented students are unable to provide the social security number necessary to fill out the form, and are ineligible to take advantage of the Tennessee Promise

With enrollment rates surpassing expectations, it’s predicted that two-thirds of Tennessee's eligible graduating seniors will go to college in 2015. The workforce pipeline does not end with attainment, and the next step will be to track how many students complete degree programs and move on to gainful employment. Local industry leaders will be a useful ally to inform community colleges about the skills college students will need to fill available jobs. 

To learn more about how chambers are impacting higher education attainment visit the Higher Education Chamberpedia page.

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Local Chambers: The Rodney Dangerfields of History?

Chris Mead on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 9:00:00 am 
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At this time of election campaigns, many local chambers of commerce make news via candidate forums, endorsements, and more.  But after the first Tuesday in November, the silence returns.  The United States, however, would be almost unrecognizable if the million acts of 7,000 local chambers could somehow be removed from its past.  Here are a few reasons why we’ve forgotten what chambers have done and continue to do:

  1. They tend to avoid taking credit.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”
  2. They don’t have overt power and so they have to share credit for accomplishments with those that do have the final say, even if the project was the chamber’s idea.  This inability to control the whole thing makes poor news copy.  “The chamber was 40 percent responsible for the new convention center” is a headline none of us will ever see.
  3. Individuals, not groups, capture our attention.  Do we think about the 600,000 shivering French troops outside Moscow – or about one short, charismatic man responsible for it all, with his hand inside his vest?
  4. Chambers, by design, start things and spin them off.  Many festivals, transportation projects, civic improvement ideas, you name it – began at chambers but went on to be managed by other groups.  And so, years later, we forget where it all started.
  5. “Rich boy makes good” or “rich boy does good” makes boring copy.  Yet most chamber members aren’t rich.  And sometimes these individuals, rich or poor, put their heads together and change their communities in fascinating ways.
  6. The business of business people is business.  Entrepreneurs are lionized for the way they line their wallets.  We don’t usually think of their other lives, in which sometimes they may eclipse their business achievements.
  7. “It was inevitable.”  Of course if you put influential people in 5,000 cities and towns together, for a dozen or more times a year for 50 or even more than 200 years, something’s going to happen.  But the real question is, why did some chambers hit it out of the park, while others hit themselves on the head – sometimes repeatedly?  
  8. Government organizations and nonprofit groups have proliferated, frequently with the support of chambers of commerce.  It’s not hard to get lost in these many-thicketed woods.
  9. Local chambers aren’t ideological.  They often lean to the right on general economic and business issues, but when it comes to getting that bridge funded or a bond issue for a much-needed school, they can veer to the left faster than a speeding politician.  Not being easily classified politically, chambers are not easily grasped by students of history.
  10. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is often seen as the leader of local chambers; in many ways it is, but there is no hierarchy or unified governing body in the American chamber universe.  The U.S. Chamber was formed in 1912 through, in part, the efforts of many local chambers of commerce that wanted a national voice for business.  Local chambers are not “chapters” under the national chamber.  The U.S. Chamber, often involving the loose federation of local chambers, has played a major role in American history.  And so, too, have thousands of local chambers, plugging away with on policy, politics, and place making since the first one emerged in New York in 1768.
  11. Most chamber members are neither saints nor villains.  They aren’t ashamed of profits but they want to help their community.  Where’s the hot story in those intertwined goals?
  12. Chambers of commerce depend to a significant extent on something you can’t touch.  What is the “Atlanta spirit” or the “Spirit of St. Louis”?  While we’ve toned down the boosterism of a century ago, chambers of commerce still rely on bonds among individuals within the chamber, and within the community, to make things better than they are.  Whether it’s a “rah-rah” spirit or a buttoned-down, urban, noblesse oblige-inspired caring for the community, it can be very real.
  13. Local chambers are “just local.”  Where’s the sweep of history and the path of armies?  Where’s the glamour of Main Street?  What’s the glory in changing a street-sign ordinance?  And yet, as Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.”  Jerusalem, Florence, and Athens are local.  From comparatively little places, big things can happen.

To learn more about the fascinating, often overlooked, history of chambers pick up your copy of The Magicians of Main Street:  America and its Chambers of Commerce, 1768-1945.

Republish this column in your chamber newsletter or local paper. Contact Chris Mead for more information.

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