A Room Full of Iowans
How do you entertain a room full of 30-something Iowan transplants on a Thursday evening in Washington, D.C.? For the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the answer is simple: fresh pie, the Nadas and Templeton Rye.
Last Thursday night I had the pleasure of joining a group of young professionals from all walks of life in a neighborhood in Northeast D.C. Most arrived as strangers but they shared a common link: Iowa. Granted, there were a few native Minnesotans and Nebraskans thrown in, but even they were Iowa-educated.
They were drawn together by the Greater Des Moines Partnership-sponsored East Coast Living Room tour by the Nadas, a talented Des Moines-based rock band that has been a staple of the Midwest university scene since the mid ‘90s. The pie and rye (Templeton is distilled in Iowa) were gravy for the guests.
This is the second such Nadas tour the Greater Des Moines Partnership has helped throw. Last spring they did a West Coast train tour that inlcuded stops in Portland, Seattle and Spokane. Their goal: stanch talent drain by reminding native sons and daughters about the great professional and personal opportunities back home. For a talent-hungry region with low unemployment, is there any better strategy than luring returnees? Iowa housing prices alone would perk the ears of anyone living inside the beltway.
So what’s this North Carolinian's Iowa link? I never turn down an invitation for drinks with Jay Byers.
What's Your Line?
Reunion with Cornell University championship football team was a blast this past weekend. The stories of our prowess grow more amazing each decade. Fantastic connections to be made with old friends. An energy engineer in Alaska, Ivy League academics, a Madison Ave. ad agency CEO, politicos in DC, business leaders from Chicago, two judges, a machinist, a truck company owner, a truck driver, an oncologist, two surgeons, a dentist, a coach or two, a juvenile crime specialist and the radio announcer of the Colorado Rockies. Oh, and one fairly well-known Hollywood star who sports a Super Bowl ring.
When I attempted to answer the "what's your line?" questions of my old teammates, there were, as usual, tilted heads and quizzical looks. They pretend to understand what the president of an association of chamber people might actually do. All of those smart, wired, experienced people find it easier to understand what a mortgage-backed securities analyst (yes, we have two of those in the group) might do than what an association executive does. Finally, I found an analogy they could relate to. Since so many are lawyers, I just started answering the cocktail party questions -- "ACCE is like the American Bar Association for chamber of commerce people." "Ohhhhh, that sounds . . . interesting. Have you tried the shrimp?"
I'm the mushy sentimental type. Big surprise, right!? I fire up and tear up when the news covers a soldier's homecoming or the long-suffering Lions fans get a win. This week, I received a simple message that touched me deeply and provided the motivation I need in order to do this job. It was a handwritten note from Rob O'Brien, the CEO of the Joplin Missouri Chamber. It accompanied his substantial ACCE dues check and it was a reply to the note I wrote him on his membership invoice. In light of the unfathomable tornado damage that struck his town, I had written, "Rob, do what you can. If you need to send nothing this year, don't sweat it." Or something like that. His note back said: "Thanks for the offer to accept less for dues, but we are good right now . . . enclosed is our full amount. Keep doing great things. Rob."
Rob will have a tough time fully rebuilding the economy of Joplin, but he and his team are already hard at it, with efforts to restore the hospital (focus of every network camera in May), the schools and the business base. Their "YES WE ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS" roster of establishments that have reopened, along with those that never closed, grows every week. The transition from response to recovery is getting assistance from many corners. And yes, they are open for business.
Recently, in response to what the pundits, pols and pottymouths of both parties have been spewing, Jon Stewart on the Daily Show said, "We need some perspective -- these are hard times, not end times." When I see the kind of determination and faith displayed by Rob and his team in Joplin, even in the face of destruction that resembles the stuff of biblical end times, I am amazed and inspired. When the going gets tough, the tough keep you going.
P.S. If you want to help, go to: www.joplincc.com
Frank Ryll, Jr. Honored . . . Again
After being honored with ACCE's Life Member Award during ACCE's annual convention in Los Angeles this year, Frank Ryll needs to make room on his shelf for yet another award.
The Florida Association of Chamber Professionals (FACP) recognized industry legend, Frank M. Ryll, Jr., with the inaugural Pillar Award, at the 91st Annual Conference, held October 4-6, 2011, in Destin, Fl. The award was created by the FACP Board of Directors to recognize an industry leader who has demonstrated a commitment to the Chamber profession that epitomizes the characteristics of a pillar, strength and support.
Asthe inaugural recipient of the award, Frank has devoted a lifetime of work within the chamber profession. Frank’s service started in Florida and then continued in Greenville, South Carolina. Frank later returned to Florida and set upon a legendary career, familiar to most with The Florida Chamber of Commerce, that has been recognized and celebrated nationally.
“I had the privilege of working side by side with Frank for the past few years,” stated The Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce and FACP President & CEO, Tammy C. Bracewell, during her presentation of the award. “What a true pleasure and blessing Frank has been to me both professionally and personally.”
Upon presentation of the award, it was noted that the FACP Board decided to name the award in Frank’s honor, as the Frank M. Ryll, Jr. Pillar Award.
Photo caption: (left to right) 2010-2011 FACP Chairman, Shane Moody (Destin Area Chamber) congratulates FACP’s inaugural Pillar Award recipient. Frank M. Ryll, Jr. (The Florida Chamber), presented by FACP’s President & CEO Tammy C. Bracewell (also of The Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce).
Information "Treasure Trove" Can Accelerate Marketing
With 31 years in the chamber business, Nancy Eisenbrandt, CCE, COO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, has learned well the value of task-specific information and the need for speed in finding it.
At a recent staff meeting, she conducted an on-line demo of ACCE’s new Information Office to her chamber’s 30 employees. “It was a huge success,” she said. “The Information Office is a treasure trove of information across all functional areas of the chamber.” She said employees didn’t know about “the wealth of information that could assist them day-to-day to make their jobs easier. There are tools to learn what other chambers are doing, best practices that can really speed products or services to market.”
Introduced in July, the Information Office is a key initiative of ACCE’s 2010-13 strategic plan. Its mission: provide reliable and accessible information on chamber trends and best practices, including an extensive library of actual chamber documents and other resources.
Eisenbrandt’s demo included surfing ACCE’s pages on networks, awards programs and conferences. For several staffers, it was a revelation. “Many of our staff had no idea of the breadth of what’s offered,” she said. Prior to the meeting, a number of employees had usernames and passwords to access the site, but not all of them. After the demo, several employees asked for access to the site.
“The value ACCE provides is exponential when it is leveraged deeply into the chamber team,” Eisenbrandt said. ”I’ve used ACCE for years, and I’m very, very impressed. This information has been beautifully organized and made accessible. ACCE is so much more than an annual conference for only a few of your team members. “
Now That's How
You Do An Interview
Here's a perfect lesson on how to handle an interview with the press. Long Beach (CA) Area Chamber President and CEO Randy Gordon was recently interviewed by a Long Beach newspaper. He immediately took control and set the tone for what ended up being an informative, yet very entertaining interview. Randy had fun with it AND was still able to get his points across. Read the interview, learn about the Long Beach Area Chamber and get to know a fellow chamber exec!
Note from the Chair - Using Anger to Push Issues
Government Relations Division Chairwoman Mary Graham, CCE, passed along the following note and link:
Someone sent me a link to this article in Harvard Business Review on chambers of commerce using anger to push forward issues. Seemed pretty relevant to all us Government Relations types. Thought I would share.
Mary Graham, CCR, IOM, CCE
Senior Vice President
Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce
Posthumous Award for Shelia Lee
Shelia O. Lee, IOM, CCE, was honored with a posthumous award for "A Life that Made A Difference." The award was presented as part of Oklahoma City's Journal Record's 31st Woman of the Year gala. Shelia was the former president and CEO of the Lawton-Fort Sill (OK) Chamber of Commerce as well as an ACCE Executive Committee member.
The Woman of the Year program is a special tribute to Oklahoma’s female business and community leaders.
Amazon Deals with California
After years of refusing to collect sales tax from online purchases, Amazon.com has struck a deal in California. Retailers and state governments elsewhere are hoping for similar treatment.
This is a departure from Amazon.com’s previous stance on online tax collection. In response to other states “Amazon laws” requiring online tax collection, Amazon.com has taken New York to court and canceled its relationships with affiliates in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina and Rhode Island.
California looked to be the stage for the next Amazon show-down. Amazon organized a campaign to repeal the law at the ballot box. Wal-Mart and other big retailers lined-up in opposition of Amazon, arguing that online retailers get an unfair advantage over brick-and-mortar merchants by not collecting sales tax.
Surprisingly, Amazon backed down. The company struck a deal that will require online retailers to collect sales taxes in California starting in fiscal 2013.
Brick-and-mortar retailers view this as a game-changer. If Amazon will pay sales taxes in California, why not in other states? The optimism may be premature, but states would love to see additional sales tax revenue.
It’s difficult to assess where chambers stand on this issue. There are proponents on both sides, with many chambers declining to take a stance while they closely watch events unfold.
Stateline.org: Amazon deal with California may set precedent for online tax collection
St. Petersburg Times: California to the rescue on sales taxes
The Journal Gazette: The retail Goliath retreats
Policy Clearinghouse Blog: Main Street Fairness Act
Ultimate Chamber Mergers
At a meeting with the World Chambers Federation board of directors this weekend, I learned that all of the dozens of chambers in the Netherlands are being forced to merge into one. The number of chambers in France is being cut by a third. These are countries in which membership in compulsory by law. In Spain, the government recently ruled that the chambers would no longer receive the money companies had been paying for the last couple of hundred years for chamber membership. The State would keep (thank you very much) the "tax", leaving the chambers with about 40% of their revenue, provided they can keep program income flowing in.
I recall a number of folks telling me over the years that running a public-law chamber would be so easy because they wouldn't have to work on membership retention. I'm wondering, however, if perhaps a chamber operating where the government requires membership really only has one member?