On the Nov. 8 election ballot, Tulsa voters will have the opportunity to vote on four amendments to the city charter that would change Tulsa’s city government. One of the amendments is proposed by the City Council and the other three are proposed by a local nonprofit group, Save Our Tulsa.
The Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce government affairs team and its board of directors have studied these proposals since December, and the chamber, as well as the League of Women Voters, has been outspoken in its opposition to the council’s proposal to replace the government with a council-city manager structure and the Save Our Tulsa’s proposal to add at-large councilors and make the mayor chairman of the council.
The Chamber is still considering its stance on the remaining two proposals.
Tulsa Metro Chamber President Mike Neal says that “the chamber’s outspoken stance is meant to prevent the issue from becoming another reason for Tulsa to be overlooked. Government upheaval in any form staves off a city’s ability to attract business and grow jobs.”
Tulsa Chamber Board Chairman Gerry Clancy says that “the chamber supports good governance and a collaborative spirit of representation. Good governance is vital to communities’ economic prosperity, safety and quality of life.” He also said that the chamber has monitored local issues in trying to best represent the needs of business and industry.
Tulsa World: Chamber: Opposition to government change is for the best
Tulsa World: Chamber, League oppose change to Tulsa city government
At the end of July, Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Thomas Cooper handed the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) another victory in their fight against the Milwaukee sick leave mandate.
In May, MMAC celebrated as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a bill that would pre-empt local ordinances from requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees for family, medical or health issues. Three weeks later, 9to5, the National Association of Working Women, asked a judge to let the law take effect for at least two years.
On July 28, attorneys from 9to5 and MMAC disputed which state law should stand—the one that Gov. Walker signed in May pre-empting local sick leave ordinances, or the one that requires laws approved through voter referendum to take effect for two years before elected officials can amend or repeal them.
The Milwaukee County Circuit Court ruled that the state law that invalidated the city of Milwaukee’s mandatory paid sick leave law makes an ongoing court effort to implement the city’s law a moot point. This ruling puts an official end to the city law, and subsequent legal battle, which mandated paid sick leave for employees in Milwaukee.
Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce: Judge Cooper makes it Official: Milwaukee Sick Leave Mandate Voided
Policy Clearinghouse Blog: Governor Walker signs bill at MMAC
Maryland’s largest state employee union is set to begin collecting fees from nonmembers this month. Maryland joins the District of Columbia and at least 22 other states, including Pennsylvania and Delaware, in allowing state employee unions to collect such fees.
The theory behind the law is that the union furnishes services that impact all employees, such as negotiating health benefits and work conditions, or representing workers in disputes with managers, though fewer than half pay dues. Union officials say the extra money will allow them to improve services.
Beginning in July, Maryland public employees will see union service fees deducted from their biweekly paychecks.
The fees – which will also be collected by smaller unions – are allowed under The Fair Share Act, which the state legislature passed in 2009 largely on a party-line vote supported by Governor Martin O’Malley.
Hundreds of state workers have objected to the new fees. Smaller unions argue these new fees could force smaller unions out of existence.
Baltimore Sun: Maryland unions: Thousands of state workers compelled to pay union fees
MarylandReporter.com: Non-union state workers must pay bargaining units in newly negotiated contracts
Tags: employer-employee relations
Seattle city council members will consider legislation that would mandate paid sick leave for all employees in Seattle.
If the bill to be introduced by city council member Nick Licata passes, Seattle will join Washington, D.C. and San Francisco in requiring private employers to provide paid sick days. The legislation in San Francisco may serve as a template for the yet-to-be-introduced Seattle sick leave bill.
The Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce has been closely monitoring this issue. Members of the chamber’s tax and regulation committee discussed mandated paid sick leave in a spring meeting. The chamber plans to follow the issue and continue committee discussion once draft legislation is introduced. They also hope to gather opinions from local business members to gauge the business community reaction to such legislation.
Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce: Learn more about a proposal to mandate sick leave in Seattle
The Seattle Times: Plan would mandate paid sick leave in Seattle
PubliCola.com: Council Will Consider Citywide Mandatory Paid Sick Leave
Other mandated paid sick leave news:
Milwaukee had a similar mandate that was reversed in May when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a bill pre-empting local ordinances from requiring employers to provide paid sick leave.
Connecticut recently became the first state to mandate paid sick leave for service workers who receive an hourly wage and are employed at a business with over 50 employees.
Policy Clearinghouse Blog: Governor Walker signs bill at MMAC
Huffington Post: Paid Sick Leave: Cities, States Putting Mandates on Employers
New York Times: In Connecticut, Paid Sick Leave for Service Workers is Approved
Tags: employer-employee relations
Kingsport, Tennessee just won the Harvard Innovations in American Government Award for their efforts in education. Miles Burdine, President and CEO and Nicole Austin, Director of Workforce Development and Government Relations at the Kingsport Area (TN) Chamber of Commerce share the chamber’s workforce development and education initiatives in a virtual interview.
1. Can you give us some background on how the community began to focus on education?
In the late 1990s, Kingsport’s strong manufacturing base was in decline. Willamette Paper Mill (now Domtar), located in downtown, announced it would cut 150 jobs. JPS Industries announced cuts of 100 jobs at its now defunct Borden Mill plant. Eastman Chemical Company, then Tennessee’s largest employer, announced three possible scenarios: downsize significantly, move corporate headquarters and/or close local operations. The decision was the first layoff (1,200) in the company’s nearly 100-year history. With the local housing market stagnant and retail expansion non-existent, more than a few residents set their sights on other communities where opportunities seemed better. One city leader said, “The last one to leave — turn the lights out.” A city leadership staff member explained, “It was a hard time to be optimistic about Kingsport’s future and no reason to change until significant outside threats questioned our ability to survive.” Our City decided it was time for change. We had to reinvent ourselves if we were going to survive. In 1999, a city-led "Economic Summit" developed solutions through community-wide participation: training and workforce development, promotion of the entrepreneurial spirit and diversification of the economic base. A common element realized was education.
2. Was the chamber involved from the beginning?
Yes, the Chamber has been involved from the very beginning! The Mayor of Kingsport at that time brought the Chamber and business leaders in our community together for an “Economic Summit”. Some time later, Dr. Locke who was then president of Northeast State Community College tasked the Chamber with putting together a meeting with business leaders to find out in his words “what do I need to teach that will help you hire my graduates”. Since then the Chamber has been involved in all levels of this project. From advocating for the Educate and Grow program to working on the Academic Village the Chamber has had an active role in making this change in our community.
3. I’ve heard about Kingsport’s education initiatives and read your award nomination for the Harvard Innovations in American Government Award (which Kingsport won), but for those readers hearing about this for the first time, can you give an overview of Kingsport’s education and workforce development strategy?
Several strategies and plans developed out the mayors 1999 Economic Summit. We began our work with a city-led effort called "Educate and Grow," which offered scholarships to Northeast State Technical Community College (NESTCC) for any city high school graduate meeting entrance requirements. The Sullivan County Commission soon expanded the program county-wide.
Kingsport is a mid-sized city lacking a college campus. We then focused on developing an academic village for convenient workforce development opportunities. The Academic Village consists of four buildings focusing on a different area of specialty with a 5th building currently in the planning stages. The buildings are located in the heart of our downtown adjacent to childcare and a public transit system. The first building constructed was the Regional Center for Applied Technology (RCAT) combined under one roof in the downtown area. The original five-year goal for students was 1,000 which was surpassed in two years. RCAT was a $1.1 million dollar investment.
The next building constructed was the Regional Center for Health Professions (RCHP). The Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved funding a $4 M, 42,000 square-foot Regional Center for Health Professions (RCHP) adjacent to RCAT. Wellmont Health System, a major healthcare provider (Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky), provided $1M in scholarship money. King College (private) provides associate degrees to nearly 400 students in areas of nursing and five medical technology lines such as cardiovascular and ophthalmological technology, rivaled by only a handful of schools across the country.
The third building in this village is the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing (RCAM). RCAM is a venture from two Kingsport-based companies, Eastman and Domtar. A $2.7 M, 26,000 square foot - Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing (RCAM) was constructed to focus on vocational based education (i.e. welding, pipe-fitting, etc.).
In fall of 2009, Kingsport opened the Kingsport Center for Higher Education (KCHE)
A fourth building in the downtown ‘village,’ a $13 M city-funded, 54,000 square foot Kingsport Higher Education Center (KHEC) open in fall of 2009. Baccalaureate and higher degrees from at least five public and private universities, with all necessary instructional and student support services, are offered.
KCHE is the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Green Building Rating System) certified Higher Education Facility in the State of Tennessee. Currently at Silver level. NeSCC – 894 students
King College – 135 Students
Lincoln Memorial University – 98 Students
Carson Newman – Will begin at a later date
University of Tennessee – 50 on-line students
Plans are underway for the next building in our Academic Village which will be the Pal Barger School of Automotive Technology – AKA “R-PAL”.
Local businessman Pal Barger made a $400,000 donation for the purchase of a facility in the academic village. This facility will house NeSCC automotive services program. This new facility, when complete, will encompass all aspect of auto body training – estimating, building and reconstruction, repair and painting.
Beyond the Academic Village
In October 2009, the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Alderman approved to fund GED testing scholarships to cover GED examinations.
According to the Sullivan County/ Kingsport GED program – of the 153,000 people living in Sullivan County, approximately 27,500 do not have a high school diploma (18 percent). Just over 27 percent of these people are living at or below the national poverty level and 95 percent of them remain in Sullivan County for longer than one year.
In September 2009, The Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University announced that Kingsport, Tennessee was a 2009 Innovations in American Government Award winner.
Over 700 nominations – Kingsport was one of three top winners.
QUOTE FROM STEPHEN GOLDSMITH, DIRECTOR OF THE INNOVATIONS PROGRAM AT HARVARD
“Instead of traditional tax incentives, Kingsport has revitalized its economy by making its workforce more competitive,” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard Kennedy School. “They recognized that today’s high school diploma does not adequately prepare students for the challenges of the global economy. Cities across the country can learn from Kingsport’s work in revamping curricula, building new infrastructure, and developing creative partnerships.”
4. How successful was the initiative when it first began? Did you achieve your planned goals?
Since Kingsport first began making changes to better ourselves and increase the academic attainment level or our city, we have met our goals and made a positive change in our community. Below are some statistics and measures on how we are measuring our success.
Statistics indicate, since the inception of the Higher Education Initiative there has been an increase in educational attainment of the Kingsport population 25 years and over.
These indicators include:
- A 20.8 percent decrease in those with less than a 9th grade education
- A 13.9 percent decrease in those 9th to 12th grade with no diploma
- A 23.0 percent increase in the High School Graduate (includes equivalence)
- A 27.5 percent increase in those with an Associate Degree
- A 19.2 percent increase in those with a Bachelor’s Degree
With the community focusing on higher education as an economic development priority, Northeast State Technical Community College realized a 248 percent increase from 2000-2007, in the number of students graduating in the spring of each year from high school in Sullivan County who enrolled at NESTCC during the fall semester of the same years.
Since the opening of the Regional Center for Applied Technology in the fall of 2002, the Higher Education enrollment in the downtown campuses has risen to 1,208 students. This includes the Regional Center for Health Professions with the opening enrollment in the fall of 2008 at 351.
These numbers show success in pushing the importance of educational attainment for a diversified economy. During the higher education initiative years, NESTCC main campus has seen enrollment grow, evidencing that the numbers of students did not just migrate to the downtown area of Kingsport, but rather the numbers of those seeking higher education has risen in the region.
Kingsport realized that having an increase in its young adult population was critical to economic development. Over a seven year period during the initiative, the number of college age city residents (age 20-24) increased 26 percent.
The downtown area of Kingsport, where the city invested in the higher education facilities, experienced a $20.2 M positive change in appraised property values. This growth represents taxable property only. Non-taxable development like the higher education facilities and major church renovations are not included.
Since the late 1990s, Kingsport experienced a loss of 10,500 manufacturing jobs. Leaders recognized a major key to reinventing Kingsport was having a more diversified economy. Evidence of diversification is shown through the additions of 5,400 health care jobs, 2,800 leisure/ hospitality jobs, 1,300 natural resources/mining/construction jobs, 600 financial jobs, 500 information jobs. In 2000, there were 17,638 city residents employed. In 2007, 19,159 city residents were employed. During that same period of time the median family income rose nearly 20 percent to $48,351.
5. Where did the funding for the initiative come from?
The funding for these buildings came from public private partnerships. Some were City funded and others came from grants money and investments from local businesses. That information is listed for each building in the question above.
6. Do you have any advice or recommendations for other chambers working on education reform?
Develop a workable strategy and involve your community. It is a necessity if you want community buy in and participation. When we began working on the academic Village the Chamber did a survey assessment of our businesses to see how much interest and need there was for an Academic Village. The results were clear, this is exactly what our community wanted and needed and today the evidence of that can be seen in our downtown.
Your City leaders need to have buy in. Remember all of this began when our City took the first step and financially supported Education and Grow to raise the academic bar. Actually the process began even before that when our then mayor took the very first step and organized an Economic Summit at which we recognized our problems and set out to fix them.
Go visit other communities. We made many trips to South Carolina to call on others who had built similar facilities and had made a positive impact in their communities. Of course our door is always open in Kingsport! Since winning the Harvard Award for Innovations in Government we have hosted many groups in our city. We will organize and host a one day session with the leaders who were instrumental in the process and explain how this all came to be. To schedule a visit contact Nicole Austin at the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce 423-392-8835.
7. Anything else you’d like to share with the group?
Help yourself. Kingsport did this on our own. We didn’t go to the state looking for a handout or for someone to fix our problems. We did it ourselves. It’s your community. If you invest in yourselves others will follow.
Tags: education, Workforce Development