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Just Ask the Chamber

Tania Kohut on Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 
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It’s good if your community thinks you have all the answers. And, if you work in a chamber, you know that you get a lot of calls on a lot of subjects, from the logical to the absurd. The Boise (ID) Metro Chamber’s Board Chairman, Randy Hill, illustrated this phenomenon during the chamber’s annual dinner last month.  He was the hit of the night when he shared the most unusual questions the chamber had received, and then added his own comedic touch when he provided answers. Check it out here.

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Infrastructure Part 3: Durham

Chaaron Pearson on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 10:00:00 am 
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Guest Post - John White, Director of Public Policy, Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce

Earlier this year, I was asked to take part in a webinar to discuss our involvement and the passage of a ½ cent sales tax for transit.  While awaiting my turn to present on the issue, I listened to others familiar with the topic as they advised on how to best prepare for a ballot issue campaign. One person recommended having no less than $100K to fund campaign efforts, while another referenced needing at least a year to prepare, plan and educate the public on your issue.  As I listened to these two individuals talk, I thought to myself this ought to be interesting…. 

In 2008, the North Carolina General Assembly passed enabling legislation allowing 94 counties the opportunity to charge & use a ¼ cent sales tax. The legislation also provided Durham, Orange and Wake County’s, also known as the Triangle, the opportunity to charge & use a ½ cent sales tax, for transit enhancements, with voter approval.  Since 2009, the Durham Chamber and surrounding chambers have been at the table discussing this issue with the NC Dept. of Transportation as well as our elected officials at the state and local level.  Unlike the other chambers, the Durham Chamber of Commerce is the only Chamber in the Triangle that has a dedicated committee to the topic of Transportation.  In the summer of 2011, the Durham Board of County Commissioners decided to put this issue on the November 2011 ballot for voters to decide on.  Given the Chambers role and attention to transit issues, the Durham Chamber stepped up and took the lead in organizing a campaign committee.  I staffed the Durham Transit Campaign Committee and organized efforts of which led to the passage of the transit referendum.  Having received 60.1% support for this ballot measure, to date, Durham is the only county that has successfully passed the ½ cent sales tax for transit within the Triangle region and the second in the State of N.C. (Mecklenburg County, 2007).

At last it was my turn to speak to Durham’s success during the webinar.  After providing an abbreviated timeline of events, I informed the audience that the Durham Transit Campaign Committee, led by the Durham Chamber of Commerce, had roughly four months to organize.  We did not raise over $50K.

Every community is different and while we can use lessons learned in other areas, it doesn’t mean that information is translatable to every community.  Chambers are institutions that by design are forced to know business interest, community interest as well as who the players are within our respective communities.  I’m glad to say that the Durham Chamber of Commerce understands how important this is and has been able to benefit from extending ourselves outside of the traditional box of business.  Why should this example matter to business community?  Since our success with this campaign, our creditability as an organization has risen along with the communities desire to work with the business community.  Sure, people still come to us to sponsor most of everything.  Nonetheless, we take this as part of the territory, knowing that in the end we’ve made more people aware of what we are capable of doing and the continual impact and reach chambers of commerce have!       

 

Tags: infrastructure, infrastructure infrastructure transportation transportation funding, infrastructure transportation

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Star Power

Tania Kohut on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 
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On days when you think your job is hard or you’re just plain annoyed with people, think about Ana Martinez at the Hollywood (CA) Chamber of Commerce. When Ana picks up the phone or opens an email, she never knows if the person on the other end is going to scream at her or kill her with kindness in a premeditated agenda to win her over.

Ana, who has worked for the chamber for 25 years, is the one who decides where stars are placed on the famous Walk of Fame. According to Martinez, who was recently interviewed by The New York Times, “I’m the one publicists and agents are either very nice to or very upset with,” she said. “And I’ve been called every name in the book. People can get pretty threatening when they don’t get their way.”

As the chamber and the Hollywood Historic Trust undertake a $4 million restoration project of the Walk of Fame, Martinez’s days are now also busy raising money for the project through the Friends of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Learn more about Martinez’s job, how she decides which stars will go where, and other insider stories about the Walk of Fame when you read this entertaining article.

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Infrastructure Part 2: Stamford

Chaaron Pearson on Monday, November 19, 2012 at 10:00:00 am 
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Stamford, Conn.: Banking on Infrastructure
Transportation issues are becoming critical for Connecticut. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, nearly a third of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient, 45 percent of its major roads are in mediocre or poor condition, and 58 percent of its urban highways are congested.

Following a comprehensive study of infrastructure issues in 2010, the Business Council of Fairfield County (BCFC) in Stamford issued a statement noting that:

·         Infrastructure is critical to economic competitiveness.

·         The U.S. and Connecticut have fallen behind most of the world’s developed nations in infrastructure quality and capacity.

·         The balance sheets and budget deficits of our national and state governments do not allow enough investment to maintain our current position, let alone close the gap with our major competitors.

·         Increased infrastructure investment can’t wait until public sector fiscal health returns.

BCFC then created a stakeholder group, the Infrastructure Investment Task Force, consisting of utilities, consulting firms, academics, economists and other companies that had a strong infrastructure focus. This group was able to develop an understanding of the county’s infrastructure issues, put them into context and assess state level opportunities. It was determined that Connecticut’s need is $85 billion over 20 years to maintain, repair and enhance existing systems, add capacity and expand services, and transform the key systems of transportation, energy and broadband.

The challenge is that they won’t be able to raise more than half of those funds through state funding and anticipated federal appropriations. To fill the gap, Connecticut will actively support all existing funding sources for infrastructure, support a national infrastructure bank, and explore state-level mechanisms to leverage public-private partnerships and improve how projects are selected.

Chris Bruhl, BCFC’s president and CEO, says BCFC’s relationship with author and New York University Senior Fellow Michael Likosky has helped with the council’s involvement in federal funding discussions. Likosky is an expert on public-private partnerships, has served on the BCFC stakeholder group, advised a number of states, elected officials and organizations, and is the author of Obama’s Bank: Financing a Durable New Deal, among other titles. Because of Likosky’s role with BCFC and other organizations, BCFC has been invited to participate in a national infrastructure bank think tank. BCFC also has found that this new area of policy involvement has generated a new membership stream for the chamber: companies that have interest or experience with infrastructure issues.

BCFC has been supportive of Connecticut’s Green Bank to leverage private sector investment in clean energy. The group also has a good relationship with the governor that has led to a senior staffer being appointed co-chair of the governor’s panel to deal with response to the tropical storm and snow storm that hit Connecticut with disastrous result in 2011. Gov. Dannel Malloy has been receptive to the council’s suggestions, and the council has been encouraged by his willingness to try new things. While it doesn’t necessarily mean that all plans will come to fruition, they are encouraged that Connecticut is becoming competitive.

Private money will be raised and invested, and if we didn’t act now, Connecticut could be left out. – Chris Bruhl, BCFC President & CEO

Tags: infrastructure infrastructure transportation transportation funding

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Still Going Strong After 15 Years

Tania Kohut on Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 8:30:00 pm 
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Award-winning talk show host and great friend to ACCE, Jim Blasingame, celebrates the 15th anniversary of The Small Business Advocate®, the radio program he created and launched on November 17, 1997. Since then, Blasingame has been the only syndicated host talking to America's entrepreneurs on live radio every weekday, as well as to a global audience since his pioneering Internet simulcast began in January 1998. 

Internationally recognized as "The Voice of Small Business," Blasingame conducts more than 1,000 live interviews annually with his Brain Trust®, the world's largest community of small business experts, now more than 1,500 strong. From these interviews, more than 2,700 podcasts are produced annually. Blasingame also has a daily feature, "A Small Business Minute," on many SiriusXMRadio channels, plus his video channels on YouTube and Vimeo, "Three Minutes to Success."  

"When we began, we wanted to provide entrepreneurs with the information, resources and inspiration they need to start, run and grow a small business," says Blasingame. "Thanks to the support of our audience, Brain Trust members and corporate partners, we've accomplished that goal and continue to deliver fresh small business content daily, plus new multi-media resources like our mobile site and video series." 

For his work and leadership on behalf of small business, Blasingame has received national awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, American Chamber of Commerce Executives, Association of Small Business Development Centers, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, and New York Enterprise Report. Google ranks him as the number one small business expert and TALKERS Magazine has identified him as one of the most important radio talk show hosts in America.

The Small Business Advocate® Show is the flagship brand of the media company, Small Business Network, Inc. (SBN), of which Blasingame is founder and president. SBN produces and distributes multi-media small business resources worldwide. Insperity is the presenting sponsor of all SBN media.

The SBN Web site is SmallBusinessAdvocate.com. The Small Business Advocate® is a registered trademark of Small Business Network, Inc.

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Infrastructure Part 1: Louisville

Chaaron Pearson on Friday, November 16, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 
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Federal dollars are still flowing to states for infrastructure projects, but there’s not enough money to keep up with needed infrastructure expansion. Knowing the impact that transportation has on attracting new business to communities, chambers are seeking infrastructure project funding through alternate strategies such as new taxes, partnering with neighboring states or working with public and private partnerships.

Infrastructure is critical to economic competitiveness says Business Council of Fairfield County President, Chris Bruhl. As economic development becomes more ingrained in the chamber’s mission, chambers must step in to help solve regional infrastructure problems. Some chambers have tackled this challenge in unusual yet instructive ways.

Louisville, Ky.: Two Bridges and Two States
Louisville is a major transportation hub, with three interstates—I64, I-65 and the terminus of I71—converging downtown near the Ohio River. Logistics, distribution and manufacturing are key economic development sectors for the region, and each depends on safe and reliable bridges and a connecting highway network. But Louisville is currently served by only three Ohio River bridges that are near or over capacity, creating congestion and safety issues.

In 2003, after more than 450 public meetings and a five-year study, the federal government recommended two new bridges and reconstruction of a major interchange known as Spaghetti Junction to address the region’s current and future cross-river transportation needs.

Almost immediately, the project stalled because costs had ballooned to $4.1 billion. Nearly nine years later, a scaled back project that includes all the original major elements is on a fast track to construction. The recent progress is largely the result of strong support, perseverance and creative direction from business, community and political leaders.

Under the 2003 Bridges Project plan, Kentucky was to pay 70 percent of the cost and Indiana was to cover the rest. Relying on traditional highway funding generated from gas taxes, Kentucky’s Transportation Cabinet estimated 20 years for project completion, but long before that the project would absorb more than half of the state’s available road transportation funds—a politically unpopular option.

By 2007, with no definitive construction plan, business leaders stepped in, forming the Bridges Coalition, a bi-state advocacy group. Led by Greater Louisville Inc. (the metro chamber of commerce) and One Southern Indiana (Southern Indiana’s chamber of commerce), the coalition united business, labor and bi-partisan government leaders from both sides of the river. Nearly $2 million was raised to support the coalition’s work. Employing communications and legislative strategies, the coalition touted the project’s benefits of reduced congestion, improved safety and job creation, both during construction and after completion.

After three years of coalition work, a milestone was reached with passage of Kentucky legislation that allowed the use of tolls as a potential funding source for the project and the creation of a bi-state Bridges Authority to develop a project financing plan.

In 2011, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer—all strong project supporters—agreed to a revised project design and accelerated construction timetable that reduced the $4.1 billion price tag to $2.6 billion. The governors also agreed to split the cost of the project more evenly. Kentucky would be responsible for the new downtown bridge and approaches including Spaghetti Junction, and Indiana would oversee construction of the East End span and approaches. This modification allowed each state to pursue its preferred financing method for its part of the construction.

Earlier this year, the two states approved the project’s finance plan. Electronic high-speed tolls on the two new bridges and the existing I-65 span will cover about half the cost of the project. (Federal law currently prohibits tolling on existing interstates. Kentucky and Indiana have applied for a waiver to allow tolling on the existing I-65 bridge as part of the project.) The remaining $1.3 billion will come from each state’s traditional highway funds. In June the Federal Highway Administration approved the plan. Construction is slated to begin in 2013.

Carmen Hickerson, V.P. of public affairs and communications at Greater Louisville Inc., says creative funding for major highway projects is a must in today’s economic environment of limited federal funding. Large projects like these are increasingly difficult to fund without the inclusion of user fees. The Ohio River Bridges Project fortunately had two governors and a mayor who were willing to work together to find a solution. Through determination and partnership, Kentucky and Indiana overcame challenges and cleared the path for improved transportation for the region.

Tags: funding, infrastructure, infrastructure transportation, Louisville, transportation

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Everything You Need to Know About the Fiscal Cliff

Chaaron Pearson on Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 
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Now that the presidential election dust has settled, Congress has reconvened to discuss the fiscal cliff. Here are some comprehensive explanations about what the fiscal cliff is and what could happen if we go off it.

WP WonkBlog: Everything you need to know about the fiscal cliff in one post
Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post WonkBlog explains what it is, how big it is, when it will happen, what will happen to the economy, and what could stop it.

Council of State Chambers, State Chamber Policy Center
 A new report by Inforum/University of Maryland, Fiscal Shock: America’s Economic Crisis, finds that the U.S. already is struggling due to Washington’s failure to address the fiscal cliff. The Pew Center on the States is finalizing a report that will evaluate the cliff’s impact on states, looking both at the effect of sequestration on revenue sharing and the expiration of dozens of temporary federal tax provisions on state tax systems. That report is expected in December.

Brookings Institution
Ron Haskins, co-director of the Center on Children and Families and Budgeting for National Priorities Project at the Brookings Institution, authored an interesting opinion piece:  The Fiscal Cliff: Predictable, Reprehensible, but Still Avoidable.

Tags: Brookings Institute, Congress, COSC, Council of State Chambers, Fiscal Cliff, Policy, Public Policy, State Chamber Policy Center, WonkBlog

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Memphis Chamber's team is on fire!

Tania Kohut on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 
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The Greater Memphis, Tenn., Chamber’s Communications & Programming Team is a recipient of both platinum and gold MarCom Awards. They received awards for the chamber’s website (Platinum), for the Chamber Beat Weekly e-newsletter (Gold), and for Memphis Crossroads Magazine: Young Memphis 2012 (Gold).

MarCom is an international competition which has grown to be perhaps the largest of its kind in the world. A look at the winners shows a range in size from individual communicators to media conglomerates and Fortune 500 companies. The competition is so well respected in the industry that national public relations organizations, local ad clubs, and local business communicator chapters are entrants.

“I am so proud of this team and our Chamber,” said Amy Daniels, vice president of communications and programming for the Greater Memphis Chamber.  “Our team is a group of unsung heroes – they are the ones who look for the best story to tell about our city; up until 1:00 a.m. worried about how a graphic would depict Memphis; and always unwavering in their commitment of wanting nothing but the best for this city and the Chamber.  When it comes to telling the story of Memphis business, there is no better team.”

This year’s competition drew over 6,000 international entries and of those only 18% were awarded at platinum level and gold level.

Judges are industry professionals who look for companies and individuals whose talent exceeds a high standard of excellence and whose work serves as a benchmark for the industry.

 For more information about the MarCom Awards visit http://www.marcomawards.com/.

The Greater Memphis Chamber is the lead economic development agency for Memphis/Shelby County, and is a private, non-profit, membership-driven organization comprised of 2,300 business enterprises, civic organizations, educational institutions and individuals.

MarCom Awards are administered and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals. The Association oversees awards and recognition programs, provides judges and sets standards for excellence.

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Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck (RI) Chamber

Tania Kohut on Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 
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Here is another chamber seeking post-Sandy support . . . .

ACCE member Greater Mystic, Conn., Chamber of Commerce alerted ACCE to a neighboring non-member chamber whose community was significantly affected by Hurricane Sandy. The Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Chamber of Commerce in Westerly, R.I., about eight miles from Mystic,  is the largest southern Rhode Island chamber of commerce, serving 800 members. Several of its members are along Misquamicut Beach in Westerly.  Following the storm, Atlantic Avenue, the main road along the beach, was covered in sand that appeared to be six feet deep in some areas, leaving many businesses and homes damaged or destroyed. 

The Chamber is accepting donations for the relief of Misquamicut. You may make a tax-deductable donation to the Westerly Chamber Foundation or purchase a “Bring Back the Beach” t-shirt for $15, plus shipping ($12 goes into the grant fund). To donate online or purchase a t-shirt, visit the  Bring Back the Beach - Misquamicut Beach Recovery web page. For more information, contact the chamber at (401) 596-7761.

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The Greater Westerly Chamber Foundation, Inc. (GWCF) - a non-profit 501c (3) arm of the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce was granted its nonprofit status on March 20, 1998. The non-profit number is 05-0494495.  Westerly Town Manager Steve Hartford was among the original Board Members at the time the GWCF was established.  Westerly accountant Michael Benevides, and Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce Exec. Director Lisa Konicki were also among the original Board Members, and they continue to serve today.

The GWCF is using its Jump Small Business Recovery Grant Program to help businesses get back up and running for next season.  The program helped 32 businesses with $73,000 in grants in 2010, after the historic flood. Grants will be awarded to small businesses to help with the staggering amount of expenses that are NOT covered by insurance.  An Administrative Oversight Team for the fund has developed eligibility criteria, an application and a process for evaluating each application. GWCF Board members will be joined by a representative of Senior Corps Retired Executives (SCORE), and the Misquamicut Business Association to serve on the Administrative Oversight Team, along with Westerly Town Councilor Brian McCuin. There is complete transparency and public accountability with this process, and all grant awards will be made public.

100% of the donations will go directly to Misquamicut businesses that need financial support to resume operations.  Membership in The Chamber of Commerce or the MBA is not a requirement to receive funds.  Grants will range in size based upon donations received, the number of grant applications received, and the extent of verifiable non-covered business losses experienced by the business, amongst other criteria. Documentation of damages will be required. Donations to this fund ARE 100% tax deductible. Donations may be sent to 1 Chamber Way, Westerly, RI 02891.

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Free Welcome Mats For Small Biz Saturday

Tania Kohut on Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 
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Small Business Saturday is just around the corner! Have your small business members welcome their shoppers on Saturday, Nov. 24, with the Shop Small Welcome Mat, courtesy of American Express.

Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday, is dedicated to helping small businesses get what they need most: customers. This Nov. 24, American Express wants to give the small businesses in your community free Shop Small Welcome Mats.*  You can help. Requesting these free mats from Say No More Promotions, a distributor working with American Express, and distribute them to other small businesses in your community.  The mats, when placed at the front door,  let customers know this is a small business on Small Business Saturday, and every day.

To receive your box of 25 free Shop Small Welcome Mats and share them with merchants in your community, click here to visit the Say No More Promotions site.** 

Let’s make this the biggest day of the year for your community’s small businesses.   For more information about Small Business Saturday visit www.shopsmall.com.
 

*Supplies are limited and will be distributed on a first come first served basis. 

** Say No More Promotions is neither owned nor operated by American Express and is acting only as a distributor for this free product.  Any information collected as part of this process is the responsibility of Say No More Promotions.

 

 

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