Employment Growth Snapshot

Ian Scott on Friday, May 24, 2013 at 2:15:00 pm 
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Garner Economics this week released a report digging in to the jobs picture for 372 regional economies in the United States.  As you’d expect, the finding are a mixed bag.

First, the good news: employment figures are up in 80% of U.S. metro regions in Q1 2013 compared with Q1 2012. The majority of regions are adding jobs year over year and that’s an unequivocally good thing.

Compare current employment averages with pre-recession figures and the picture is less rosy. Employment is still below Q1 2008 levels in roughly 70% of U.S. regions. Many are within 2-3 percentage points of pre-recession employment levels, only a handful are still 10-15% down.

Of the 102 regions that have exceeded pre-recession job levels and continue to grow, most of the strongest performers share a significant energy sector presence. Midland and Odessa, Texas lead the pack with 21.8% and 20.3% job growth since Q1 2008 respectively.

Click to read the full study.

Tags: economic development; job growth; growth; economy; Garner Economics

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Breaking Records in Charlotte

Ian Scott on Friday, May 24, 2013 at 11:25:00 am 
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The Charlotte Chamber is celebrating a new high watermark for their annual Total Resource Campaign - $5,114,261.  More than $5.1 million in 12 weeks.  That’s more than $425k a week…more than $85k a business day. 

“These funds provide more than half the Charlotte Chamber’s annual operating expenses,” said Bob Morgan, president of the Charlotte Chamber.  “They will be deployed toward our mission to grow the economy, to serve as a voice for business and to engage our members in providing innovate products, programs and services.”  

Pretty impressive work by Bob and his team.  Of course they had help.  26 corporate teams, involving 130 volunteers, connected with more than 1600 companies to sell memberships and raise revenue on the Chamber’s behalf.  And when you consider some of the corporate teams leading the way - Bank of America, Bissell, Duke Energy, Wells Fargo, – it’s no surprise they set an all-time record.

Tags: funding; TRC; total resource campaign; volunteers

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On This Memorial Day: A Quick/Long Message

Mick Fleming on Friday, May 24, 2013 at 12:00:00 am 
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Is it proper to wish someone a ‘Happy’ Memorial Day?  I’m always a little confused about that, but I do hope everyone has a wonderful long weekend.  Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we relocate.  Actually, next week we move to new HQ across town.  If phone service interruptions occur during the move (not anticipated), please dial temporary ACCE backup line: 202-596-1081.

When it comes to a day devoted to visiting both cemeteries and barbeques, my feelings get muddled.  Am I supposed to be popping a cold one on the back deck with friends, watching Pork Chop Hill on AMC, boosting the local retail economy, or posting genuinely sincere patriotic feelings on Facebook?  Do I visit Arlington?

And what about this week’s tragedies affecting our members in Shawnee, Moore and suburban OKC?  The stoic and optimistic survivor stories make my heart soar like a hawk (old movie reference), even as my eyes leak a bit when stories of those who lost a baby or a dad appear on screen.  It is a comfort to know that the best problem solvers on the planet are on the job in OKC region.  (Watch for imminent message re. Oklahoma business recovery from ACCE Chairman Roy Williams!).

In spite of my perennially confusing Memorial Day feelings, I’ll stay positive.  My Oklahoma friends will figure things out.  No doubt.  We will each find our personal ways to remember those who have fought and died protecting us, but we won’t let that remembrance dampen the joys of life in America 2013.  No doubt.  And, we can each remember that there is a time for working hard and time to shut it down for a long weekend.  No doubt.


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Chamber Exec Named Father of the Year

Tania Kohut on Friday, May 17, 2013 at 12:00:00 am 
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Just in time for Father’s Day! Rick Baker, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, is one of five men who will be honored by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the Father’s Day Council of Grand Rapids, Mich., as Father of the Year.  The men will  be recognized on June 6 for their commitment to help stop diabetes in West Michigan.

According to a press release issued by the Greater Michigan ADA, these fathers were selected as Father of the Year honorees based on their ability to balance their personal and professional lives and serve as a role model for their children, while making a positive difference in their communities.

"We are proud of these exceptional fathers who have demonstrated the ability to balance a high level of success in their chosen careers and serve as great role models in our community,” said Tiana Davidson, director of the Greater Michigan ADA. “They deserve recognition not only as fathers and community leaders, but for their commitment to change the future of all people living with diabetes.”

Baker, father to Jennifer (23) and Brian (21),  is a native of Minnesota and has a distinguished 25-year career in chamber  management. He has held executive positions with chambers in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota, and has been leading the Grand Rapids Area Chamber since April of 2011.  

Baker is a graduate of the University of Colorado Institute for Organization Management and is an active member of ACCE and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He serves on the Boards of Directors of The Right Place, Inc., Downtown Alliance and the West Michigan Policy Forum. He also serves on the Heart of West Michigan United Way Campaign cabinet, City of Grand Rapids Sustainable Streets Task Force, the local government Collaboration Work Group and the State of Michigan Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives Advisory Council.

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

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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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