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Great Lakes Torn on Energy Policy

Ian Scott on Thursday, August 20, 2009 at 5:22:04 pm 
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An article in this week's Economist examines how the Great Lakes region is torn over energy policy.  

On one hand, Great Lakes communities are proving that you don't have to be in the desert southwest to benefit from solar energy.  New "green" businesses that produce solar panels or wind turbines are sprouting up in cities like Toledo and Grand Rapids.

However, while this green sector is expanding, it is still only accounts for a small fraction of total employment.  Traditional manufacturing, while struggling, still creates more than 15% of the total jobs in Michigan and Indiana.

This dichotomy underscores the debate over the proposed cap-and-trade regime supported by the Obama administration.  The policy may further stimulate the growing green segment of the economy, but almost certainly at the expense of the traditional manufacturers that have long been the region's economic bedrock.

Read more in this article from The Economist

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The Cost of Prisons

Ian Scott on Wednesday, August 19, 2009 at 12:04:44 am 
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Budget cuts will be a reality for many states in the coming months and years.  Chambers of commerce need to press state legislators to take a long, hard look at state spending and help identify areas were cuts might be appropriate.

One major cost center that state's can not overlook in this economy is the penal system.  According to the Vera Institute of Justice, corrections come second only to Medicaid, as the fastest growing general fund expenditure in the United States.  An article in last week's Economist cited California's per inmate expenditure at $49,000 annually.

It is possible to cut costs in the penal system through operating efficiencies, recidivism reduction and release policy, and thereare best practice examples for each.  However, all can be politically difficult to achieve.

As your state examines potential budget cuts that will impact vital programs, make sure you know options - like penal system reform - that can also be put on the table for discussion.

For a more an overview of this issue, check out Neal Peirce's column from the lasted issue of Citiwire - Prison Spending Hits a Brick Wall

To get in-depth and learn best practices for reducing the cost of corrections, heck out this Vera Institute report - The Fiscal Crisis in Corrections: Rethinking Policies and Practices.  The Vera Institute of Justice is an independent, non-profit committed to addressing issues in the justice system through research and technical assistance. 

For more info look at the Pew Center on the States - Public Safety Performance Initiative.  Their 2008 Report - One in 100: Behind Bars in America - chronicles the swelling prison population and the unsustainable impact it is having on state budgets.

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Specter Will Support Cloture on Card Check

Ian Scott on Monday, August 17, 2009 at 7:20:30 pm 
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Washington D.C. political newspaper The Hill reported on Friday that Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter (D) will vote with Democrats in support of a cloture vote on a modified version of Card Check. 

Cloture is a procedural motion requiring 60 votes that would override a filibuster and force a vote.  If every other Democratic Senator were to vote in favor of cloture on a version of the Employee Free Choice Act, they could force a vote.

The announcement, before a group of liberal leaning bloggers, comes amid a roller coaster year for the Senator surrounding this issue.  In March, after months of speculation and lobbying from both sides, Specter, then a Republican, said that he would not support cloture on Card Check.  Several weeks later Sen. Specter switched political parties and re-opened the door for support of an amended version of EFCA.

The Card Check debate is ongoing and still demands attention from your organization and your members.

Click for the full story - Specter would support cloture on ‘modified’ card-check

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Seattle Chamber Supports Tunnel, Accessible Waterfront

Ian Scott on Friday, August 14, 2009 at 6:17:07 pm 
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A big issue in Seattle's upcoming mayoral and city council elections is what to do about replacing the Alaska Way Viaduct, an elevated freeway that is currently a physical barrier between downtown Seattle and the Puget Sound.  The options, dig a tunnel and add transit options, or revamp surface transportation.  $2.4 billion in state funding has already been allocated for the tunnel, but campaign rhetoric suggests the battle is not over.

The Greater Seattle Chamber has been actively involved in this issue for a long timehas lent their voice to the debate with a chairman's message that builds that clearly builds the case for the tunnel.  The call to action - forward to message to friends, family and colleagues to set the record strait.  Here is an excerpt from that message -

" ...instead of getting a world-class waterfront which our citizens can enjoy, the surface option would have given us a super-sized parking lot for cars and trucks on the waterfront, downtown and I-5. Indeed, an independent consultant retained by the city of Seattle concluded that the surface plan would have undermined the livability of downtown and its pedestrian feel by choking up city streets. Our citizens deserve better."

This is a great example of a chamber community leadership in helping maintain focus on long-term priorities - effective transportation and a walkable waterfront - in the face of loud political rhetoric.

Click HERE to read the full message from the Chair of the Seattle Chamber.

Click HERE for more details on this story from the Seattle PI.

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Tulsa Takes the Arts to NYC

Ian Scott on Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 8:14:12 pm 
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What can Tulsa show the big apple about arts?  Apparently a quite a bit.

The Tulsa Metro Chamber, along with The City of Tulsa, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and the Oklahoma Business Roundtable, sponsored a performance of the Tulsa Ballet in New York City this week during the company's week long run at the Joyce Theater.  Before the performance, the Chamber and its partners hosted a reception for corporate site selection consultants and executives of NYC headquartered firms.

Mike Neal, President and CEO of the Tulsa Metro Chamber, said:

"The entire nation is looking at Tulsa. The Tulsa region has one of the lowest costs of doing business in the nation, a low cost of living and a high per capita income. We've been selected as the number one location in America to relocate and during this U.S. recession, now more than ever, it is important to capitalize on opportunities to tell our story."

"This event will not only change perceptions of the Tulsa region, but grow interest. It's a new era of economic development, and together with partners like Oklahoma Department of Commerce, the Chamber is making sure the nation knows we are open for business."
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Smart Cuts - Rethinking Libraries in Milwaukee

Ian Scott on Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 6:28:49 pm 
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31_31_64---Book Since their inception by Benjamen Franklin, public libraries have grown into venerable community institutions.  Not only do they serve as repositories for the printed word and connection points to the world via the internet, libraries often serve as a venue for civic engagement and cultural enrichment.

Yet, cities, towns and counties across the country are feeling the effects of this economy.  Declining property tax revenue and less support from the states have left cities cash strapped and forced to make cuts.  And despite all their merits, public libraries are among the budget items on the chopping block.

The story is no different in Milwaukee, WI.  They face the same challenges and tough budget decisions that everyone else does.  But when talk of closing libraries inevitability hit Milwaukee, the library board began exploring smart cuts and thinking about reorganization.  They have come up with 4 proposals that make use of some existing neighborhood libraries but incorporate new concepts like mixed use libraries and express libraries in existing retail space to save money.  The proposals could save the city between $500K and $1.1 million per year. 

Check out this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for more details: Board asks public about library options

While it may not ultimately be enough, the entrepreneurial spirit of this public institution is commendable.  No one wants to slash public services like libraries, but budgetary realities will force us to explore new ideas and take a close look at how efficiently and effectively our current delivery systems operate.  Local chambers can help lead this process by offering suggested based on sound business principles.

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Stimulus Spending - Best and Worst

Ian Scott on Monday, August 10, 2009 at 7:10:17 pm 
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Funding for transportation projects through the Economic Stimulus Package came with the expectation that it would get spent, quickly.  Now House Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar wants you to know which states are living up to the quick spending expectations and which are not.

According to Oberstar Wyoming is the best of the 50 States, having already spent or committed 76% of allocated stimulus funds.  They are followed by New Hampshire and Oklahoma at 64% and 53 % respectively.  Worst in the nation are Florida, Hawaii and South Carolina which have spent or committed less than 3% of allocated stimulus funds.

Click to read the article from the Christian Science Monitor

Click to HEREto read Oberstar's letters to the Governors fo the best and worst performing states.  The House Transportation Committee website also provides access to state-by-state information on how much stimulus transportation money has been spent.

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ACCE Partners with Green Plus Initiative

Ian Scott on Monday, August 10, 2009 at 5:30:11 pm 
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ACCE announced late last month that it will partner with the North Carolina Research Triangle based  Institute for Sustainable Development to offer Green Plus, a program to help small businesses succeed while becoming stronger stewards of the environment and their communities.

Businesses participating in Green Plus are evaluated on their business, environmental and community engagement practices, receive university-based coaching, access to a national business network, and may be Certified Green Plus upon achieving high scores across three categories - People, Planet, and Performance.

Green Plus certification is not industry or product specific, but instead is a recognition program that works across sectors for small businesses in any industry. Additional information about the program can be found at www.gogreenplus.org.

Click for the ACCE Press Release.

Click for coverage of this partnership from the Durham, NC Herald-Sun - Green Plus program gets big boost

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Congratulations Chamber of the Year Award Winners!

Ian Scott on Monday, August 10, 2009 at 4:41:02 pm 
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2009COY_LogoRGB Winners of the 2009 ACCE Chamber of the Year Award were named at the the Awards Gala and Dinner at the ACCE Annual Convention held this year in Raleigh, NC. The 2009 Chamber of the Year winners, according to their total revenue category, are:

Columbus (IN) Area Chamber of Commerce
$450,001 - $900,000 Total Revenue Category

Bowling Green (KY) Area Chamber of Commerce
$900,001 - $2,000,000 Total Revenue Category

Nashville (TN) Area Chamber of Commerce
$2,000,001 and up Total Revenue Category

Click for the full ACCE Chamber of the Year Press Release

The following links connect you to local coverage of the ACCE Chamber of the Year Award:

The award is sponsored by the business growth expert Steven S. Little.

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What to Do When Twitter is Down?

ACCE Webmaster on Thursday, August 6, 2009 at 6:02:40 pm 
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Norma-web Top 11 Things for Chamber Government Affairs Tweeps to Do When Twitter is Down

By: Norma Johnson
VP of Legislative Affairs
Lubbock (TX) Chamber of Comemrce

  1. Go hang around the membership director’s office and ask “Has anyone quit because of our stance on xyz or endorsement of Joe Blow lately?” It will be painful for you but cathartic for the membership director. (Gov affairs folks are a giving people).
  2. Go to the finance director’s office and ask how much your division lacks being a “revenue generating” division this budget year. (Same pain for you, same cathartic exercise for finance director as above).
  3. Type up minutes from the last 3 lege affairs committee meetings (you know you’ve been putting them off).
  4. Go hang out at City Hall whether there’s a reason for you to be there or not. See how long it takes for rumors to start about what you’re doing down there.
  5. Go to other Chambers’ sites and see what can be stolen (I mean, “modeled”) from them.
  6. Read that 1,000 page health care bill that John Conyers didn’t.
  7. Send flowers to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison from Tx Gov Rick Perry and to Rick from KBH. (Can’t we all just get along?)
  8. Finally go to some blog sites and take time to read the entire blog to learn how to blog like Sarah Hubbard! - www.sarahhubbard.com
  9. Go outside. Listen to the real and original “tweets”.
  10. Waste time creating “top things” lists.
  11. Go to the Milwaukee CVB site to prepare for ACCE next year!!!

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