CICE REPORT: Local Chambers as Change Agents

Chaaron Pearson on Friday, May 17, 2013 at 12:00:00 am 
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Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy has released a first-of-its-kind report, revealing that local chambers of commerce have emerged as unexpected catalysts of clean energy innovation and growth throughout the country.

Local Chambers as Change Agents: Creating Economic Vitality through Clean Energy and Innovation provides the first comprehensive look into local chambers’ roles in attracting investment, improving business competitiveness, and diversifying their local economies around clean energy and energy efficiency.

CICE surveyed hundreds of local chambers nationwide, developing case studies of chambers in Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, Texas, Utah, Tennessee, Michigan, Massachusetts, and California. Highlights include the Asheville (NC) and Salt Lake (UT) chambers, which collectively saved their manufacturers and shippers more than 10 million gallons of fuel, and the Cleveland Chamber, which saved businesses more than $13.4 million in 2012 through energy efficiency.

The foreword of the report notes: 

Today, it’s only natural that these local chambers of commerce are using all of their formidable assets to help businesses and communities meet shared challenges in our energy landscape: a slowly recovering economy, volatile energy prices, global competition in manufacturing and technology development, and aging electric grids. Time and again, clean energy has proven to be a practical and profitable solution for these chambers and their member companies.

 As you will see in this pioneering report, local chambers throughout America are becoming unprecedented clean energy and innovation leaders. Some chambers have tackled enormous hurdles, such as leading the charge to modernize Chicago’s outdated electricity grid. Some have focused on increasing energy efficiency on a company-by-company basis, providing consulting to small businesses in places like Cleveland, Ohio, and Bartlett, Tennessee. Still others have sought to attract investment in renewable energy infrastructure and in the manufacture of new clean energy technologies

Read the complete report here 


Tags: Chambers as Change Agents, Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy, CICE, clean energy, energy efficiency, green, green chambers

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Report Cards are In: Austin Chamber Provides Snapshot of Student Progress

Jessie Azrilian on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 12:00:00 am 
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Last month the Austin Chamber of Commerce released its annual Education Report Card compiled of student performance data from 11 school districts in the greater Austin area. The reports provide the business and education communities with a snapshot of the college and career preparedness amongst the future regional workforce.

Partnering with neighboring suburban school districts and economic development corporations, data collected for the report helps profile the needs of school districts in terms of leadership, board policy, and budgetary decisions. Districts then establish goals based on those needs. 

Measurable Success

The results of the reports reflect positive increases in college enrollment. Drew Scheberle, the Austin chamber’s senior vice president of talent and education development, says that student buy-in coupled with year round programmatic support is key. Chamber-led programs like Financial Aid Saturdays, which encourage students to complete their own applications for financial aid and college admission, are integral components of the Austin Chamber’s regional effort to increase college enrollment from 61 percent in 2010 to 70 percent by 2015. Creating awareness with ongoing targeted communications through television and radio ads and direct mail has been essential to the success of these College-Ready programs.  

Predicting Higher Education Attainment

This year’s report includes data on student post-graduation activity collected through the chamber’s Student Futures Project. Over the years, the data has shown a distinct gap in students that indicate plans to continue their education and those that actually enroll in a higher education institution. The data collected through this project, a partnership with the Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas, helps identify trends associated with non-enrollment and address the gaps. 

Chamber-District Partnership

Chamber leaders and school district directors alike will attest that partnership between regional chambers of commerce and local school districts occurs naturally as a result of shared goals. Districts will set goals already in alignment with recommendations provided by Chambers who have their pulse on regional workforce needs.  

A Scalable Model

With a full time chamber staff member dedicated to coordinating and analyzing Education Report Cards, outsourcing of the Student Futures analysis to the University of Texas, a media outreach campaign, and a Progress Report Task Force, the Austin Chamber’s community report card initiative is indeed comprehensive. While the project may seem a daunting undertaking for many chambers, the model is scalable with the formula for success based on a concerted effort from local business and education stakeholders. 


Funding for the chamber’s workforce and talent development initiatives were derived from a line item within Opportunity Austin, a five county initiative for job creation in Central Texas that began in 2004 with business investments totaling $14.4 million. The third five-year plan for 2014-18, Opportunity Austin 3.0, was announced in December of 2012 with a funding goal of $25 million.  

Takeaways: Key factors to success

  • Student buy-in 
  • Year-round programmatic support for students
  • Targeted communications campaigns to increase awareness about programs
  • Comprehensive data that identifies trends in student outcomes (college enrollment, degree completion, etc.)
  • Goal alignment between school district, business community, and higher education
  • Investment by local business leaders

Share Your Work!

Engaging your business community towards increasing student achievement and outcomes? Partnering with school districts and higher education institutions?  We’d like to hear from a variety of chambers, small market/rural to metro, to hear about similar programs in your community. 

Please email or call 703-998-3571.   



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Chattanooga Chamber v. “Iron Man 3”

Tania Kohut on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 12:00:00 am 
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If box office reports are any indication,  “Iron Man 3” gets a double thumbs up. But, the folks at the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce are giving it a double thumbs down. Turns out that they aren’t too pleased about how the city and its Internet service is portrayed in the movie.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know that at one point Robert Downey Jr.’s character, Tony Stark, is in Chattanooga and experiences a slow Internet connection. But, the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce wants you to know that such a situation, in this case, only happens in the movies. Last week the chamber sent a press release setting the record straight. See some of the media attention the chamber has been garnering:

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A sea lion walks into a chamber . . .

Tania Kohut on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 12:00:00 am 
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No, it’s not the opening line to a joke, but rather the start to a real story! The Imperial Beach (CA) Chamber of Commerce recently had an unexpected visitor come through its front door. Click here to read about a sea lion pup who made himself at home at the chamber’s offices.


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Update: 2014 Federal Education Funding Priorities

Jessie Azrilian on Friday, May 3, 2013 at 12:00:00 am 
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In a time of sweeping budget cuts, President Obama is asking for an additional $3 billion for the education budget. During a conference call earlier this week addressing the corporate and philanthropic sectors, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made clear the following: 1) Ongoing federal funding for education is an absolute priority; 2) Resources would be geared towards creating impact at the local level; and 3) States and communities willing to put in the work would reap the rewards.



  • $75 billion for a 10-year program partnering with states to dramatically increase access to high quality pre-kindergarten. Funds would come from a 94-cent-per-pack cigarette tax.


  • “Ladders of Opportunity:” The Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development and Agriculture will take a joint approach to examine and remedy entrenched intergenerational poverty.
  • Teachers and Leaders Plan: A Master teacher program designed to retain top teachers who will  mentor the next generation of teachers. The administration is gearing investment towards building “networks of innovation” at the local level, focusing on communities where higher education, business, non-profit, and public education stakeholders are already engaged and invested locally in education attainment. 
  • The RESPECT Project: a $5 billion initiative derived from a national dialogue among teachers will seek to reform and transform the teaching profession.
  • High School Re-design: $300 million will go directly to school districts to ensure students are both college and career-ready. Funds will focus on districts working innovatively to link curriculum to the real world and helping students realize those linkages. 

Higher Ed:

  • Race to the Top for higher education: $1 billion in matching funds to influence behaviors on the state and university level. The funds serve as an incentive for states’ ongoing investment in higher education, for universities to keep costs down, and for education institutions to collaborate in creating not just communities of access, but of completion.

The Bottom Line

Local buy-in will be the key to investment. Communities must be ready to work hard and ready to work collaboratively.

Information about these programs and user-friendly materials on the President’s 2014 Budget Proposal can be found here. 


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Life Member Honored for Volunteer Work

Tania Kohut on Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 12:00:00 am 
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For ACCE Life Member John Garman, CCE, the chamber profession truly is a life, not a career. Despite his retirement in 2003 as a chamber exec, John continues to serve by volunteering at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro (NC) Chamber of Commerce. In April, he completed his 400th member visit. He has been volunteering with the chamber for two years, visiting one-on-one with business owners and managers to learn and report on their business needs and to improve the connections between the chamber staff and its nearly 1,400 members. In recognition of his service to the chamber and its members, John was recognized last month with the Chair's Award for Excellence, presented by the chamber’s Board of Directors Chair, Paige Zinn. 

John was born in upstate New York and earned his B.A. in history and oriental studies, and his M.B.A. in marketing and finance from Columbia University. In 2003, after completing a 30-year career as a chamber exec in communities in Indiana, Kentucky and South Carolina, he retired and served as a consultant and instructor for the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) with assignments in Russia, Bosnia, Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan and Jamaica. John moved to North Carolina’s Research Triangle in 2010 with his wife, Nancy, and lives in a home built by his son. He currently serves as a trustee for the North Carolina Humanities Council.

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Looking good at 75 and 100

Tania Kohut on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 12:00:00 am 
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The Myrtle Beach Area (SC) Chamber of Commerce and Orlando (FL) Regional Chamber of Commerce are celebrating big milestones this month.

On Friday, April 19, 22 past presidents of the Orlando Regional Chamber and its current volunteer leadership attended a special luncheon to kickoff the 100th anniversary of Orlando, Inc. (Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce). The chamber will continue the celebration in September with a gala event. See the website the chamber prepared in honor of its big anniversary.

Then on Tuesday, April 23, about 500 miles north of Orlando, the Myrtle Beach Area (SC)Chamber honored its 75 years of service during an annual meeting and celebration with its membership at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. The event not only recognized the chamber, but also members who have served the community for 50 plus years.

Congratulations to both organizations!

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Innovative ED Metrics

Ian Scott on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 10:45:00 am 
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Of course jobs and investment are key outcomes of successful economic development, but they’re not the only outcomes worth measuring.  

Listen to this webinar recording from March 28, 2013 as Mac Holladay, CCE, president and CEO of Market Street Services shares some of the innovative ways chambers and regions are now measuring economic development success.

Click to watch - ACCE Economic Trends: Economic Development Metrics

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ACCE Partner Central Holidays Offers Cuba Visits

Marlene Oliver on Monday, April 22, 2013 at 12:00:00 am 
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New “Discover Cuba” Itinerary Offers Americans Legal Travel to Cuba via People-to-People Cultural Travel Program

Central Holidays is pleased present an exciting new “Discover Cuba” travel program that takes U.S. travelers to connect with locals in Cuba and learn about the architecture, music, art and culture of this enchanting country.  The U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control has granted a license to provide people-to-people cultural exchange travel programs to Cuba to Premier World Discovery/CE, strategic partner of Central Holidays, enabling the company to offer this trip to U.S. travelers.

The fascinating 8-day “Discover Cuba” itinerary provides a full time schedule of activities that result in meaningful exchanges through people-to-people contact, offering insightful, cross-cultural and educational experiences at every turn.  Travelers will explore the UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Havana with the largest collection of Spanish-Colonial architecture in the Americas, the beautiful baroque-style Cathedral of Havana built in 1748, and the “Maqueta de la Habana Vieja” Museum that houses a detailed scale model of the City of Havana.  Further along, travelers visit Viñales Valley and Pinar del Rio, known for its stunning scenery, a landscape of prehistoric looking flat-top mountains or “mogotes”, tobacco plantations, caves, and rivers.  An excursion to Guanabacoa takes travelers to discover the religious diversity of this land and visit Hemingway’s Farm where the Nobel Prize winner lived with his wife for 21 years.  This itinerary features experiences that showcase the treasures of Cuba including a tour of an authentic cigar factory, tobacco farm, and rum factory as well as meals in local restaurants.  Visitors will also tour an art studio and craft market, and dance studio and interact with welcoming locals, artists and dancers.

“Adding Cuba to our destination offerings allows us to further cater to our robust family of repeat customers who wish to explore the world in the signature Central Holidays way,” said Gianni Miradoli, CEO of Central Holidays. “We are pleased to introduce this novel Cuba itinerary that brings travelers the rare opportunity to visit a fascinating country on an enriching travel program replete with cross-cultural interaction, education, and discovery.”

For additional information about the Discover Cuba travel program available through Central Holidays, please call Central Holidays at 800-935-5000 or visit them online at 

About Central Holidays:
Founded in 1972, Central Holidays offers superior travel programs, value and service to enchanting destinations across the globe including Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, plus dozens of Mediterranean and European River Cruise itineraries, worldwide ski programs, as well as people-to-people educational exchange travel to Cuba!  For more information, contact Central Holidays at 1-800-935-5000 or visit their Web site at



Marlene Oliver
(305) 491-0512,
NJC Communications

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Up Close and Personal with Mick Fleming

Brad Holt on Friday, April 12, 2013 at 11:30:00 am 
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Mick Fleming, president of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, was a featured guest on the Executive Leaders Radio Show recently. He discussed  influences that led him to his career as an advocate of chambers as community leaders, competition for the ACCE leadership job that he accepted in 2001, challenges he overcame in those early days, and much more in the 12-minute interview.

The show’s profiles of business executives primarily from the Mid-East are heard on radio stations in 20 states across the country, and are available online via iTunes, and numerous other podcast directories. Listen to the interview.

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