Federal Transportation Budget Proposes Reforms, Revenue and Innovation
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:
- Transportation For America’s Analysis of the President’s Proposed Budget
- The Department of Transportation’s detailed version of the 2015 FY Transportation Budget
Call with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
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
(Note: you do not need to RSVP)
End of Support for Windows XP: An SMB Checklist
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.
Key Economic Indicators Delivered to Your Inbox
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.
Go Ahead, Tell Your Story
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.
Greater Spokane Inc's Business AfterSchool Program Brings Companies & Students Together
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.
Regional Cooperation in Waco
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.
Recent Poll from Achieve Tracks Voter Perceptions of New Education Standards
Achieve, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization, recently conducted a national poll to determine voter perceptions of public education and the Common Core State Standards. Here are some highlights from the survey:
- In the landscape of issues facing the country, public education was ranked on par with the economy and government spending, with 82% ranking improving the quality of public education extremely/very important compared to 88% for job creation and economic growth, and 78% for reducing the federal deficit and government spending.
- About two-thirds (67%) of voters agree that it is better for states to have the same standards in math and English rather than having different standards.
- The majority of those polled (63%) reported hearing little or nothing about Common Core State Standards. Those who were aware were split in their opinion of the standards – 37% favorable; 40% unfavorable.
- However, once the respondents were provided with an explanation of Common Core State Standards and then asked if they would favor or oppose their implementation, a solid majority 69% (36% very strongly) were in favor vs. 23% in opposition.
The poll also tested who voters trusted the most when it came to information about education reform. The most powerful messengers were – in order – teachers, principals/superintendents, educational leaders and college presidents. Local employers also carry a lot of weight, particularly among business leaders.
ACCE’s Education team is working closely with Achieve and other national education foundations to spread word about the critical importance of improving college and career readiness. There are several resources available to help your chamber communicate effectively about education reform and the Common Core State Standards. Achieve has compiled a comprehensive set of tools and resources available at www.businessandeducation.org. You can also check out a previous ACCE blog post on Business-Friendly Tools for Chambers to Support a College & Career-Ready Agenda.
If you have any education-related questions contact Jessie Azrillian at email@example.com, 703.998.3571.
Created in 1996 by a bipartisan group of governors and business leaders, Achieve is dedicated to working with states to raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability. The national poll was conducted in November of 2013.
Quickpoll Results: Common Core Standards
In reviewing the poll results, we learned that:
- My chamber has a policy platform that includes or emphasizes higher/ more rigorous K-12 academic standards and assessments as a strategic priority. 44% said "Yes" and 22% indicated "No, but would like to develop one." 31% said "No".
- 88% of responders said they are "working with the state education agency / local school districts / local teachers. 79% said they are "communicating to chamber members about the CCSS/higher standards." And 63% are "holding events focusing on CCSS/higher standards and/or inviting education leaders to speak at chamber events about CCSS/higher standards.
- Find these statistics and more in our QuickPoll on Common Core Standards.
For assistance with education programs at your chamber, please engage with ACCE's Education Attainment Division or contact Alysia Bell or Jessie Azrilian or call (213) 580-7535. You can also update your profile status online to receive Division communications.
Business Outlook Reports Offer Some Optimism, but Employers Still Fearful of Uncertainty
The recent release of several economic outlook reports offers a mixed bag of attitudes from employers. While many are optimistic the economy will pick-up in 2014, most are still expressing concerns about the ‘unknowns’ including the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the regulatory environment, immigration reform and the new call for an increase in the minimum wage. Here’s a round-up of some of the results.
- McDonald Hopkins, a business advisory and advocacy law firm, recently released its 2014 Business Outlook Survey. The headline is that ‘2014 is the great unknown.’ There is considerable caution and uncertainty as respondents expressed numerous concerns about the rising cost and complexity of healthcare and fear of additional burdensome regulations. Some highlights include:
- 67% believe the Affordable Care Act will have a negative impact on their company’s bottom line; and 46% said increasing health care costs are the greatest challenge facing their company
- They have no confidence in Congress to help improve business conditions, with just 33% saying they are cautiously optimistic
- 41% say they are likely to ‘slightly’ increase their number of employees and the same percentage – 41% say their number of employees will stay about the same
- 51% expect to make a ‘moderate’ investment in capital; 55% will dedicate more resources to domestic growth
- The National Federation of Independent Business’ latest survey indicates that only 12% of small business owners plan to add jobs in the next three months. However, NFIB’s Chief Economist Bill Dunkelburg calls the number ‘solid’ and says it is the highest job creation since September 2007. “Small businesses are telling us they would hire more workers if they could find qualified applicants,” added Dunkelburg. “Nearly half of NFIB members surveyed said they tried to hire workers, but reported few or no qualified applicants for open positions.”
- The recent Federal Reserve report indicates banks are easing lending restrictions making it easier for businesses to access new capital. According to the survey, ‘Banks eased their lending policies for commercial and industrial loans to firms of all sizes and experienced stronger demand for such loans over the past three months.” The banks cited increased competition, a more favorable economic outlook and a greater tolerance for risk for the new standards.
- Finally, economists polled in USA TODAY’s quarterly survey predict that the U.S. economy is headed for stronger growth in 2014. They also believe we will see steady improvement in the unemployment rate. Many of the 40 economists surveyed Feb 5-6 cut their first-quarter forecasts due to the January weather and an expected pull-back in business stockpiling after firms aggressively replenished shelves in the second half of 2013.
- “While growth late last year was driven largely by the stockpiling, this year's expansion will be fueled by higher consumer and business spending,” says Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist of Barclays Capital.
- "I think we will regain momentum and not fall on our face," says Diane Swonk, chief economist of Mesirow Financial, drawing a contrast with previous ups and downs in the five-year-old recovery.