Two Birds, One Stone

Hannah Nequist on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 4:00:00 pm 
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Charleston Chamber in DC and Richmond

Last week, the Charleston Metro Chamber was able to check two major programmatic boxes with one trip. On their way to Richmond for an annual ICV, they added a D.C. leg to the trip. After a direct arrival into Reagan National Airport, thanks to the recent addition of JetBlue service to the Charleston Airport, the delegation headed for the Capitol Visitor’s Center for lunch.

Chamber members met with staffers from their key legislators and spent time with Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a crowd favorite. Each guest spent time addressing some of the chamber’s highest priority issues: Ex-Im Bank reauthorization, the deepening of the Charleston harbor and passage of a new federal highway authorization bill. The legislators’ familiarity with the chamber’s key focus areas was a testament to the chamber’s advocacy efforts.

Senator Scott expressed gratitude to the chamber, saying, “Thank you for what you do to help make our community amazing.” When asked what the delegation could do to continue their support of the region, Scott advised local businesses to help create the future today, stressing the importance of being on the cutting edge of high tech advancements and also to focus on middle-skill jobs.

After lunch, a charter bus transported the group south to Virginia’s capitol. In a partnership with the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, the Charleston Metro Chamber produced a Regional Economic Scorecard which compares Charleston’s data from 2005-2013 against six similar cities and two “leading economies”, with Richmond among the comparative. Selecting Richmond as the destination for their 4th Annual Metro Leadership Visit allowed the chamber’s attendees to make practical comparisons and see how programs, practices and initiatives could be realistically translated back to their own community.

The first stop in Richmond took attendees to Rocketts Landing, a new mixed-use neighborhood on the James River. Richard Souter, one of the developers of the project, was the first to address the group. Attendees learned how the project has become a catalyst for other riverside development, such as a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route and the new Stone Brewery plant and bistro. Richmond’s Economic Development Authority COO, Jane Ferrara, also talked the group through the bid process for the Stone project – one for which Charleston was also in competition.

The next two days included tours and presentations on a host of other topics such as urban living, BRT, Virginia’s Biotechnology Park, creativity and entrepreneurism. Although the range of topics was diverse, the common theme was growth and development. Several attendees alluded to a growing divide in Charleston between those that want to see the city grow, and those that want to preserve its historic charm. The chamber supports “responsible growth”, so it is no wonder they are looking to Richmond and other historic cities to see how leaders there are successfully getting things done with public support.

The diversity of topics also served as a recruitment tool for the trip. The roughly 30 delegates represented an array of industries such as banking, technology, architecture and development, educational institutions, hospitality and others. One attendee remarked that the diverse networking opportunities was a big motivator in attending the visit. She also appreciated getting to know peers in this type of environment, because it affords an opportunity to connect on a deeper level.

Also of benefit to attendees is the value of meeting with and learning from thought leaders in other flourishing destinations. One attendee, a professor at the College of Charleston, voiced his appreciation for educational opportunities such as the leadership visit. “Every time I come to a chamber event, I come away with something new. It is the only conduit to ‘all of this’”, he said as he gestured around him.   

Tags: D.C. Fly-in; Regional Benchmarking, economic development; intercity visit

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Bridging the Skills Gap in Greensboro

Jessie Azrilian on Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 12:00:00 am 
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The Greensboro (NC) Chamber of Commerce has a big goal to raise higher education attainment in Guilford County to 51% by 2025. As part of this effort, they are focusing on adult college completion, with the goal of ensuring at least 1,500 adults return to school, of which 1,000 complete their degree by 2016. In 2014, the Chamber received a Lumina Education Attainment Award for their efforts to close the skills gap in their community through connecting students to aviation-related manufacturing and STEM skills.

Interview participant:

  • Deborah Hooper, President, Greensboro (NC) Chamber of Commerce

Awardee Spotlight

Q: Can you provide some background on how your community began to focus on education attainment and workforce development?

Employer surveys were revealing a critical skills gap in Greensboro. Local companies saying they were unable to find a workforce qualified to fill available positions juxtaposed with a high unemployment rate. The local United Way and The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro convened key stakeholders to form the Greensboro Works Task Force (Task Force).  The Task Force addressed the intersection of workforce development, family economic success, and degree and credential attainment.  After researching potential solutions, the Task Force recommended three programs:

  • Degrees Matter!: this is a shared partnership between The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, Opportunity Greensboro and The United Way of Greater Greensboro whose mission is to increase the number of adults with college degrees in Greater Greensboro/High Point by engaging, connecting and supporting the 67,000+ residents who have been to college but not finished a degree.
  • National Fund for Workforce Solutions: Greensboro has been pursuing an invitation to become an official site for this unprecedented initiative of national and local funder collaboratives targeting career advancement for workers and a more skilled and stable workforce for employers. The fund provides matching dollars and technical assistance in 32 sites nationwide.  A local funders collaborative matches national funds that are re-granted to local sector-based Workforce Partnerships.
  • Family Economic Success (FES) Assessment: this is led by the local United Way. The Aspen Institute and Annie E. Casey Foundation have created frameworks that are helping communities across the country assess strengths, challenges, gaps and opportunities in the economic success of families. This assessment tool gives particular attention to improving job opportunities and building assets for families.

Q: How did your chamber become involved? 

A: The Chamber got the ball rolling in 2012 because they kept hearing that there were 1,000 “difficult to fill” jobs due to employers not finding qualified workers. That data was never sourced, and no one knew where it was coming from. The Chamber approached the local HR Management Association and Workforce Development Board to collaborate on an employer survey to assess this statistic. The problem was worse than expected: rather than 1,000 “difficult to fill” positions, the survey revealed that the actual number was 1,775 for the 136 companies that responded. The survey also revealed a critical need in the Aviation industry and Aviation-related manufacturing for workers with STEM skills.

Q: How does your chamber measure/benchmark success?

A: One goal we benchmark is raising post-secondary education attainment in Guilford County to 51% by 2025. Part of this goal is adult college completion, ensuring at least 1,500 adults to return to school, of which 1,000 complete their degree by 2016.

The chamber also regularly conducts workforce surveys in order to strengthen the workforce pipeline and continue reducing the number of “difficult to fill” jobs.

Q: How are your education/workforce development initiatives funded?

The chamber’s efforts are funded by business members through our annual fundraising campaign. The Chamber has also collaborated on a marketing initiative called Aviation Triad that is funded by six community colleges, three cities, three aerospace employers, a foundation, and the airport authority.  Aviation Triad is now in its second year raising the number of qualified applicants for available aviation jobs. The annual fundraising goal to support the Aviation Triad work is $200,000. The Chamber plans to expand the initiative through additional partnerships to reconnect the untapped talent of returning military personnel to aviation jobs. 

Q: What best practices and/or lessons learned can you share with other chamber professionals working on education reform?

A: There are many facets of education reform and workforce development.  We had to figure out which one(s), if resolved, would have the greatest impact on student success and workforce/talent development.  Best practices learned include: (1) doing the necessary groundwork to develop a coalition and collaborative environment between key stakeholders that will minimize destructive politics and help keep everyone focused on staying the course to achieve the desired results; and (2) keeping everyone informed and celebrating the progress made toward desired results so that they stay engaged.

Is your chamber leading efforts to increase the proportion of people in your community with degrees and high-equality credentials? Find out more about the Lumina Education Attainment Award program, and see if your chamber is eligible! Applications are due Friday, May 22.

Tags: higher education, Lumina, postsecondary, workforce development, economic development, education, Goal 2025

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Chambers Among Top ED Groups in the Nation

Hannah Nequist on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 12:00:00 pm 
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Chambers of Commerce operate under many different names, and can have very different mission statements. But one thing seems to be true across the board - chambers function to support and improve the business climate and economic vitality of the areas they serve. 

So, it comes as no surprise that the work of chambers is consistently highlighted by top Economic Development industry publications. This week, Site Selection Magazine announced its list of Top US Economic Development Groups for 2014 as part of its May issue. Chambers and their affiliated programs made up 6 of the top 10 - and 2 more were honorable mentions.

This year's top groups were selected based on four objective criteria: jobs, capital investment, jobs per capita and investment per capita. Additional subjective criteria such as creativity of ED strategy, scope of project activity and the ability to link the EDO to real results were also considered. Those chambers recognized include:

Join ACCE in congratulating these organizations on receiving recognition for their tireless efforts in support of their communities. 

Tags: Economic Developmen

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Creating Career Pathways in Aurora

Jessie Azrilian on Monday, May 4, 2015 at 3:00:00 pm 
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Chambers Mobilizing Towards a "Big Goal"

Situated 35 miles west of Chicago, the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce serves as a catalyst for business development for the second largest community in the State of Illinois. In 2014, the Chamber received a Lumina Education Attainment Award to strengthen Pathways to Prosperity, a regional collective impact effort, which is developing career pathways in information technology, health sciences and advanced manufacturing. The Chamber and community partners are working to align existing programs with current and future business needs, and to ensure the initial pathways include opportunities for internships, dual credit and stackable credentials. 

Interview participant: 

  • Joseph Henning, President & CEO 

Awardee Spotlight

 Q: Can you provide some background on how your community began to focus on education attainment and workforce development?

 A: For more than 25 years the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce convened a business-education partnership group – which placed business-member volunteers in individual schools and even individual classrooms – but objectives were fragmented. The Pathways to Prosperity program was recognized within the state for a number of initiatives we were doing within the schools, but it just wasn’t enough considering what we were hearing from employers in Aurora about workforce needs and industry-specific skills gaps. We realized we needed to refocus our efforts and move into that new, collaborative arena.

 This is my 10th year at the Chamber, and education and workforce development has been a continuous conversation over the past decade. Employers were demanding a more skilled workforce and kept asking what the Chamber could do. What our employers realized is that the skills gap issue is not something you can tackle on your own, and as much as we tried pushing the needle on our end, we too realized that we just couldn’t do it alone. We were fortunate that the last couple of years everyone got to the same point and came to the table. Six months ago we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Aurora, the community college, and four local school districts. With that MOU, we now have an official partnership and each entity can now hold each other accountable.

 Q: You were awarded ACCE’s Lumina Education Attainment Award to support your chamber’s involvement in the Pathways to Prosperity program. Can you tell me about the program’s origins and your chamber’s specific role in its implementation?

A: Around the same time our initial education-focused conversations started, the West Aurora School District was interested in Pathways to Prosperity, a nationwide project of 10 states created by Harvard University and Jobs for the Future. We joined them at the start to provide insight into the skills needs of area employers. We did an asset map, and through that process we identified three industries to address through the pathways program: IT, health sciences, and advanced manufacturing. We went from being a partner at the table, assisting in the development of the asset map, to taking on a leadership role. Today, we are coordinating some of the pathway deliverables and processes while also ensuring all partners are focused on the same mission.

Pathways to Prosperity focuses on creating pathways of career exploration, awareness and development for students in grades 9-14. The goal is to link high schools, community colleges and employers to increase the number of youth who complete high school and attain a postsecondary credential with labor market value. For example, if students are interested in the IT sector, we have designed a curriculum that exposes them to the different careers they can have within that sector, and the education path and certifications needed to get those careers. Once they graduate high school they may have earned dual credit with the local community college, industry certifications, and/or stackable credentials. The stackable credential piece is key and will allow students to build upon a certification received in school. We just had our very first student in the IT Pathway pass the Microsoft Certification Exam, which was our first win within that specific certification process.  Another example of success is that students within our Health Sciences Pathway graduate prepped for CNA Certification. After graduation, they can build on that to earn a RN Certification. Essentially, we are designing these pathways and credentials in a way that teaches students to understand the value of adding education and certifications to their portfolio after graduation.

Q: Tell me about your chamber's overall education/workforce development portfolio.

A: Our whole portfolio of work is really about a collaborative effort. We have a long history of working with many community partners - including our educational institutions, our workforce investment board and Pathways to Prosperity partners to name a few.

In some cases, our work involves advocacy. For example, we recently used the legislative process for approval of a STEM Academy for grades 3-8. We had to get new legislation passed for the academy because there was nothing currently on the books in Springfield to support it. The STEM Academy is in partnership with our local university and is offered to three partner school districts in our area. The STEM Academy sits on the university campus, which is unique because students are exposed to the college-campus experience, and the Academy’s educators are able to get a graduate level education. Academy faculty come from the three partner schools, and while they are teaching at the STEM Academy, they are able to take courses in specific subject areas. Once they have completed their teaching assignment, they go back to their home school district and become leaders in schools in helping develop curriculum and professional development supports for faculty. It is a very unique program, and there are a number of businesses involved in creating that STEM curriculum.

 We also partner with our local Workforce Investment Board to implement an advanced manufacturing internship program.  We worked with a number of our manufacturers to provide hands-on experience and class time to students so they get a better understanding of what manufacturing is – including everything from global manufacturing facilities to small, local shops. Part of that classroom component requires students to complete OSHA training and receive their OSHA certification through that process. This gives them one certification to add to their portfolio, which is the whole idea behind all of this. We are encouraging stackable credentials and certifications for students to build upon.

Q: How are your education and workforce development initiatives funded?

A: We are fortunate to be a recipient of ACCE’s Lumina Education Attainment Award, which has significantly helped us support our partnerships and corresponding efforts. Currently, the entities sitting at the leadership table are contributing to the success of our work. The City of Aurora has provided funding towards our education attainment programs. The school districts are providing in-kind resources, such as senior leadership staff time and expertise and professional development opportunities for their educators.

We also currently have support from employers with curriculum development and internships, but we’re taking steps be able to go to them for financial support by getting the pieces together to show the successes of our programs.

Q: This is obviously a large investment in terms of resources and staff capacity. How do you make it work from an organizational standpoint?

A: In terms of capacity, we are very limited in our staff resources, with two full-time and two part-time staff members. The two part-time staff members are very specific to operations, and the two full-time staff include a membership director and myself. So it is a bit of a juggle. This is a passion of mine, continuing education and workforce development, so it’s really one of those responsibilities that I have happily added. We are also fortunate to have a consultant who is helping us with some of the research agenda and follow-up from meetings, etc. It is a huge time commitment, but in my opinion, it will pay off in the future. Sometimes, work is even accomplished through our volunteers. We’ve got a great set of business leaders who are really involved in either developing curriculum or providing internships. Once we start seeing more outcomes, we can explore a couple different options, including adding a workforce development position to the team here, or it might be appropriate to create a foundation and house that staff within it.

Q: What best practices and/or lessons learned can you share with other chamber professionals working on education reform?

A: We hear it a lot, but success doesn’t happen overnight. I hate to be cliché driven, but once you fall, you’ve got to get back up. This has been something I have been working toward for 10 years now, and sometimes, you just have to have everything in alignment to be successful.

We are fortunate to have a great collaborative relationship with the city, the community college and our local school districts. You have got to rely on that collaborative piece, especially when you are a chamber with limited staff capacity. There is nothing that we do that is 100% driven by the chamber, whether its programs, events, or advocacy.                           

The key strength that a chamber brings is that we are the conduit for the business community and education. Sometimes you have to build that trust. Traditionally, business and education have not been the best of partners – there are often philosophical differences– and I think at times you just have to listen to what the needs are from both sides of the table.

Also, celebrate the small steps. Like I said before, we had one student pass the Microsoft Certification Exam – which is a small step for us, but we are very excited. Another small win is that we will begin next school year with three pathways in each of our seven participating high schools. Based on registrations for that academic year, we have realized a 25 percent increase in enrollments in Pathways-specific courses. Long-term goals such as moving that graduation needle may take 12 years to see a significant change, and nobody is going to wait around that long! Celebrate those small steps because that is how you win the race.


Tags: higher education, Lumina, postsecondary, workforce development, economic development, education, Goal 2025

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Upstate N.Y.’s New Advocate for Regional Business

Tania Kohut on Friday, May 1, 2015 at 12:00:00 am 
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The memberships of the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber and the Chamber of Schenectady County have voted to integrate into one umbrella organization: the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce. According to an article in Albany Business Review, the move forms "the largest chamber in the Albany, New York region" that will serve regional business interests and provide broad-based member services. Both chambers will exist as affiliate members of the Capital Region Chamber. They will operate with their own identities and boards, and continue to present locally-focused programs and provide issue advocacy at the local level.

Integration of the two chambers will occur over the coming months. The Capital Region Chamber will have nearly 3,000 members, representing more than 140,000 employees. Mark Eagan, president and CEO of the Albany-Colonie chamber, will be CEO; Chuck Steiner, president and CEO of the Schenectady chamber will serve as president.


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Affinity Programs QuickPoll Results

HERO Team / Holly South on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 3:00:00 pm 
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We recently polled members on the performance of their affinity programs. Here's a sampling of the results:

The majority of chambers managing affinity programs earn less than 1% of their total revenue from these programs:








And these chambers don't necessarily expect this to change: Less than a quarter of respondents are seeing increasing revenues from affinity programs.








Click here for the complete results, including the types of products and services chambers offer, as well as how members rate the performance of their affinity programs.

For related information and resources, visit our Chamberpedia page on Affinity Programs.

Tags: Research, Affinity Programs, HERO, QuickPolls

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Slam-Dunk Honor in Akron

Tania Kohut on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 12:00:00 am 
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Earlier this month, the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce enjoyed some celebrity sizzle during its annual meeting banquet when it honored Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star LeBron James. James, a four-time NBA MVP, attended the event to accept the H. Peter Burg Leadership Award, recognizing his leadership and philanthropic efforts in Akron. The award annually honors a community member who exemplifies community service.

According to the Akron Beacon Journal/, the LeBron James Family Foundation "has awarded millions of dollars — from books to bikes, computers to basketball courts — to groups around Akron and the nation."
An article on said the "Foundation's biggest project in Akron has been its I Promise program, which has encouraged 700 Akron public school students to pledge to do their homework and listen to teachers and parents."


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Preparing Tomorrow's Talent in Birmingham

Jessie Azrilian on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 12:00:00 pm 
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Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) is focused on building a pipeline of students who participate in career themed high school academies and career-tech programs, pursue post-secondary credentials and/or degrees and fill available jobs in the region’s targeted industries.  BBA received a 2014-15 Lumina Education Attainment Award to build upon this effort. The BBA is working to develop a web presence and marketing campaign for its newly launched Talent Recruitment Project, a program that hosts sector themed events to connect the workforce opportunities of Birmingham’s employers to college students as they near graduation. 

BBA’s VP of Workforce Development, Waymond Jackson, provided an interview to discuss BBA’s talent recruitment and development portfolio, from cradle-to-career. 

Q: What led BBA to focus on education attainment and workforce development?

 The demand from area companies to have a skilled and educated workforce led the BBA and its leaders to focus on education attainment and workforce development. In 2009, the Birmingham Business Alliance was formed through a merger of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and our regional economic development organization, the Metropolitan Development Board. Shortly after the BBA was formed, Market Street Service led the strategic planning process for our organization. Out of that research grew our strategic plan, Blueprint Birmingham. Blueprint was built upon four pillars: economic prosperity, education and workforce development, community and regional stewardship, and public and private leadership. Now, in the fifth year of that plan we are truly seeing the importance of having a sustained focus on preparing students at all levels of the education pipeline to be skilled and ready as they enter college and/or the workforce. 

Q: How do you explain the growth in your education/workforce development pillar?

Jackson: Now more than ever, it is easier for organizations like the BBA to justify our high prioritization of education and workforce development. Current information in Alabama suggests that 50% of our current workforce could retire today.  With such a large percentage of the current workforce at retirement age, it is very important that future workers are prepared to immediately step in and fill those positions or those yet to be created positions. As economic developers and site selectors continue to hear from expanding or relocating companies that access to talent is a critical component of economic development projects, organizations that are involved in the type of work we do will continue to have a role to play in the process; including working with educators at all levels to make sure they are informed of the latest industry trends and required skills of future workers. Overall, we want to make sure that the companies that invest in the BBA and in our region are able to find the high skilled talent they need. 

Q: Tell me about your chamber's comprehensive education/workforce development portfolio.

Jackson: We have active initiatives in four big areas to meet the goals and objectives of Blueprint Birmingham.

Improve Pre-k-12th Grade Education: When creating PreK-12 programs we look at whether students are getting the type of education that will allow them to graduate from high school and be ready to either take a job in our region or enter one of our local colleges. Once they enter college, we look at whether the classes and programs offered support the types of jobs available locally. 

Implementing Innovative Programs in Under-performing Schools: We are helping to establish career academies throughout the Birmingham City School System. Each high school now has a career-themed academy placed within the school into which students can self-select. These academies align with industry jobs growing in the Birmingham region. Academy themes include engineering, construction and architecture, health sciences, culinary arts, finance, and an urban teacher’s academy. We are also implementing a technology academy. All of the academies are aligned with the National Academy Foundation (NAF) which works very closely with Nashville City Schools (a model we looked at when creating the career academies). We provide industry data to Birmingham City Schools which informs them of available jobs in local industries, and the training and/or education needed to move into those jobs.  

Increasing Access to Pre-K: We are advocates for expansion of the state of Alabama’s First Class Pre-K. The state of Alabama has one of the highest ranked Pre-K programs in the country, and we are one of only 5 states to receive a designation from the National Institute for Early Education Research - meeting all 10 of the Institute’s benchmarks for quality. However, as of 2012, only 4% of 4-year olds had access to the program.  Since we began advocating, along with a host of other organizations who are truly leading the charge, access to Pre-K has risen from 4% to 12% statewide and funding from $19.1 million to $38.5 million.  Most of the data and information on Pre-K says that it works; for that reason, expanding access to high quality Pre-K has been a priority of not only our organization, but of our regional and state leaders as well. 

Encourage Two and Four Year Degree Programs that Support Regional Industry Sectors: ACCE’s Lumina Education Attainment Award has allowed us to expand the talent retention and attraction objectives in our Blueprint. This entails working with businesses and local colleges/universities to: 1) understand what gaps companies have in positions that require two or four year degrees, especially for entry level jobs; 2) establish innovative programs that makes college students aware of the type of jobs in the Birmingham region; and 3) provide students with facilitated meetings, interviews and hiring opportunities with hiring managers and recruiters through our Talent Recruitment Project. 

Q: How does your chamber measure success?

Jackson: We benchmark success across several areas of the cradle-to-career spectrum: 

Talent Recruitment: We are starting to look at census data as a way to track talent progress. For example, over the past three years, the Birmingham region has seen a 48% increase in workers between the ages of 25-34 with a bachelor’s degree. This is a measurement we can look at and use to support our ongoing image enhancement efforts that support talent recruitment.  

Talent Retention: We also measure how many people are coming here, what companies they are working for, and if we are retaining them. We have a retention program, OnBoard Birmingham, which targets early-career employees who possess a four-year degree and are working with regional companies in our in-demand industry sectors. The program exposes them to the community, peers in different industries, mentors, service, and leadership opportunities.  As we continue to see a rise in our four-year degree population of 25 – 34 year olds we want to make sure that we are creating an environment that encourages them to grow and stay. 

High School Graduation & Dropout Rates: One of the intended outcomes of the career academies and hands-on innovative learning programs in our secondary schools is to reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates. We want students to take a more hands-on approach to learning and create an environment where they actually want to come to school, learn, and know that what they are learning directly applies to the next step of their life – being college and/or career-ready.  

Kindergarten Readiness: Right now the main measurement for Pre-K students is access. We are starting to shift to measuring the percentage of students who have access to Pre-K that are considered “ready” when they enter kindergarten.

Career-Ready: Industry credentialing, work keys assessment, and lower college remediation rates are all things we look at to determine career readiness.  Also, tracking the number of two and four year college graduates with degrees that are applicable to our target industry sectors is very important.  

Q: How are your education/workforce development initiatives funded?

Jackson: We are funded through the investments and dues of our investors. Our workforce programs are included within the overall budget of the organization. We also go after foundation funding–local and national-specifically targeted toward education and workforce outcomes. 

ACCE’s Lumina Education Attainment Award is the first national grant we have received. But these grants are to support very specific programs, not for our organizational capacity. 

Q: What best practices and/or lessons learned can you share with other chamber professionals working on education reform?

Jackson: Following best practices is a best practice! Research existing models, and put your own spin on it. Truly, that is one of the things that has helped me be successful. If you look through our Blueprint Birmingham Strategic Plan, it is littered with examples of programs from other areas. Our original version has the career academy model from Nashville and parent university model from Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

As far as lessons learned, remember to be patient and build relationships. Working to change education systems that have been in place for a long time doesn’t happen overnight. I really think school districts sometimes think that the business community’s efforts will be short-lived when it comes to engagement. That is sometimes why you get resistance in changing programs and processes within schools. But being persistent and consistent helps a lot.

In order to get the type of reform that the business community is looking for, you have to play in the arena. You need to be engaged with your local school board. You need to build relationships with your teachers and superintendents and allow them to have input.  But, most importantly, you have to clearly know the needs of industry and be able to communicate that to your education partners and community stakeholders.  

ACCE has embraced Lumina Foundation’s Goal 2025, a national effort to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. Working in partnership with Lumina, ACCE’s Education Attainment Division launched a competitive awards program, providing chambers of commerce a $40,000 award to advance defined regional education attainment goals. In 2014, seven chambers of commerce received awards for setting ambitious workforce development agendas and showing momentum in achieving their community-specific goals.

The 2015-16 Lumina Education Attainment Awards application will launch April 27. 

Tags: higher education, Lumina, postsecondary, EAD, economic development, education, Goal 2025

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A Map That Was Worth 1,000 Words

Chris Mead on Monday, April 20, 2015 at 12:00:00 am 
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Chambers of commerce affect history in strange ways.

Harry Gold watched nervously as FBI agents ransacked his Philadelphia apartment. They had been tipped off by a spy for the Soviets, British citizen Klaus Fuchs, that someone had been a courier between Fuchs and others in an atomic spy ring. Fuchs couldn’t name the person, but the FBI managed to infer from Fuchs and other evidence that the individual might be Gold.

It was May 22, 1950. The Soviets had detonated an atomic bomb nine months earlier, which President Truman had announced to the nation. The resulting hysteria, fanned by Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, was gripping the country. The idea that one of the most murderous regimes in history, Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, now had a weapon of mass destruction, was too much to bear. Yes, without spies the Soviets sooner or later would have devised their own bomb, but for them to have it years ahead of schedule represented an obvious danger for America and her allies. (Indeed, as some pointed out later in the year, the Soviets’ having the atomic bomb may have been what emboldened Kim Il Sung of North Korea to invade South Korea in June 1950, setting off a war that would cost 35,000 U.S. lives.)

Who had leaked our secrets to Moscow? Harry Gold, an unassuming, pudgy chemist, considered kind and likeable by those who knew him, was not a likely suspect. Moreover, when the federal agents asked him if he had been to the Manhattan Project laboratories in Los Alamos, N. M., he said no, he hadn’t even been west of the Mississippi.

The G-men, Scotty Miller and Richard Brennan, continued their search. Miller reached behind a bookcase and found a brochure. It included a detailed map of Santa Fe, N.M. It was published by the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce.

“I thought you said you’d never been out West,” Miller said to Gold. Taken aback, Gold opened his mouth, sat down and said, “I am the man to whom Fuchs gave the information.”[i]

The evidence against Gold was not conclusive. He might have escaped arrest if he had kept his mouth shut.[ii] But somehow that map, and perhaps his own feelings of guilt or his desire to be helpful, undermined his instinct for self-preservation. He opened up to the agents. Two days later, Fuchs, shown a photo of Gold, confirmed that he was the man Fuchs had worked with. Gold would go on to help the FBI on dozens of investigations, many of which he suggested. The atomic spy ring case was about to be blown wide open.

Gold fingered David Greenglass, a former Army officer assigned to Los Alamos in 1944 and 1945. Greenglass, in turn, implicated his brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg, and eventually Rosenberg’s wife (and David Greenglass’s sister) Ethel, too. Greenglass had bargained to save his wife from prosecution.[iii]

The results were soon delivered by the courts. Gold received a 30-year sentence and served 14 years of it; Greenglass got a 15-year sentence and served 9 ½ years of it; and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were electrocuted at Sing Sing Prison on June 19, 1953.

Thus did a simple chamber of commerce map play a role in the greatest spy drama in American history. In events of not only national, but sometimes of world importance, chambers of commerce stubbornly, often in unexpected and even unintended ways, kept at their business. In the atomic age, when communities could be blown off the face of the earth, towns’ and cities’ chambers of commerce still would remain, one way or another, on the map.



[i] Robert J. Lamphere and Tom Schactman, The FBI-KGB War: A Special Agent’s Story (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1995; previous edition, 1986), 151. Lamphere was the agent dealing with Klaus Fuchs in London while his colleagues were handling Gold in Philadelphia.


[ii] Gold’s biographer has written that the spy from Philadelphia could have escaped arrest if he had not confessed. See: Allen Hornblum, “Convicted Spy Harry Gold was Philadelphia’s Benedict Arnold,” Web posting on, November 3, 2010. Hornblum’s biography was: The Invisible Harry Gold: The Man Who Gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010 ).


[iii] Among the many sources describing the spy ring and its unraveling is this version from the FBI: “The Atom Spy Case,” from “Famous Cases and Criminals,” Federal Bureau of Investigation:


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Helping Health Care Workers Move Up the Career Ladder

Jessie Azrilian on Monday, April 13, 2015 at 2:00:00 pm 
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Chambers Mobilizing Towards a "Big Goal" 

Metro South Chamber of Commerce received a 2014-15 Lumina Education Attainment Award for leading Careers in Health, a program targeting entry and advanced level healthcare employees who seek career advancement but require higher education, certification or licensure. To help meet the needs of the region’s top industry, the program works in partnership with several healthcare employers and four institutions of higher education, offering courses to more than 205 incumbent healthcare workers pursuing career growth opportunities. 

The Metro South Chamber serves one of Massachusetts’ fastest growing regions, consisting of eighteen communities south of Boston. The 101-year old chamber, located in the city of Brockton, has been a longtime champion of workforce development. As part of the Goal 2025 Blog Series, EAD staff interviewed Metro South's leaders who provided insights into the chamber’s history strengthening the local talent pipeline.

Interview participants: 

  • Christopher Cooney, President & CEO
  • Alison Van Dam, Vice President of Marketing, Communication & Business Development
  • Christine Karavites, Senior Consultant

Awardee Spotlight

Q: What led your chamber to focus on education attainment and workforce development?

Metro South: This is the Metro South Chamber’s 101st anniversary, and it has a long history of engaging in education and workforce development issues. Several community development initiatives originated within the chamber and grew into their own community support entities.  The Brockton Area Multi-Services Agency and Brockton 21st Century Corporation both started as chamber committees, convening stakeholders and developing workforce development strategies.

Q: You were awarded ACCE’s Lumina Education Attainment award to support your chamber’s Careers in Health program, which helps incumbent healthcare workers pursue degrees, certificates and licenses. Can you tell me about the program’s origins and the chamber’s specific role in its implementation?

Metro South: Healthcare is the region’s largest industry sector and economic driver. The Chamber had previously seen success with smaller workforce/occupational grants we’d received from state agencies ($15-35k). Two years ago the state announced that business associations were eligible for $250k Workforce Training Fund consortium grants which go to companies training employees in job-related skills through a program designed by the company. Our's was the first chamber in the state to receive this type of grant which enabled us to allocate funds to several businesses within an industry sector for employee-training activities. The healthcare sector was the obvious choice. 

Chamber staff coordinates the entire program, which targets entry and advanced level health care employees who seek career and workplace advancement but require higher education, certification, or licensure. The Chamber contracts with area colleges to develop curriculum and conduct the training. As part of the program, the Chamber's grant funds pay for the cost of employees' tuition and training with a matching contribution from employers to cover employees’ salaries while they receive training. The Chamber reaches out to healthcare employers from area hospitals and nursing homes to garner buy-in and articulate the need and value of the program as far as reducing turnover costs and increasing the supply of skilled workers to meet their industry’s need.

Q: This is just one program in your Chamber’s education/workforce portfolio, and it’s obvious that significant resources were invested - What were the resources, and how do you justify the investment from an organizational standpoint?

Metro South: The state allows the grantee to retain 10% overhead, but that doesn’t begin to cover the significant staff time and funding required to run the program. This program is only a small portion of our education and workforce development portfolio, with everything done through existing staff capacity (six full-time employees and 2 part-time employees).

However, the Chamber views this as a win-win-win.

The Chamber wins from a goal/mission-achievement standpoint. Workforce development, increasing educational levels, and serving the local healthcare industry are part of the Chamber’s economic development strategy to foster job creation and retention.

The colleges and businesses that participate in the program are chamber members. The colleges increase enrollment and receive funds from tuition fees. Employers benefit from more proficient employees and lower turnover rates.

Healthcare employees, the majority of whom are single mothers, receive training and degrees/credentials such as a Bachelors in Science Nursing or a Nursing Assistant Certification (CNA), helping them move up the career ladder and earn higher wages.

Q: Chambers are often challenged to sustain their education/workforce development work. Can you elaborate on how you've maintained and grown the the work started by the workforce training fund grant?

Metro South: Most of the hospitals and training facilities that have partnered with us are eligible to apply for their own state workforce training grants to continue the work. Now that employers have seen the benefits of participating in the program, we plan to expand the initiative by: 1) working with partnering companies to help them apply for their own workforce training funds; and 2) providing group training for healthcare employers on how to engage students in health careers and career ladder opportunities. Other ways we plan to sustain the initiative beyond the current budget include: 1) developing program implementation guides for employers as an alternative to the chamber providing one-on-one training, which can be very expensive; and 2) purchasing software to use in the chamber's business assistance center, which is a resource for employees and employers to use printers, computers, and software free of charge as well as take part in industry-specific training workshops.

Q: How do you measuring/benchmark success?

Metro South: For the Careers in Health Initiative, we collect employee-level data through surveys and ongoing and frequent dialogue with both participants and employers. The data collected tracks movement up the career ladder including wage increases, as well as employer data such as job creation and retention. A large component of the Workforce Training Consortium fund grant was tracking the return on investment for participating businesses.

All of our education/workforce development initiatives are grounded in research conducted with employers and the broader community, and they are the result of a cumulative effort over years of listening to community needs and supporting the regional healthcare industry.

Q: What advice would you give chambers interested in engaging in education attainment/workforce development?

Develop a strategy and test it with educational and employer partners. Then convene relevant stakeholders from education and business to refine the strategy and establish a plan of action.

 ACCE has embraced Lumina Foundation’s Goal 2025, a national effort to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. Working in partnership with Lumina, ACCE’s Education Attainment Division launched a competitive awards program, providing chambers of commerce a $40,000 award to advance defined regional education attainment goals. In 2014, seven chambers of commerce received awards for setting ambitious workforce development agendas and showing momentum in achieving their community-specific goals.

The 2015-16 Lumina Education Attainment Awards application will launch April 27. 


Tags: higher education, Lumina, workforce development, Big Goal, EAD, economic development, education

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