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Army, Navy Differ on Need for BRAC

Mick Fleming on Friday, March 28, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 
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Many ACCE members operate in communities that host major military installations. The different branches of the military appear to disagree on the need for a new Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round in the near future. These two stories detail the thinking of Army and Navy brass:

Whether new base closures occur or not, it is clear from the Administration’s budget proposals that some reductions in contracts and/or personnel are likely. The Office of Economic Adjustment will be working with communities affected by defense contractor reductions. Information about OEA and its service/grant-making opportunities are available in HERO.

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Will There Be Immigration Reform in 2014?

Carmen Hickerson on Monday, March 24, 2014 at 2:10:00 pm 
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It’s a challenge to provide a timely update on federal immigration reform, as there are new developments on a daily basis.  But one thing that is certain…there is considerable public pressure on the Administration and Congress to stop talking about it and get something done. In fact, a recent Gallup poll found that Americans now assign about equal importance to the two major aspects of immigration reform being debated in Washington. Forty-four percent say it is extremely important for the U.S. to develop a plan to deal with the large number of immigrants already living in the United States, and 43% say it's extremely important to halt the flow of illegal immigrants into the country by securing the borders. This is a shift from the past, when Americans were consistently more likely to rate border security as extremely important. 

Here are some of the latest developments:

  • The Senate passed its version of a comprehensive immigration reform bill last year, but the House leadership responded by saying they would deal with the issue in multiple bills rather than an omnibus reform package. They have said their approach will not be a big “1,000-page bill’, but rather it will take a sequencing approach. Both Democrats and Republicans in the House have been working on separate versions of reform bills for several months, and in late January, the House GOP unveiled its immigration reform principles.

    • Some business groups have said there is much to like in the House Republican’s list, including this from Tom Donohue, president & CEO of the U.S. Chamber, “This is a very encouraging sign that House lawmakers are serious about fixing our broken immigration system.”  (More on the U.S. Chamber and immigration reform below.)
    • Mary Ann Miller, CEO of the Tempe, AZ Chamber wrote a guest commentary in her local newspaper “Republican Standards for Immigration Reform Would Benefit Business” praising the Republican standards.
    • But national Tea Party Groups continue to oppose proposed immigration reforms calling on their Congressional members to address other, more pressing issues such as the debt ceiling, the deficit and tax reform first.

  • Despite House Speaker John Boehner’s comments in February that the House Republicans didn’t trust Obama enough on border security issues to pass immigration reform, the Speaker now seems to be more committed to passing something. Following a meeting with President Obama earlier this month, he said, “We agree immigration reform is a priority. He wants to get it done. I want to get it done.  But he’s going to have to help us in this process.”  He declined to say what Obama could do to win the GOP’s trust on the issue.

  • The sticking point for House Republicans is amnesty.  Boehner told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he believes any reform package needs to include a pathway to citizenship for illegals but that doesn’t mean amnesty.  Boehner added, “Some want to call it amnesty, but I reject that premise…if you come in and plead guilty and pay a fine, that’s not amnesty.” 

However, Republican Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Jeff Sessions (AL) contend that previous immigration ideas pushed by the House leadership that allow for illegals to obtain U.S. citizenship are indeed amnesty plans.  Mr. Sessions distributed a “Myth vs. Fact” document to counter what he called GOP leadership spin on immigration reform. The document claims “any plan that provides special privileges to those who are in the country today but does not extend the same privileges to those coming into the country illegally tomorrow is amnesty.”

  • Meanwhile, House Democrats have said they plan to launch an official petition drive to force the Republican majority to vote on the Democratic version of an immigration bill…as soon as they get finished forcing a vote on a minimum-wage increase.   The maneuver known as a ‘discharge petition’ is a way for the minority party in the House on its priorities.  If they are able to get signatures from the majority of the members of Congress, the House leadership has to bring up the legislation. 

The Democratic immigration reform bill, which is similar to the bill passed by the Senate, has 192 Democratic sponsors, but just three Republican sponsors, making it questionable whether they will be able to reach the 218 needed to succeed in their petition drive. Republicans dismissed the discharge effort, saying House Democrats won’t be able to get enough support to force the issue.  “This scheme has zero chance of success — a clear majority in the House understands that the massive Senate-passed bill is deeply flawed,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for Boehner.

  • While Congress continues to bicker, President Obama tweeted that he is the ‘champion in chief for comprehensive immigration reform.’  But it would seem he comes under fire on his executive immigration policies from both sides.

    • Activists point to the administration’s record-setting level of deportations. The President has been under fire for years over the Homeland Security Department’s informal quota of trying to deport about 400,000 immigrants every year. Republican opponents accuse him of inflating the numbers, while immigration rights advocates say the number is too high. 
    • On the other side of the coin, a recent audit conducted by the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general, found that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement regularly cuts a break for businesses that violate immigration hiring 40 percent from what they should be and that the government should be doing more to go after unscrupulous employers.

  • Finally, the U.S. Chamber has said it will use all of its influence to persuade Congress to pass immigration reform in 2014.  “Rewriting the immigration law won’t be any easier in 2016 or 2018, so the GOP should take the plunge now.  There will never be a perfect time for reform….The fact remains it is in our national interest to get it done,” said Donohue in his annual speech on the state of American business.  Click here to see a transcript of his comments.

 

 

 

 

 

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Quickpoll Reveals Chamber Interest and Involvement in Supporting Common Core

Jessie Azrilian on Friday, March 21, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 
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ACCE recently conducted a QuickPoll:Common Core State Standards to learn if and how chambers were supporting higher K-12 academic standards and assessments in their states and communities. 140 Chamber Executives responded to the Quickpoll and revealed that chambers were indeed both interested and involved. 44 percent of surveyed chambers have a policy platform supporting more rigorous K-12 academic standards and assessments. If a chamber did not already have one 22 percent said they would like to adopt a policy platform supporting new K-12 standards and assessments. 

Chamber involvement on this issue is vital because of the lack of awareness and understanding of CCSS. A national poll released by Achieve found that 63 percent of respondents know very little or nothing about CCSS. Of those who had heard of common core, 40 percent had an unfavorable impression and 37 percent had a favorable impression. But when the principles of CCSS were explained in more detail, favorability improved to 69 percent, with only 23 percent retaining their unfavorable impressions. Additionally, a recent public opinion poll by the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce revealed that outside of educators and military leaders, the business community represents the most credible voice to advocate for higher K-12 standards and assessments. 

Our Quickpoll provided a snapshot of how chambers are working to ensure college and career success for their community's future workforce.

  • 88 percent of chambers said they were working with key stakeholders such as state education agencies, local school districts, and teachers
  • 78 percent are communicating to their members about Common Core State Standards or higher academic standards based on common core
  • 63 percent are holding events focused on CCSS and 58 percent are speaking to policy makers about CCSS or higher academic standards and assessments. 

How Can ACCE Help?

When asked about the supports/resources/services ACCE could provide to help chambers engage in the successful implementation of new and more rigorous standards and assessments:

  • overwhelmingly (93%) of chambers wanted examples of best practice documents/case studies and examples of policy platforms from other chambers
  • 79% wanted tips on engaging membership and/or assistance identifying community-specific goals
  • 68% wanted tips on getting started
  • 60% requested conference calls/webinars with content experts
  • 50% wanted peer to peer connections with chamber executives also working on starting an education platform

Did you know...

The Education and Workforce Development Chamberpedia section of the HERO portal contains resources chambers can use to engage their communities across the whole cradle to career spectrum. Chamberpedia's K-12 section features business-friendly tools, samples and FAQs catered to all levels of interest and engagement whether you are interested in simply learning more about Common Core State Standards or are actively working with business leaders, schools, higher education institutions, etc. to prepare your communities to successfully implement more rigorous standards and assessments. Materials found in the College and Career Readiness section include: blog posts from chamber executives; a communications toolkit to reach policymakers, the media and the general public (including your employees) with a consistent business message about the need for improvements to our nation’s education system; sample common core pledge and letter from business leaders; and customizable one-page PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) flyers that organizations can add their logo and website to on how business leaders can work in partnership with schools and districts to shape new policies and practices.

Did you know...

The Education Attainment Division hosts bi-monthly webinars and conference calls for members of the greater EAD Community featuring content experts and chamber practitioners discussing topics across the cradle to career spectrum. Join next week's webinar: Deeper Learning for Global Competiveness to learn how businesses can help ensure students have the skills required to succeed in a globally competitive workforce. You can also listen to audio from the November 2013 EAD Community Call: Common Core Messaging- How to Get Ahead of the Pushback, facilitated by Kelli Wells, Director of US Education, GE Foundation.  

Did you know...

ACCE has recently launched a Mentor Program. Chamber executives can self-select a range of expertise, including education and workforce development, or search for a chamber peer that has expertise in their desired interest area. Sign up to become a mentor or find a mentor today

Chambers are vital to helping communities understand the importance of a skilled workforce prepared for to meet the demands of both college and career. Our Chamberpedia pages and Samples Library are populated by your contributions, so we invite you to help us continue to grow and expand on these valuable resources. Have a case study for how your chamber is supporting next generation standards and assessments in your community? Email jazrilian@acce.org or hero@acce.org. Visit the EAD page to learn more information about the Education Attainment Division

**NOTE:you will need your ACCE login (jsmith) and password (EAD123) to access the links on this post and HERO resources. 

Tags: common core state standards, education, HERO, higher education, K-12, workforce development

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Federal Transportation Budget Proposes Reforms, Revenue and Innovation

Carmen Hickerson on Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 8:39:00 am 
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The Obama administration has released the details of its four-year, $302 billion transportation plan as part of its 2015 Budget Request to Congress.  The President’s plan is important because it goes beyond setting spending levels for fiscal year 2015, which is the predicted date of the Highway Trust Fund’s insolvency.  Simply extending the current MAP-21 Plan would require requires an infusion of $19 billion next year or $100 billion over 6 years. In his proposal, which is an $87 billion increase over current spending levels, funding for transportation projects would come from $150 billion in transition revenue generated from business tax reforms and current revenues from the federal gas tax. 

From the Department of Transportation press release:

In addition to closing the $63 billion hole in the Highway Trust Fund and reversing our infrastructure deficit, the President’s proposal will also:

    • Improve transportation efficiency with a new Interagency Permitting Improvement Center to help us continue streamlining permitting processes so we can deliver projects faster and work towards the President’s goal of cutting timelines in half;

    • Boost the safe transportation of energy products with a comprehensive approach --from increased inspections and investigations to new research and cross-agency projects--so the United States can continue on track toward becoming the world’s top oil producer by next year;

    • Increase freight capacity to allow us to move 14 billion additional tons of freight in this country by 2050;

    • Build ladders of opportunity through infrastructure investment that is not just about pouring cement and lifting steel, but about helping people get home faster and connecting them with jobs, schools, and a better quality of life.

As for what’s likely to happen next, because the bipartisan budget passed by Congress in December also set top-line budget amounts for the year (FY15) to come, it’s uncertain if the House or Senate will introduce or pass their own budget resolutions this year.  Still, whether the ultimate legislative vehicle is the reauthorization of MAP-21 or appropriations bills later this year, it’s essential that Congress and the President come to agreement on a way to continue supporting communities’ efforts to maintain their transportation infrastructure and prepare for the future.

Here are couple of links to read more about the Federal Transportation Plan:

 

 

 

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Call with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Jessie Azrilian on Friday, March 7, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 
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This coming Monday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be addressing leaders from the foundation and corporate sector. The conference call on Monday, March 10 at 3:15pm EST will focus on the President’s FY15 Budget proposal, released earlier this week at a preschool in Washington, DC.  Secretary Duncan will provide an overview of the Department of Education's budget request and all of the DOE's priorities for the coming year. He will also briefly discuss the President’s recent announcement regarding My Brother’s Keeper, an important new initiative focused on improving outcomes for boys and young men of color.

There will be an opportunity to submit questions at the end of the call. 

Monday, March 10, 3:15-3:45pm EST

Dial:       888-324-9428

Code:    4069212

(Note: you do not need to RSVP)

 

Tags: education, education attainment division, federal budget, government relations

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End of Support for Windows XP: An SMB Checklist

Jay Paulus, Director on the Windows team at Microsoft on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 
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It’s been fantastic to talk with small and medium-sized business owners over the last few months who are excited about the ways that Windows 8.1 Pro can both help their business and make their employees more productive. But, with the end of support for Windows XP approaching on April 8, 2014, I’ve also talked with business owners who are still wrestling with how to make the jump from Windows XP to a modern operating system. For many small and medium-sized businesses with little to no IT budget, the process may fall on one employee or the owner themselves and upgrading 5, 25 or 250 computers can seem daunting.

As we’ve shared, after Windows XP reaches end of support, businesses still running the old operating system face increased security risks, increased costs and lack of technical support. But you may not know what computers in your business are running Windows XP and how to migrate them to a newer OS, or if you need to purchase new devices. To help ease the process, I’ve developed a handy checklist that covers the key steps small and medium-sized businesses need to take to be ready well before April 8.

Evaluate Your Hardware Needs: First, you need to check to see if you are running Windows XP. You can do this by downloading this handy upgrade assistant. If you are running Windows XP, odds are that you are using an older desktop PC or notebook. That hardware did a great job providing a powerful Windows XP experience, but technology has improved dramatically since then. Older hardware is not designed to support a modern operating system like Windows 8.1 Pro or the mobile demands of the modern workforce.

As part of your migration, research the new form factors and devices that are available for the modern workplace before upgrading your business’ hardware. Windows 8.1 devices are all about choice, and many of them, like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the Dell Venue 11 Pro, offer the power and productivity needed for a more mobile workforce with the specs and price point to meet any business need. There are also several special offers currently available from Windows and Office for businesses upgrading from Windows XP.

In addition to great mobile form factors, the choices for modern desktop computers are better than ever. New mini-desktops like the Lenovo ThinkCentre Tiny give you a full power desktop in a small package that can fit almost anywhere. If you’re looking for maximum horsepower, be sure to check out the HP Z820 workstation. It’s the one I use on my personal desktop and it delivers amazing performance in a wide range of configurations.

Prep Your Data: Once you know which devices make sense for your organization, you’ll need to think through how you are going to move your company data. It’s common to feel a bit nervous when it comes time to move years of sensitive company data across devices, but advances in cloud technology make it easier than ever to backup, store and transfer files.

As you map out your migration strategy, include a plan for how you will both backup sensitive files and securely transfer your company data across PCs. If you are unsure as to the most efficient way to do this for your organization, Microsoft has resources to help you sort through the various options.

Check Your Apps: Few things are as frustrating as picking a new device, moving over your data and sitting down to work, only to discover that a critical business application is not compatible with your new operating system. To avoid this, evaluate your applications before starting your migration. Not only should you check the applications downloaded directly onto your PCs, you should also double check any web-based applications that your business uses to ensure they will work with an updated version of your internet browser.

Deploy Windows 8.1 Pro: With your new hardware in place, your data safely transferred and your applications up and running, your business is ready to take full advantage of a modern operating system like Windows 8.1 Pro. With Windows 8.1 Pro, your business devices will be more secure and easier to manage and your employees will be more productive than ever before. For additional information on the specifics of deploying Windows 8.1, go here.

We are proud of the value that Windows XP has offered to businesses for more than a decade and we are excited to help companies reach the next level of productivity with Windows 8.1 Pro.

 

Reposted with permission from Microsoft.

 

 

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Key Economic Indicators Delivered to Your Inbox

Tania Kohut on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 
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Insperity, a provider of an array of human resources and business solutions to help improve business performance, offers economic infographics titled, The Economy at a Glance, that you can have delivered to your inbox.

Key economic indicators, including unemployment, GDP growth, consumer spending and existing home sales provide a comprehensive snapshot of the U.S. economy at large. The monthly infographic outlines the numbers that matter most to you, your business and your employees. Download the January 2014 Economy at a Glance [infographic]; click here to receive these stats via email each month.

Insperity is an ACCE official corporate sponsor.

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Go Ahead, Tell Your Story

Jackie Krawczak, Executive Director, Alpena Area (MI) Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 
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Guest blog entry by Jackie Krawczak, Executive Director, Alpena Area (MI) Chamber of Commerce

When the Alpena Chamber of Commerce was awarded the 2009 Outstanding Chamber of the Year Award in the State of Michigan and was a runner up for the 2010 and 2012 awards, we didn’t just congratulate ourselves at a staff meeting and then hope that others happened to hear about it. Heck no. We promoted it until we were blue in the face. We sent a press release, put it on our letterhead, our Facebook page, and our website. We talked about it. We tweeted about it. We wanted anyone and everyone to know about it.

A business owner said to me the other day that one of their competitors had posted a picture of their staff giving money to a community cause. He told me they had also given money to the same cause but hadn’t thought about taking a photo and sharing the story.

I was at an organization’s board meeting last week and the directors were discussing their frustration that many people didn’t know that they had played a key role in something big that had happened recently.

So what’s this all about? I’ve noticed a trend recently. I’m not sure how to best describe the trend, other than saying that the bottom line appears to be that we seem to be much too modest. And too much modesty can be damaging.

Saying that is a bit risky, I know. Some degree of modesty is a good thing. No one likes to spend time with “that person” who seems to brag about himself every chance he gets. But never telling your story won’t do you much good either. Because if you don’t tell your own story, who else is going to? Unless it’s a completely amazing or unusual story, chances are quite slim that someone will stumble upon it and tell everyone for you.

I know telling your own story might make some of you uncomfortable. But consider the following. The person who isn’t afraid to tell his story tends to get the job over someone who isn’t comfortable or good at telling his story. The business leaders who tell their philanthropic or customer service stories tend to create a better perception of their business and attract more new customers than the ones who don’t.

The community that tells their story and talks about how great they are tends to attract visitors, businesses, and development at a greater rate than the community that sits back and hopes someone else discovers their great opportunities.

I’m not sure why this seems to be a hot topic lately. Maybe it is because we are feeling the competitiveness that comes with a tight economy. You have to find a way to stand out and telling your story is one way to do that. You can choose whether or not you want to tell your personal story. If you are a business owner you can choose whether or not you want to tell your business story. But if you want the community to have a better chance of growth, please make it a point to tell the community’s story.

I’ll let you in on a little-known piece of information. It’s not a secret. It’s just not widely known. When we were awarded the Outstanding Chamber Award, we had to nominate ourselves for the award. Any chamber that wants to be considered must self-nominate. The nominations are what the judges use to make their decision. Nominating yourself is the only way to get that recognition. And there’s nothing wrong with it. Of course nominating yourself doesn’t guarantee recognition, but guess what we get if we don’t tell our story? Absolutely nothing. No one is going to find us and tell our story. If we want others, outside the scope of those immediately involved, to know the great things we do, we must take it into our own hands. Just like if we want people to know what a great community this is, we have to do it ourselves. So let’s talk about it. Throw some of that modesty aside and start telling your story.

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Greater Spokane Inc's Business AfterSchool Program Brings Companies & Students Together

Jessie Azrilian on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 
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Last week Greater Spokane Inc. hosted Engineering Week as part of its Business AfterSchool Program. Business AfterSchool brings area students and parents to Spokane's high-demand industry sectors and companies to teach them about different careers and the skills needed to land available jobs. The program will devote one week each to focus on these industries: health care, engineering, manufacturing and computer science. 

Continue reading for the whole story and program details from Greater Spokane Incorporated's blog

Tags: education, education attainment, K-12, workforce development

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Regional Cooperation in Waco

Ian Scott on Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 4:00:00 pm 
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An historic announcement from central Texas this week…10 local and ethnic chambers of commerce across McLennan County announced the signing of an MOU to form an alliance. The McLennan County Chamber Alliance forges a closer working relationship (and cements board level cross-pollination) between the organizations on public policy, economic and community development, infrastructure and other key issues.

“We can do special things if we work together,” said Matt Meadors, Greater Waco Chamber CEO. Anyone who’s tried to build a regional coalition knows how many barriers and interests are overcome to get to this stage of cooperation. We’ll be watching as this group evolves.

Read more about the formation of the McLennan County Chamber Alliance.

Tags: regional cooperation, regionalism

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