- ACCE Education Attainment Blog
- Asheville Business Blog - Asheville (NC) Area Chamber
- ChamberPost - The U.S. Chamber Blog
- Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy Blog
- Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) Blog
- Dallas Regional Chamber's Blog
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- HubSpot's Inbound Internet Marketing Blog
- IssuesPA, an initiative of the Pennsylvania Economy League
- Kentucky Chamber Blog
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- Maryland Chamber Blog
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- Selling in the 21st Century (Membership Sales Blog)
- Stateline.org - State Politics and Policy
- Supercharge Your Chamber Membership
- Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber "Live Wire"
- The Avenue - Rethinking Metropolitan America
- The Voice of Business - Greater Lehigh Valley (PA) Chamber Blog
- The Voice of the Lancaster Chamber
- Welcome Home - Adirondack (NY) Chamber Blog
Local Chambers: The Rodney Dangerfields of History?
At this time of election campaigns, many local chambers of commerce make news via candidate forums, endorsements, and more. But after the first Tuesday in November, the silence returns. The United States, however, would be almost unrecognizable if the million acts of 7,000 local chambers could somehow be removed from its past. Here are a few reasons why we’ve forgotten what chambers have done and continue to do:
- They tend to avoid taking credit. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”
- They don’t have overt power and so they have to share credit for accomplishments with those that do have the final say, even if the project was the chamber’s idea. This inability to control the whole thing makes poor news copy. “The chamber was 40 percent responsible for the new convention center” is a headline none of us will ever see.
- Individuals, not groups, capture our attention. Do we think about the 600,000 shivering French troops outside Moscow – or about one short, charismatic man responsible for it all, with his hand inside his vest?
- Chambers, by design, start things and spin them off. Many festivals, transportation projects, civic improvement ideas, you name it – began at chambers but went on to be managed by other groups. And so, years later, we forget where it all started.
- “Rich boy makes good” or “rich boy does good” makes boring copy. Yet most chamber members aren’t rich. And sometimes these individuals, rich or poor, put their heads together and change their communities in fascinating ways.
- The business of business people is business. Entrepreneurs are lionized for the way they line their wallets. We don’t usually think of their other lives, in which sometimes they may eclipse their business achievements.
- “It was inevitable.” Of course if you put influential people in 5,000 cities and towns together, for a dozen or more times a year for 50 or even more than 200 years, something’s going to happen. But the real question is, why did some chambers hit it out of the park, while others hit themselves on the head – sometimes repeatedly?
- Government organizations and nonprofit groups have proliferated, frequently with the support of chambers of commerce. It’s not hard to get lost in these many-thicketed woods.
- Local chambers aren’t ideological. They often lean to the right on general economic and business issues, but when it comes to getting that bridge funded or a bond issue for a much-needed school, they can veer to the left faster than a speeding politician. Not being easily classified politically, chambers are not easily grasped by students of history.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is often seen as the leader of local chambers; in many ways it is, but there is no hierarchy or unified governing body in the American chamber universe. The U.S. Chamber was formed in 1912 through, in part, the efforts of many local chambers of commerce that wanted a national voice for business. Local chambers are not “chapters” under the national chamber. The U.S. Chamber, often involving the loose federation of local chambers, has played a major role in American history. And so, too, have thousands of local chambers, plugging away with on policy, politics, and place making since the first one emerged in New York in 1768.
- Most chamber members are neither saints nor villains. They aren’t ashamed of profits but they want to help their community. Where’s the hot story in those intertwined goals?
- Chambers of commerce depend to a significant extent on something you can’t touch. What is the “Atlanta spirit” or the “Spirit of St. Louis”? While we’ve toned down the boosterism of a century ago, chambers of commerce still rely on bonds among individuals within the chamber, and within the community, to make things better than they are. Whether it’s a “rah-rah” spirit or a buttoned-down, urban, noblesse oblige-inspired caring for the community, it can be very real.
- Local chambers are “just local.” Where’s the sweep of history and the path of armies? Where’s the glamour of Main Street? What’s the glory in changing a street-sign ordinance? And yet, as Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” Jerusalem, Florence, and Athens are local. From comparatively little places, big things can happen.
To learn more about the fascinating, often overlooked, history of chambers pick up your copy of The Magicians of Main Street: America and its Chambers of Commerce, 1768-1945.
Republish this column in your chamber newsletter or local paper. Contact Chris Mead for more information.
Joplin Says Thank You
This week marks the third anniversary of the devastating EF5 tornado that ripped through Joplin, Mo., May 22, 2011. The tornado, with winds exceeding 200 mph, left a 13-mile swath of damaged or destroyed homes and businesses, 161 fatalities, 1,100 injured and 9,200 displaced.
Today Joplin stands tall, and our friends from The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce send a heartfelt thank you to all – including many ACCE members – who helped them recover and rebuild. According to Chamber President Rob O’Brian, “We have had such terrific support from so many people around the county, both in ‘work’ and ‘volunteer’ roles. To-date, we have had over 200,000 registered volunteers, giving us 1.5 million person-hours of time. The equivalent of 175 years.” The chamber has prepared an inspirational video to show how far this remarkable community has come since that fateful evening, but more importantly, to say, “thank you.” See the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWZ7aGRhWwc.
Chamberís Computer Gets Hacked
A recent article in USA TODAY described the nightmare scenario that happened in January at the Bennington, Vt., Area Chamber of Commerce when one of its computers was overtaken by CryptoLocker, computer “ransomware” that freezes access to files via a private key known only to the hacker. When the ransomware infects a computer, any file that is directly accessible from that computer can be at risk. According to the article, "The warning — next to a ticking countdown clock — threatened to destroy all data on the computer if the chamber refused to pay a $400 ransom within 40 hours."
If your computer is infected with this malware, there's really nothing you can do, unless you decide to pay the ransom. Even then, there have been instances where the computer remained locked even after the ransom was paid. The most effective protection is to be alert. Also:
- Analyze e-mails that are "to good to be true" or unexpected.
- Stay away from web sites and/or e-mails that are offering free stuff. Free is never really FREE.
- Be careful of shipment notification emails- especially if you are not expecting anything or if you haven't shipped anything.
- Avoid sites known to be trouble, such as pornographic and gambling sites.
- When in doubt, don't click on ANY links. Just delete the message.
Read more about the Bennington Chamber’s incident here.
KCCE: Leading the Charge for Professional Development
We are four months away from ACCE’s annual convention, and the ACCE team is in full convention planning mode for the event that has distinguished itself as the professional development and networking event of the year. Attendees from chambers across the country come to learn from leaders in their respective fields and to share ideas and best practices with their peers.
To ensure that everyone has an opportunity to attend, ACCE has partnered with the State Executive Association Network (SEAN), a group of leaders of state chamber associations, to provide scholarships to the convention. One of the biggest cheerleaders for our SEAN scholarships and the convention is the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Executives (KCCE) association. Just two years ago, they awarded 12 scholarships to Kentucky chamber professionals to attend the 2012 convention in Louisville!
With professional development at the core of KCCE’s mission, Ali Crain, executive director of KCCE, recognizes the value of participating in the SEANs scholarships from a financial standpoint. “We’ve taken advantage of the SEAN’s scholarship opportunity each year,” she says, “because it allows us to ‘buy one get one.’ We provide a scholarship for one of our members who would not have a chance to go otherwise and then I, as executive director, also get to go. You can’t beat that!”
KCCE already has pledged its support of the 2014 convention – a momentous event as ACCE celebrates is centennial year of serving the chamber profession. It’s a decision, says Crain, that just “makes sense. This year, our board felt it was important to allocate monies for seven additional scholarships. It’s important for us and our members to meet other executives from across the U.S., share ideas and build our network while getting top industry training.”
If you are a State Executive Association interested in partnering with ACCE to award a scholarship to the ACCE Annual Convention, complete the online application for the SEAN scholarship no later than May 16.
Preserving the Unique
History of Chambers
Laura Linard, director of special collections for the Baker Library of the Harvard Business School, and Tim Mahoney, manuscripts librarian, examine ACCE documents and publications dating to 1914, the year the association was founded. They visited ACCE’s offices April 7 to inspect and catalog the contents of 24 boxes of convention proceedings, meeting minutes, newsletters and photos from ACCE’s past. “This is wonderful material that provides a unique view of American business,” Linard said. “We’d be pleased to add all 24 boxes to our archives.” Harvard Business School maintains its extensive library for the benefit of the scholarly community. Many of its collections involve records of innovative companies and the papers of business leaders who have played a pivotal role in the contemporary global business world. All formats of information, from paper records to audio and video digital files and websites are collected and maintained in a climate-controlled facility for archival-quality storage of manuscripts, rare books and electronic records. Fragile or damaged materials get special handling from a staff dedicated to conserving documents regardless of format.
Bringing Value to Leadership Development Programs
“Leadership development” is an area of interest to many of our community clients. As Baby Boomers begin to retire in droves, businesses and communities are finding that workforce sustainability – their ability to replace impending retirees with qualified young workers – is of increasing concern. The same concerns are circulating in board rooms, city halls, and community institutions across the country. Take a look around the room at the next chamber of commerce event or board of directors meeting. Lots of gray hairs, huh? Well, this isn’t much of a surprise; chamber membership, board representation, and community leaders in general are by and large older than the average citizen. They should be; generally speaking, businesses, voters, and institutions want people with experience – experience that comes with age, naturally – to fill those leadership positions. But it’s all those Boomers that make 2014 just a little bit different (okay, A LOT different) from years and decades past. In 1990, the U.S. population aged 25-44 (32.4 percent of total population) was nearly 75 percent larger than the population aged 45-64 (18.6 percent of total population). As the Baby Boomers have aged into that older cohort, these two age groups have become nearly identical in size. As of 2012, those aged 25-44 represent 26.5 percent of total U.S. population, just slightly larger the 26.4 percent represented by those aged 45-64. What was once a very sizeable pipeline of potential “emerging” leaders (aged 25-44) is no more.
There are countless examples of leadership development programs at chambers of commerce across the country. The overwhelming majority are nearly identical in terms of their approach: identify a class of roughly 20-30 predominantly young professionals, guide them through a series of lectures and discussion forums on issues of importance to the community, and potentially take a trip to the state capitol and/or a peer city. These programs have proven valuable for many communities and their participants, but often fall short in one critical area: connecting the program’s graduates to actual leadership opportunities.
A few places are really getting it right – Northwest Arkansas and Tulsa, Oklahoma among them. Northwest Arkansas – home to the global headquarters of Walmart, Tyson Foods, and J.B. Hunt – has a strong, relatively traditional leadership program called Leadership Benton County. It is also home to the Northwest Arkansas Emerging Leaders (NWAEL), a program coordinated by the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce. NWAEL provides young leaders with a variety of opportunities to actually get engaged in the community through a set of “work groups” that pursue a variety of volunteer-led community improvement initiatives. In addition to the work groups, NWAEL offers a Board Service Certification Program, a day-long training program that seeks to prepare emerging leaders for services on non-profit boards and commissions. Graduates of the program are connected through events and communications to staff and board leadership at area non-profits to help place them in actual leadership opportunities.
Tulsa’s Young Professionals (TYPros) is another terrific example of intentional leadership development. What started a relatively traditional young professionals networking group has rapidly blossomed into a serious force in Tulsa’s economic development and community improvement landscape. Similar to NWAEL, TYPros has a set of “work crews” that implement volunteer-led projects impacting a variety of aspects of the community from Arts & Entertainment to Diversity to Environmental Sustainability. In partnership with Leadership Tulsa, TYPros implements a Board Internship Program, placing more than 80 members as “interns” (think “shadowing”) on non-profit boards throughout the region. The organization does so much more to help develop the next generation of community and business leaders in Tulsa by providing young people with opportunities to actually get involved and make difference by enabling them to make decisions, raise monies, and implement programs. Imagine that: they enable them to lead.
This past Saturday, I ate a lot of really good food and had a few glasses of not terrible wine – a rare combination at many catered events! I bid on a framed scrub autographed by Dr. Sanjay Gupta but despite my generous bid, I didn’t win – a fact that greatly pleased my wife, Amy, who rightfully wondered where such an item was going to be stored in our home. Had we won the auction, our bid would have contributed to the more than $200,000 that was raised by the Emerging Leaders for Children’s (ELC) to help save lives at the highly-specialized ECMO Center. Remember, this event and its proceeds were the product of an intentional leadership development effort. The non-profit healthcare system benefitted greatly from the work of ELC, and ELC’s members clearly received the benefit outlined in the program’s objectives – to help emerging leaders “enhance skills in fundraising, program development and relationship building.” I left the event wishing that I was a part of its development. Thankfully, there’s a simple form online to express interest in the ELC program.
The reality is that most leadership opportunities – in business and community – are not so easy to access. Programs like NWAEL in Northwest Arkansas and TYPros in Tulsa get it right. They make it easy. They don’t just “teach” you about leadership; they enable you to actually lead. Many “leadership development” programs fail to take this extra step or make this final connection. And it’s this final connection – a linkage to meaningful experience(s) – that adequately prepares an individual for future leadership.
Army, Navy Differ on Need for BRAC
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:
- US Army Leaders Push for Another BRAC Round (defensenews.com; March 25, 2014)
- Admiral: Navy is not pushing for BRAC (http://www.realcleardefense.com / also appeared in washingtonpost.com; March 24, 2014)
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.
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.