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Others First Legacy and Lessons in Leadership
Winter 2015
By Ian Scott

Winter 2015

The chamber industry has more than its fair share of strong personalities. Have a nightcap at the hotel bar at an ACCE convention and you’re sure to hear fascinating anecdotes about chamber executives and the work they do: how a blunder started out as forceful leadership, or why someone’s brilliant foresight was merely hubris. The stories are funny, faintly scandalous, and always instructive. The tone shifts, however, when Jim Anderson’s name comes up. There are smiles for sure, and maybe a chuckle about his love of dancing, but mostly there’s a pronounced mood of respect and admiration. And comments like: “How can anyone that accomplished be that humble?” or “He always has dead-on advice.” or “He was the first person to call and congratulate me when I got this job.” James B. Anderson, CCE, IOM, retired as president of the Springfield (Mo.) Area Chamber of Commerce on June 30 after serving in the role since 1988. Before joining the Springfield Chamber, he served for nine years as president of the Jefferson City (Mo.) Area Chamber. He was ACCE’s Board Chairman in 1994, chairman of the Board of Regents for the Institute for Organizational Management’s SMU campus, and he sat on the national board of trustees for IOM and served as a trustee for ACCE’s Benefits Trust. He’s earned many of the profession’s highest accolades, including the ACCE Chairman’s Award in 1992 and ACCE Chamber of the Year in 2012. An ACCE Life Member, he also has an honorary doctorate from Drury University, a Missouri State University distinguished alumni award, the Springfieldian Award, the Missourian Award and too many more to list. He was interviewed by Ian Scott, ACCE’s V.P. of Communications and Networks.

If you hadn’t been a chamber executive, in what other profession could you have seen yourself building a career?

Certainly in education. I was a high school teacher in Jefferson City, Mo., for four years out of college and then a school administrator for four years on top of that. I know I could have built a rewarding career in public education.

What got you out of education and into the Jefferson City Chamber?

After four years of teaching I took a role as director of School-Community Relations. As the name implies, I was involved in community affairs and civic engagement across Jefferson City, and one of the organizations I became very active in was the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce. In fact, I was serving on the board of directors and was chair of the chamber’s education committee.

The chamber exec retired and a search committee was formed. Several friends on the search committee encouraged me to apply for that job, and honestly I did not have interest in doing so. This was back in the fall of 1978. I had just gotten married that August. They kept encouraging me and I decided to try because I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go through an interview process again. Frankly I was not that serious about the job, but I got the offer. It took me three weeks before I gave them an answer, which shows how uncertain I was. I started as president of the Jefferson City Area Chamber on the first day of February 1979. Literally I went from one side of the board table to the other, and I think that experience served me well because I always had that volunteer leadership perspective.

You’ve politely declined your fair share of headhunter’s calls during your career. Could you talk about what kept you in Springfield for more than 25 years?

It’s the people I worked with and worked for that kept me in Springfield. This sounds like “chamber talk” I know. Also I think where an exec can really make a significant difference is in emerging second-tier cities like Springfield. It’s probably my bias, but I feel they don’t have the fragmentation that occurs in a lot of major metro areas. The chamber is still the go-to organization in the community. Also, it was the size of the community—we’re just under half a million in the MSA—where you’re large enough to have the amenities of a metropolitan area but still have the charm and feel of a smaller town.

Was there ever an opportunity somewhere else that piqued your interest?

I guess I’ll spill some secrets, now that I’m retired. There were two or three that sometimes make me wonder what might have been. I had opportunities to look at Austin, Nashville and Raleigh— and that was before Harvey (Schmitt, president of the Raleigh Chamber since 1994). Those three areas are just tremendous, in my opinion. Yeah, from time to time I wondered what it would have been like, but honestly I have no regrets at all about these past 35 years.

Did you ever seriously contemplate leaving the chamber profession?

Never. I had some opportunities to go into the private sector, some opportunities to go into higher education, but I never gave it serious thought. Honestly, I think I could have stayed at the Springfield Chamber longer but I’ve seen a lot of people in our profession and others who stay too long. I was bound and determined not to stay too long. I wanted to leave when things were going well. The opportunity arose two years ago when the CEO of this large healthcare system, who is a personal friend and active in the chamber, approached me with an opportunity. He said “I’ll give you some time. I know you’re going to retire one of these days.” About a year later he asked how much longer, so I retired probably a year earlier than I would have otherwise. But I have no regrets, I think I left the chamber at the right time. This encore career, as I call it, I plan on doing as long as my health and energy are there. The job is structured so that some of it can be part time, so it’s a great transition job to someday retiring. I have too much energy to sit still right now. I need to do something meaningful. And frankly, it still allows me to be active in the community I love.

Healthcare has got to be the most volatile industry in the whole country right now. What was so intriguing about this opportunity?

I love challenges and I’m stupid enough to think I’ll make a dent. It’s going to be tough. Obviously our state has not expanded Medicaid yet, and it’s not going to be easy this next legislative session. Springfield was the first chamber in the state to endorse Medicaid expansion, so it’s always been an issue that I believed in personally, and one our volunteer leadership embraced. Again, it’s another opportunity to hopefully make a difference.

Healthcare has got to be the most volatile industry in the whole country right now. What was so intriguing about this opportunity?

I love challenges and I’m stupid enough to think I’ll make a dent. It’s going to be tough. Obviously our state has not expanded Medicaid yet, and it’s not going to be easy this next legislative session. Springfield was the first chamber in the state to endorse Medicaid expansion, so it’s always been an issue that I believed in personally, and one our volunteer leadership embraced. Again, it’s another opportunity to hopefully make a difference.

Several of your supporters hoped you’d seek elected office. Did you ever consider that, or would you ever consider it?

I had a couple of overtures over the years, and certainly a lot in the last few months. But no, I really don’t have interest in elected office. At one point in my career I probably thought that would be a great thing, but I have less interest in doing that today. I think that’s due to the nature of the system today, both at our state level and certainly at the federal level. It’s not as much fun anymore. I guess I’m pretty naïve but I believe in compromise and collaboration, and there’s not a whole lot of that going on these days.

If you could wave your wand and fix one thing about the political system what would it be?

Our state passed term limits a few years ago and it’s been a killer because lawmakers turn over every few years and they’re always looking for that next job. There is not the sufficient memory and institutional knowledge that you had before term limits. I know there can be abuses with long-serving folks; a Speaker of the House who did political favors for cash is the reason we now have term limits. But it was an overreaction to that abuse. I believe that we already had term limits because of something called elections.

On the national level I think too much is being done by polling and by political operatives. People don’t make a statement or take a position without first checking poll results. I’m afraid the days of statesmanship are history. These days we have more politicians than we have folks that govern.

As you reflect on your career, is there a single moment that stands out as being the most memorable?

There was a turning point. I had not been in Springfield very long and our largest manufacturer and one of our largest employers, Zenith Electronics Corporation, announced they were closing and moving jobs to Mexico. It made national news because it was the last domestic television manufacturer in the country. It was a huge deal locally because they had employed around 5,000 or 6,000 people in our region. We could have wrung our hands and said “woe is us,” but we didn’t do that. The chamber assembled all the usual suspects—the mayor, city manager, and certainly our volunteer leadership—and decided we were going to create new opportunities. First we had to find a use for Zenith’s two million square foot manufacturing facility. That building is now the world headquarters of Bass Pro Shops. It’s a privately held company, and we convinced their owner, Johnny Morris, to take over that space. It’s community recycling at its very best. People will drive by that facility today and have no idea it used to be a manufacturing plant.

The second thing we did is form a public-private partnership, focused on economic development, with the city, chamber and public utility. This was economic development collaboration at a level this community had never seen before. It was very controversial. There was a major public effort—print, TV, and radio ads—to fire me, the city manager, and the CEO of the utility. There were some folks in town, primarily private sector leaders, who didn’t want to compete for labor, wages or salaries, and they knew an aggressive approach to economic development was going to cause that to happen. I literally was called a socialist at a city council meeting in 1990.

That was a real turning point, for my career as well as this community. Those were some tough days. I had a young family at the time and for them to see all the ads calling for my dismissal was hard. We survived and the outgrowth of the new effort was a 350-acre industrial park we called the Partnership Industrial Center. In just a few years we had recruited 22 manufacturers and more jobs than Zenith.

In those toughest moments, what gave you confidence in the direction you were headed?

Certainly the volunteer leadership was very supportive. We had a newspaper publisher who was very supportive. We had editorial support even though there were ads calling for dismissal. And certainly the friendship and the trust and confidence with the city manager and the CEO of the utility. We were all hanging in there together. Those were not easy days for any of us, but we knew what we were doing was right—we knew it was going to make a difference in our community. Looking back, on paper it probably wasn’t the smartest thing in the world to do, but I have always been a risk taker.

Another outgrowth of that period was that my board wanted to create an employment agreement that specified a year of severance in case I’d be terminated for taking a calculated risk like I’d just come through. They wanted me to have the financial security to confidently take risks that needed to be taken.

Are there any moments that still sting, decisions you wish you could have taken back?

I’ve been disappointed in some coworkers when I felt like they had let the team down, and I’ve even been disappointed in a volunteer leader before. There were some election losses that I scratch my head over. I guess those would be the biggest disappointments, but overall we had a pretty good track record on campaigns. We’ve managed 31 campaigns and had 27 wins and 4 losses, but those losses were hard to take because I felt like they would have been progressive steps in the right direction. The voters didn’t see it that way.

Was there ever a time when you felt like you were too far in front of your board on an issue?

At times I felt like I was challenging the board. One was 14 or 15 years ago when our school district was starting to have some problems, and quite frankly it stemmed from the school board. We had some board members with special agendas beyond the kids. I was getting so frustrated because the chamber’s volunteer leadership didn’t seem to be too concerned about it. Of course from my background I have always been partial towards the role of education in economic and community development. I really got frustrated during a planning retreat and I asked them how bad it would have to get before we get off our duffs and did something. I guess I gave a pretty sharp challenge because right then we decided to recruit endorsed candidates for the Board of Education. We have done that ever since, and it really turned the school district around. That was a time when I was really pushing volunteer leaders pretty hard.

Was there ever a time when you’ve gotten resistance from the board and had to backtrack?

Not direct resistance, but a couple times I came on a little too strong and I would get comments—not directly, but third hand like “has he forgotten who he works for?” Only a couple of times that’s happened, usually at board planning sessions. I think the value of those is that you get to challenge the status quo and really examine what you’ve done in the past.

I really tried to stay in sync with the board, but I will tell you I did a lot of what I call missionary work before a critical meeting. I never leave items to chance, I would spend a lot of time trying to build a coalition.

The most important relationship throughout your career?

Certainly peers. That’s not to diminish the volunteer leaders I’ve had the pleasure of working for, but I would say those peer relationships were the most important. I learned from so many others and I have just enjoyed tremendous peer relationships over these years.

Who are your personal heroes, who are the people you look up?

In our profession, certainly Bill Dower. There aren’t too many people who will know William A. Dower. He’s a past chairman of ACCE from the Jerry Bartels and John Duncan era. He was in Springfield in the ‘50s and went to Kansas City and then San Francisco for 16 years. Diane Feinstein was mayor of San Francisco then and I think she finally got to him and he retired. But he couldn’t stand to be retired long, so he came back to the chamber in Springfield. He was in Springfield twice, and I followed Bill Dower after his second stint. I wouldn’t be where I am without him. He’s an institution, a legend in our business for those as old as I am. Another one, more recent, is Rex Jennings. I always admired his leadership style. There are many others I’ve learned from and admire in the profession, but if I start naming more names the conversation will never end. I should also mention the superintendent of schools I worked for in Jefferson City who influenced my life tremendously. There’s also a CEO of a utility, a former chairman of our board, who I consider a mentor. In the historical realm I admire John F. Kennedy and Harry Truman. I’ve respected the difference they made and admired their style of leadership.

What traits of those leaders do you seek to model?

Certainly integrity. I think it all starts with integrity. Also these are decisive people, but not people who fly by the seat of their pants. They don’t just make a decision; they accept responsibility for that decision. If things don’t go well they don’t go to the blame game. I think those are people who have led with humility. And visionary. I know that’s an overused word, but I think vision is critical. They are persuasive people, you wanted to follow them, they led by example, they had positive attitudes, they were great communicators, they inspired confidence.

Throughout your career, where have you turned for inspiration? What gets you through the tough weeks?

I don’t wear my faith on my sleeve, but my faith is very, very important to me. I believe the old African proverb: when you pray move your feet. I’m a firm believer that if people can’t tell I’m a person of conviction by my actions then obviously my actions need to be changed. Of course my spouse Janet and our daughters keep me well-grounded, thank heavens for them. And then friends. I never talked about it much, but I’ve always had a kitchen cabinet. I think maybe it was Eisenhower that coined that term, but I’m a firm believer in a kitchen cabinet—a few people who will always tell me what I need to know, not what they think I want to hear. That’s sometimes been a coworker, sometimes close friends.

Is there a book you’ve reread multiple times?

I love Tuesdays with Morrie. I’ve read it and re-read it, I’d like to read it again. I think there’s just a lot of lessons in Mitch Albom’s book, and I’ve read several of his books. The message there is obviously to live life to the fullest every day and enjoy people.

Let’s shift gears and talk about where the profession is heading. What do you believe changed the most about the chamber profession during your tenure?

Technology has changed everything the most. In the old days when I started in this business, the term information broker was used often to describe the role of the chamber. Well, that’s not the case anymore because you can get information instantaneously. You don’t need the chamber for that, but you do need the chamber.

What excites you the most about the future for chambers?

I would say expectations. People’s expectations for return on investment are higher today than ever, and they’ll be higher next year. That’s both the direct return from chamber membership and the ability to move the community forward. Patience levels are thinner, expectations are higher.

How did you handle those members who wanted to see their dues come back to them threefold in the first month of chamber membership? Was there a successful way to communicate the bigger purpose of the chamber?

I’m always a firm believer in member orientation briefings. We always tried to convey that we are creating opportunities for business. I had a chairman years ago who came up with a phrase better than any I’ve ever heard: “The chamber cannot guarantee your success or your profitability, but we can guarantee the right business climate for you to succeed.” I really think he figured it out. We can’t guarantee a profitable bottom line for each individual member but we should be able to develop the right business climate and create opportunities for business to do business.

Where do you see the biggest opportunity for chambers?

With technology and an age of entrepreneurship like we’ve never seen before, I think there’s still a big role for the chamber in building relationships. It’s not too sophisticated, but the chamber is all about building relationships. The vehicles for building those relationships are going to look different, but I think that has to always be a focus.

What worries you most for chamber?

Relevance. If there is anything that kept me awake at night it was fear about being ahead of the curve. Are we as innovative, as creative, as we need to be? Have we done the right horizon scanning? And then there is demographic change. This was one of the challenges I gave to our team as I was going out the door. Chambers are built on relationships; that’s where the financial support and leadership comes from, but that’s changing because many of the leaders who have been through thick and thin with us are retiring. So, what are the new relationships? Who are the new audiences? It’s easy to get in that comfort zone, thinking that great volunteer is always going to be there. Well, they’re not, and you constantly have to build those new relationships and those new audiences.

Is the industry getting ahead of the curve?

I think so, and I honestly believe ACCE is the catalyst. We have a national association that I think keeps future challenges at the forefront. It’s a cultural thing, and I think Mick (Fleming, ACCE president) has done a tremendous job in providing that culture. We also have dynamite leadership. While many of the veterans are retiring there is great bench strength in the industry.

It’s important to always ask why. That keeps everything going the right direction that hopefully addresses that question of relevancy. I think we always have to focus on value, how you deliver that value, how you communicate that value, that’s just part of the basics of what we do.

What elements of chamber work are most at risk?

I think the membership-based revenue model is being challenged. I know there are some emerging new models out there, but I honestly have not seen many chambers execute well on nontraditional models. Some are trying now, of course, but I think we mostly fall back on the default of membership as we’ve always known it. I’m not sure that’s going to work going forward, but maybe it will last.

Our leadership programs here in Springfield continue to be vital but I get concerned about them because most leadership development programs I’ve seen are pretty traditional in their approach. I question whether we’re doing enough to cultivate future leaders.

Talking with a young chamber exec who’s contemplating a future in this industry, what’s the one piece of advice you’d want that person to remember?

Get a mentor and become a sponge. I was privileged to have folks help me along the way. That’s the most important thing I would say to anyone in the industry: find someone you can learn from and soak up all you can. I saw a recent report from Gallup that identified two key career success factors for college grads. Turns out your alma mater doesn’t matter nearly as much as having a mentor relationship with a college professor and doing an internship.

Also embrace continuous learning. Go to every professional development opportunity you can, read everything you can, study everything you can. We have to be ready to improve every day in this profession.

The same young chamber exec tells you she is considering a higher paying corporate job. Would you encourage her to stay at the chamber?

I have encouraged people to leave for other opportunities I knew were better fits, and I’ve encouraged people to stay. I think the key there is what makes them happy. I know it’s easy to say, but it’s all about happiness. I have seen folks who are making great money who are very unhappy and vice versa. I know that we all have good days and bad days, but I only want to work with generally happy people. I don’t want to work with someone that’s just down on their job, down on life all the time.

Any final advice?

Always challenge your comfort zone. Challenge the status quo. We just can’t get comfortable.

Politics, Chamber Work and Social Media
Winter 2015
By Mike Schlossberg

Winter 2015

Are you tired of hearing that your chamber simply must participate in social media? Probably. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but honestly, that’s too bad, because your chamber really does need to participate, and Facebook alone isn’t enough anymore.

It seems like new networks pop up every other day. MySpace started the social media revolution more than a decade ago, but social media quickly expanded to different fronts: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, and on and on.

From a chamber perspective, the question is: How can you use social media to serve your members and increase your bottom line? There is no shortage of answers, but a new survey from the Pew Research Internet Project provides some important insights.

The survey deals with political campaigns, and the results are nothing short of astounding in terms of the exponential growth in social media and the use of mobile devices by the politically involved. Among the key findings:

• During the past election, 28 percent of voters used cell phones to track political news, compared to 13 percent in 2010.

• These behaviors occurred among voters of all ages, but the growth was greatest among those aged 30-49; 40 percent of that age group used their cell phones for political news consumption, compared to 15 percent in 2010.

• If someone used social media or their phone to track politics, they were more likely to have higher levels of other campaign engagement, including voting, volunteering and donating. Social media use is soaring. The question is: What works, and what doesn’t?

It’s not about the numbers

One week before the election, I compared the Facebook and Twitter presence that each candidate had in six of the closest Senate races.The obvious conclusion is that numbers aren’t everything. In three of six races, the person with more Facebook fans lost; the same result applies to Twitter in four of six campaigns. The person with the largest numbers doesn’t always win, and that’s an important lesson for your chamber: content is far more important than raw numbers.

Engagement

As noted, the Pew results showed that those who followed elected officials on social media were more likely to be engaged in campaigns and more likely to vote, donate or volunteer their time. There is an easy lesson for chambers here: use your social media to build engagement, not just to raise awareness. Gear your content around that concept. For example, don’t just discuss the impact that a particular council is having; talk about things that the council does and how it needs your help. Don’t discuss what a success an event is; try to build attendance for the next one. The key is that every piece of content should give members something they can do, something actionable. Furthermore, have specific calls to action using words that will gather attention: “You” “Must-Attend” and “Money-Saving” are great examples.

Exclusivity

According to the Pew report, 41 percent of people said they follow elected officials on social media because they want to be the “first to know” something, and even more Republicans and Republican-leaning voters cited this rationale than Democrats.The point here is that you should reward your social media followers by giving them “exclusive” information. Make announcements about events, staff changes and policy via social media, and make sure to tell your followers that they are the first to know.

Want the young? Go where they are

“Not your father’s chamber” is a common phrase in today’s chamber world, and it should be. Chambers can no longer be dominated by older white males and expect to grow. Want the young? Want minorities? You have to be active where they are—social media—and it’s more than just Facebook: 28 percent of Instagram users are between 18-24; a majority of Twitter users are under 49; 11 percent of all millennials have Vine, and 29 percent of Tumblr’s overall audience is minority.

Be everywhere via mobile

At the beginning of 2014, a revolutionary change became official: a majority of Americans use mobile devices, rather than computers, to access the internet. This has an extreme impact on chambers and their digital strategies, as the shift to mobile internet access places a new premium on the ease with which a website can be accessed. Some key questions: • Is your website mobile friendly? • If someone is reviewing your website via their mobile device, how easy is it for them to join? To RSVP to events? To check out member benefits? • If someone wants to call or email, is your contact information easily accessible? How easy is it for someone to go from your mobile website to your social media?

Implications for Chambers

Politics and chambers have more in common than you may want to believe. Both thrive on personal relationships, engaged donors and volunteers. Both, at their finest, are dedicated to service, and both need approval of select constituencies to be successful. More to the point, both chambers and governments can be easily overwhelmed by the speed of innovation in the digital era. Conclusions that can be drawn about the use of social media in politics also apply to chambers. Social media is not an option! It’s a necessity, because chambers that fail to adapt may find themselves on the sidelines, just like politicians who have lost an election.

Mike Schlossberg is a Pennsylvania State Representative and a former vice president with the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. He is also a social media consultant (www.mikeschlossbergsocialmedia. com) and author of Tweets and Consequences: 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avert a Career-Ending Mistake.

Fixing the Leaky Bucket
Winter 2015
By Peter Perl

Winter 2015

 

In most cities and states, the chamber of commerce has many more pressing priorities than delving into the complex problems of the American prison system. Not many business people see a reason to devote time, energy and money to reforming the penal code, examining the rationale of court sentencing policies, or revamping the process of reintegrating prison inmates into society after they finish their jail terms.

But in Kentucky, the state’s business community realized it had no choice. “We spoke out on prisons, which is certainly not a traditional business issue, and some chambers today might still raise their eyebrows about talking about this.” said David Adkisson, CCE, president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber. “But we had done an analysis, and we realized that spending on prisons had become unsustainable.”Mike Schlossberg is a Pennsylvania State Representative and a former vice president with the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. He is also a social media consultant (www.mikeschlossbergsocialmedia. com) and author of Tweets and Consequences: 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avert a Career-Ending Mistake. 

The Kentucky Chamber’s unlikely advocacy and lobbying effort began in 2010 with an in-depth report about runaway state spending on prisons and elsewhere, an urgent call to action titled “The Leaky Bucket.” Illustrated with an eye-catching cover of a silver bucket leaking tax dollars like water, the 20-page report portrayed a system in crisis: Kentucky already had the fastest-growing prison population in the nation, and corrections spending was rising at a rate 50 percent faster than the state budget, exceeding $500 million annually.

Unless uncontrolled prison expenditures were swiftly, deeply curbed, the report said, they would soon destroy Kentucky’s ability to make progress on the issue that was the chamber’s top priority: education. Only by boosting school spending—from K-12 through college—could Kentucky become a vibrant place for workforce development and for the investment of new capital to create jobs and prosperity. But education spending, crowded out by prison growth, had alarmingly decreased by five percentage points as a portion of the budget.

 

Public Policy from Research, Data, and Analysis

The chamber’s timing in engaging this fight could not have been better. At the same time, Governor Steven L. Beshear and legislative leaders were negotiating an agreement to invite the Pew Charitable Trusts to come to Kentucky to launch an unprecedented effort to study the entire corrections system and propose a series of reforms.

Pew, which previously was just in the grant-making business, was in the early stages of building its national Public Safety Performance Project, which has assisted 35 states with Pew’s signature approach to public policy: conducting in-depth research, yielding a data-driven, non-partisan analysis of the issues, and then providing reliable and objective proposed solutions to a state’s political and legislative leaders.

The Kentucky Chamber and Pew launched an informal partnership that would yield transformational results, passing major new legislation in 2011 and 2013 bringing comprehensive reforms to both the corrections system and then to the deeply troubled state public employee pension system. In addition, it marked the start of a collaboration which both Pew and chamber officials believe can become a model for promoting beneficial legislation on many issues in various states.

“Pew’s research provided a critical role in creating a middle ground where issues could be debated on facts and data, and not with political rhetoric,” Adkisson said in an interview. This role of “honest broker” was particularly important because the Bluegrass State has long had a deeply divided government. Neither fully red nor blue, Kentucky has a Democrat governor, a Democratic state house, a Republican state senate, and two Republican U.S. senators.

Moreover, this divided legislature meets in the capital city, Frankfort, for only 30 days in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even-numbered, when passing a new budget leaves little time for compromise on any new legislation. And, bills that fail in either legislative chamber must be reintroduced all over again the next year. “For a decade, we formed task forces, but we never even nibbled at the problem; we just kicked the can down the road,” said Democratic Rep. John Tilley, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who credits both Pew and the Kentucky Chamber for creating a bipartisan breakthrough.

 

Plain Language, No Acronyms

Adkisson spearheaded a multi-pronged publicity and lobbying campaign involving dozens of public meetings and legislative hearings, newspaper op-eds, and radio and TV appearances. Throughout, he stressed the importance of plain language: “We don’t write reports as PhDs or technical white papers. I ask our people to write them for the guy sitting in the back row of the Rotary Club. We have to translate it for Main Street, so that guys who are out there making bourbon, making Toyotas or Corvettes, and everything else we make in Kentucky, we have to speak their language…We’ve outlawed acronyms, too.”

Slashing prison spending would mean reducing sentences for low-level crimes, providing more drug treatment, and delivering rehabilitative services to reduce recidivism—measures favored by liberals and often regarded as soft on crime. “We knew everyone wants to be tough on crime, but when you point out to that Rotary Club or chamber member that it costs $20,000 to send somebody to prison for a low-level drug offense, and that’s equivalent to sending three people to a community college, they see it doesn’t make sense to lock up everyone hanging out on a street corner,” Adkisson said. The chamber always stressed, however, that its interest was purely fiscal: “We did not debate this as a humanitarian issue.”

Richard Jerome, who directed Pew’s prison reform effort, said the chamber’s strong push provided “very significant foundational support” for conservative lawmakers who might otherwise have been afraid to be seen as soft on crime. Rep. Tilley said chamber backing “provided cover” for worried legislators “and cover is very important when you are trying to advance an idea that needs time to catch on.”

The result: despite partisan differences, the far-reaching reforms passed in 2011 by an astounding 96-1 margin in the House and unanimously in the Senate, whose president, David Williams, said it was “one of the best days in the 26 years I’ve been up here.” The law has yielded dramatic change: Kentucky has sharply reduced the rate of recidivism and has projected savings of $422 million over the coming decade.

Adkisson, who has run the state chamber nearly 10 years, knows his way around Kentucky politics. He was elected mayor of his hometown of Owensboro at age 34, served two terms, and ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Democrat. During his tenure, the chamber has assembled a staff with five registered lobbyists and an array of top former state officials as consultants. Jack Brammer, who has covered Kentucky politics for 35 years for the Lexington Herald-Leader, described Adkisson as a legislative “birddog” whose proactive approach has led the chamber to a high point in terms of credibility and respect.

 

Plugging the Pension Leak

The chamber next turned its attention to another huge leak in the bucket: Kentucky, like many states, had a history of increasing workers’ pension benefits without fully funding them, and had taken a huge investment loss following the 2008 recession. The state pension plan became one of the worst-funded in the country, covering only 55 percent of total liabilities, and reaching a projected shortfall of $23.6 billion—more than twice what the state collects annually in taxes. That year, Pew launched a nationwide pension-reform effort, and Kentucky became one of Pew’s first projects— with a new and valuable ally in the chamber.

The long-standing pension gridlock hinged on whether to maintain the existing “defined benefit” plan, favored by Democrats, which guaranteed workers a specific income, or whether to opt for the Republican-backed “defined contribution” in which the state paid a fixed sum, with workers getting no guaranteed benefit because of investment risk. Complicating matters, neither political party wanted to cut benefits that were already promised to current workers and retirees.

Drawing on knowledge of the financial trends of other states’ pensions, Pew outlined a choice of “hybrid” plans that would guarantee benefits—but not as generously as before—with workers and the state sharing the risk of potential investment losses.

“I thought we would end up in the usual partisan impasse that we’d had for years,” says Republican Senator Damon Thayer, co-sponsor of the pension legislation. “Things were never moving.” Eighty local chambers united under the Kentucky Chamber’s leadership to represent an impressive array of 90,000 employers, from mom-and-pop farms to Fortune 500 industrials.

But it was only in 2012 that it fully flexed its lobbying muscles, Thayer said, “The Kentucky Chamber engaged on a level I’ve never seen it engage before…It’s one thing to say in a membership newsletter that you support a policy, but it’s another thing altogether to fully engage all your resources—op-eds, public relations efforts, paid media. They came on the court as a starting player, and we were happy to have them come off the bench and play a major role.”

 

Rallying Local Businesses

“We would not have had action so urgently and quickly” without the chamber, said Democratic Rep. Mike Cherry, the pension co-sponsor. The key, he said, was that the chamber mobilized its grassroots. “When you come home from Frankfort and have local businesses” lobby you, he said, legislators really start to pay attention.

On the final day of the 2013 session, the legislature overwhelmingly passed a pension package that eliminated costof- living increases unless matched by new funding, committed the state for thefirst time to full funding, and even dared to divert $100 million from road construction to start paying down pension debt.

“I give so much credit to the leadership of Dave Adkisson,” said Steve Stevens, CCE, former president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber, “He helped all of us understand it; that we did not really have a choice; that the state was drowning because the liability was so great and the burden was so heavy.”

Joe Crosby, the director of the State Chamber Policy Center, said the Kentucky Chamber’s collaboration with Pew was a new kind of partnership, which holds great promise for other states. Pew can provide state chambers with crucial data, he said, and chambers can be an “external validator” which solidifies Pew’s credibility in each state.

Adkisson, as a former chairman of both the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives and the Council of State Chambers, has already helped promote this partnership nationally and sees it as a natural alliance. “We have a common approach in terms of accountability, government efficiency, data-driven policies, extensive research and independent analysis,” he said, “We stand outside government, but we both have an interest in putting government under a magnifying glass. We both have interest in being the voice of reason, and that role is absolutely critical in a politically polarized culture.”

 

Peter Perl, a former senior editor at The Washington Post, is a freelance writer living in Maryland.

How Missoula Put its City on the Map
Winter 2015
By Kimberly Hannon and Kim Latrielle

Winter 2015

 

Partnerships are crucial for chambers of commerce. They can add value to membership and are often the only way a chamber with a small staff can build a better community. But even partnership veterans like us get nervous forging a relationship with an internet giant.

We recently formed a wonderful partnership with Google. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we felt we could not pass up, but it required close attention to impacts on existing members, open communication, and willingness by all to collaborate and co-operate.

Google, with 55,000 employees, identified Missoula, population 70,000, as one of five cities (the others were Louisville, Ky., Jacksonville, Fla., Revere, Mass., and Garland, Texas) where it would launch its “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map” program to help small businesses create an online presence at little or no cost. This seemed a perfect fit for us: members would benefit, and nonmembers would be enticed to attend chamber-sponsored events featuring Google’s expertise.

Our first task was to get the word out to the entire business community, not just our members. With assistance from the University of Montana Library, we secured the names and addresses of 7,500 businesses in our community that would receive a postcard explaining the value of an online presence and announcing our new partnership with Google.

We found a sponsor to cover the non-budgeted costs of the mailing, but when we reported this to our board there were concerns, particularly from local media and I.T. companies: What data would Google collect and how would it be used? Would local companies be competing with Google for advertising sales?

We asked every board member with concerns to write down their questions and participate in a conference call with Google. The call was refreshingly honest. It quickly became clear that there was little, if any, threat, to local businesses. With their questions answered, our board members soon became supporters of the partnership.

 

Finding Win-Wins

Google’s workshops were multi-layered. At the first workshop, participants could verify their business listing and make updates. Another workshop would explain how to use Google AdWords, search engine optimization and customer reviews. The third workshop created the biggest hurdle for us: It gave attendees the option to build their own website which would be hosted at no charge for one year.

To find the win-win in this partnership and mitigate the perception that Google had an unfair advantage over local competition, we needed to modify the workshops and get assistance in hosting from sister organizations. We recommended the Missoula Economic Partnership and the Montana Community Development Corporation. They became partners in the program who hosted the “build a website” portion of the campaign while we handled the bulk of the marketing for Google and hosted the “Let’s Put Missoula on the Map” portion.

Another key to our win-win approach with Google was our agreement to have local businesses in related fields enhance Google’s workshops by adding 10-minute presentations on associated topics. Our members jumped at the chance to present information pertinent to their fields of interest, and Google was happy that local talent could assist. Moving forward, local members will provide one-on-one assistance to attendees and be the experts to get someone online when we host monthly Google workshops over the next year.

 

Going Live, and a Surprise

Our first workshop, with 35 attendees, was a rousing success despite some audio problems. The supplemental panel discussions were invaluable. Local firms provided information on keeping personal information secure, why you need an online presence, and how to keep your skills and training up to date. Because the workshop was live, we could send questions from our audience directly to Google and get an immediate response. They checked in with us frequently, and always asked for our feedback. After the workshop, attendees sent staff questions that were forwarded to Google. Because of the response we got from the first workshop, we decided to combine the second workshop with our annual Business to Business trade show.

Around the same time, the Google team informed us that they would be sending a film crew to spend a week interviewing small businesses in Missoula for a video to be used nationally for the Let’s Put Missoula on the Map campaign. This was the perfect opportunity to showcase Missoula as a town that works together, cares about business, promotes economic development and is always looking to strengthen the community.

The Google crew was also interested in hosting a community celebration that incorporated all of the components of the Put Missoula on the Map campaign. To cap it off, Google also planned to present our mayor with a Google eCity Award, which is based on several factors relating to the web sophistication of a city’s small businesses.

The chamber helped get the word out, and we were happy to recommend hotels, hot spots and eating establishments for the Google crew while they were in town. Lights, Camera, Action We’re lucky. One of the most recognizable companies in the world took interest in Missoula, and the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce was the catalyst in overcoming obstacles to create an amazing opportunity for our community. Chambers are formed to further the interests of businesses and engage our communities. The Missoula video created by Google underscores this idea and presents it to a national audience.

 

Lights, Camera, Action

We’re lucky. One of the most recognizable companies in the world took interest in Missoula, and the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce was the catalyst in overcoming obstacles to create an amazing opportunity for our community. Chambers are formed to further the interests of businesses and engage our communities. The Missoula video created by Google underscores this idea and presents it to a national audience.

 

Kimberly Hannon is director of operations and Kim Latrielle is president and CEO of the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce.

Faces and Places
Winter 2015

Winter 2015

 

ACCE Life Member Richard D. Upton, CCE, president and CEO of the American Lighting Association (ALA), was recently inducted into the Lighting Hall of Fame at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference in Nashville. Upton has served as the association’s president and CEO since 1994 and retires in January, concluding a 55-year career in organizational management. Prior to his work with ALA, Upton was chamber president in Dubuque, Iowa; Wichita, Kan.; Minneapolis, and Dallas. In 2008, he received the Life Member Award from ACCE. He served on the ACCE board twice, and served on boards for the Institute of Organizational Management.

Galveston, Texas, Regional Chamber of Commerce President Gina Spagnola, received a “Lemi” Award at the National Lemonade Day Conference. Spagnola was one of three Lemonade Day City Directors across the nation who were presented with this inaugural award.

Ron Bunch, CecD, president and CEO of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, was named the 2014 James J. Coleman Community Economic Professional of the Year at the Kentucky Association for Economic Development’s annual conference. The award recognizes practitioners who have made significant and/or innovative contributions to the field and their service area in the past year.

Institute for Organization Management, the professional development program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, has appointed Robert Thomas, IOM, CAE, CMP, to the National Board of Trustees as chair elect. Thomas is senior director of operations, Michigan Chamber of Commerce and executive director, Michigan Chamber Foundation.

 

Darrell Helton is the new executive vice president and CEO of the Jefferson County, Tenn., Chamber of Commerce. Helton will continue to serve as the county finance director until he begins his new role at the chamber in January.

Howard County (Md.) Chamber of Commerce selected Leonardo McClarty as its next president. McClarty most recently served as director of economic and community development for the city of York, Pa. Before coming to York, McClarty was president and CEO of the DeKalb, Ga., Chamber of Commerce.

Marc Jordan, CCE, IOM, CCEC, president and CEO of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, was named the 2014 South Carolina Chamber Executive of the Year by the Carolinas Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

Betty Nokes Capestany, president and CEO of the Bellevue (Wash.) Chamber of Commerce and immediate past chair of ACCE, recently received the “Leading the Way” Award from the Washington Chamber of Commerce Executives for being a model “as a leader and as a mentor, facilitator, and guardian.”

Roy M. Nascimento, IOM, will succeed David McKeehan, CCE, as president and CEO of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce. McKeehan, who is retiring, led the chamber for 30 years. Before accepting the position, Nascimento was president and CEO of the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce.

Debra Stohlman was named president/ CEO of the Culpeper, Va., Chamber of Commerce. Stohlman began her tenure at the chamber as operations manager in 2009.

 

Five-Star Chambers

In November, the following ACCE member chambers received 5-star accreditation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for their sound policies, effective organizational procedures, and positive impact on the community.

Lakeland Area (FL) Chamber of Commerce

Orlando (FL) Regional Chamber of Commerce

Overland Park (KS) Chamber of Commerce

Bowling Green Area (KY) Chamber of Commerce

Battle Creek Area (MI) Chamber of Commerce

Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce

Greenville-Pitt County (NC) Chamber of Commerce

Myrtle Beach Area (SC) Chamber of Commerce

North Myrtle Beach Area (SC) Chamber of Commerce

Johnson City-Jonesborough-Washington County (TN) Chamber of Commerce

Fort Bend (TX) Chamber of Commerce

Greater Irving Las Colinas (TX) Chamber of Commerce

Lufkin/Angelina (TX) Chamber of Commerce

Oshkosh (WI) Chamber of Commerce Lauver Westergard

Dennis Lauver, CCE, president/CEO of the Salina (Kan.) Chamber of Commerce, announced his resignation to become a partner in a real estate firm in Clinton, Iowa, where he previously served as president of the chamber. Lauver completed 25 years in the chamber industry, having worked in Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas. Don Weiser, senior vice president at the chamber, will serve as interim CEO until a replacement is hired.

Peter Tateishi has been named the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s new president and CEO. He had been CEO of the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange.

The Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau hired Carrie Westergard as its new executive director. Westergard was the community relations director for the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce before pursuing her new position with the Boise CVB.

 

In Memoriam

Bob Lamb, who as the longtime head of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce played a pivotal role in hundreds of economic development projects throughout the state, died Oct. 25. He was 82. During his 25 years at the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas, he was a strong and effective voice for business interests at the State Capitol, led several successful efforts to keep Arkansas a rightto- work state, and organized and led hundreds of industrial job recruitment trips around the nation.

Melissa Bonney Ratcliff, vice president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, died Oct. 7 after being struck by a vehicle while she was unloading her car on a busy street in La Jolla, Calif. According to the chamber’s website, Ratcliff oversaw the chamber’s strategic direction related to marketing, communications and events and was integral to the organization’s new direction.

The Roller Coaster Ride of 2014
Winter 2015
By Tom Baldrige, CCE

Winter 2015

 

For me, 2014 was a true roller coaster of life events. From mourning the loss of my father at the beginning of the year to c elebrating the marriage of my daughter at year’s end, it was 12 months of highs, lows, challenges and victories—all the things that make life worth living and make me excited about all the adventures 2015 will bring.

My guess is you probably share my excitement for the year ahead. In fact, as a chamber professional, I think it is likely a part of your DNA to be excited about every New Year. You see, I have long contended that successful chamber professionals have considerable optimism and unrivaled passion for the future of their communities. In fact, your community should expect nothing less of you.

Even if you have to fake it sometimes, you must always be a glass-half-full kind of person.

Just as hope springs eternal that this will be the year your favorite baseball team wins the World Series or that your unruly teenager will finally turn the corner and welcome you back as a parent, so too must you believe in your community’s unlimited future. This quality motivates others to succeed and unites communities with confidence in the future. It’s the quality that draws me to all the wonderful people I have met through ACCE.

Sure times will be tough, but you have to believe they can get better. You must address the difficulties, distractions and dangers that surround you, but you have to do it in a way that makes them opportunities instead of threats. Yes, you’re going to encounter naysayers who will try to bring you down, but if you believe in your message they will not be able to get the best of you. Simply put, if you aren’t leading with a positive view of your community’s future, who will?

The coming year in Lancaster gives me plenty to look forward to, especially regarding two areas of work in which ACCE can be of significant help: workforce and state advocacy.

After surveying members’ needs and worries, it was clear that future workforce concerns are paramount. As a result, we’re looking forward to tapping into ACCE’s Education Attainment Division more regularly as we seek best practice solutions to building our talent pool.

We also know that the pros who share wisdom and tactical methods through ACCE’s Government Relations Division will help us address whatever our especially full legislative session in Pennsylvania can bring.

I am always struck by the Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” Success starts with thinking that you can, and I find the chamber profession attracts those types of people in spades, which is just one of the reasons I enjoy being a part of such a great industry. You folks inspire me with your optimism. It’s infectious.

I’m happy to share your enthusiasm for the New Year. I’m hopeful that you all have a prosperous, healthy, and eventful 2015. And you heard it here first: the Pittsburgh Pirates are going all the way!

 

Tom Baldrige, CCE President and CEO Lancaster (Pa.) Chamber of Commerce & Industry ACCE Board Chairman, 2014-15.

Marxism, Montréal, and More
Winter 2015
By Mick Fleming

Winter 2015

 

I remember reading in college about philosophers who were “economic determinists.” Karl Marx falls into this category, portraying our motives, cultures, politics and histories as driven by the competition for survival and wealth. Literature, art, relationships . . . all determined in the end by the competition for resources.

Even though nearly all of you would reject Marxism as your preferred explanation of just about anything, most chamber executives (and I) do assume that the future of our communities will be largely driven by sustainable prosperity, i.e., economic determinism.

Those who lead business-civic organizations like chambers also firmly endorse “on-the-other-hand-ism” as their philosophical approach. There is a pragmatic instinct that shapes their worldview.

While you might have strong beliefs, you’re forced to recognize that many important people in your town, state or board room may not share those beliefs. You must seek to understand where they’re coming from. Your decisions, whether about programs you offer, prices you charge, or policies you espouse, instinctively take the other guy’s perspective into account. It isn’t indecision or lack of confidence; it’s respect. It’s because your job requires you to undertake the most difficult kind of leadership: leading without authority.

I’m amused when I hear corporate lobbyists championing a specific piece of legislation accuse a chamber of wimping out for not supporting their “obviously pro-business” position. In most of the situations you face, purity of thought and clarity of direction are rare. For some organizations, a pledge against all new taxes or parts per billion of greenhouse gas is, frankly, easy. For a heterogeneous, fiercely independent, consensus-driven organization like a chamber of commerce, not so much. And it is much easier to launch or kill an event when the only consideration is the P&L. You must pause and reflect seriously about “the other hand.”

Just because it’s hard to take bold policy positions doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them. Just because it’s hard to decide between two programs that serve different clusters of members doesn’t mean you should offer both. In the end, you and your board get paid the big bucks (?) and sit at the grown-ups’ table to make such decisions and move forward. You must act.

When chambers are criticized for being ineffective and/or lacking value (please check a dictionary before calling this “relevance”), the critics are often more frustrated with lack of action than they are with wrong positions or programs. The safe course might seem to be “no position” or “let’s do that dinner one more year.” It might seem smart to try to be all things to all people. You may believe that your actual mission is to avoid member resignations at all costs. I wish I could tell you that endless consideration of the negative consequences of action was the best way to preserve your personal position and organizational stature.

I wish I could tell you that the chamber could be a safe neutral place, like Switzerland. Unfortunately, in this volatile world, with predators and competitors on every side—and with generational change causing investment realignments every few weeks—the no-risk course for your organization may in fact be the riskiest of all.

ACCE is not beyond such considerations. Two years ago, the staff and board were locked in deliberations about the risks and rewards of siting our 2015 convention in Montreal. With proper vetting but no hand-wringing, we decided that we and our members were grown up enough for a powerful conference outside the U.S. border (though within sight of it). “We can do this!” echoed from the staff meeting to the board room.

Now, here we are entering convention season 2015 with more enthusiasm than ever. But we’re not naïve. We know people may worry about speaking or understanding French, even though they can’t understand cabbies in their own cities or teenagers in their own families. And we know there will be other issues that we, and you, will fret about. But the upside of this meeting is huge for economic determinists like you and me.

ACCE will be modeling the imperative for American business to think outside its borders. The meeting will demonstrate to our many members in Canada that they are indeed part of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. Yes, a superior proposal from a Canadian city can and should win the opportunity to host. The meeting will give members who have not traveled internationally a chance to see a truly global city. And, importantly, it shows that we too can be audacious, but only after contemplating … on the other hand …

Onward.

Mick Fleming is president of ACCE.

All-Star Sales Advice
Fall 2014
By Several Authors

Fall 2014

Five top membership sales professionals share insights and strategies they use to
consistently perform at the top of their game.

What’s the best sales advice you ever heard?

Pruente: LOSE THE FOLDER. My father-in-law is a small business owner, like many of our members, and when he saw my sales material he said, “If I saw you come into my shop dressed like that with your sales folder in your hand, I’d hide in the back and tell my staff to tell you I wasn’t here. You may be selling the best product ever, but I’m too busy to talk with sales people and I immediately turn them away.”

You should go in with nothing but a business card, and they’ll treat you like a customer. If you travel light and lose the folder, you’ll set yourself up for a better reception and a higher likelihood of talking with the owner.

Also, dress the part. My first chamber president encouraged me to dress professionally, but try and match my appearance to those I would be meeting that day. If you’re meeting with a mechanic and wearing a suit, you’re sending a message that he might not fit your organization. It’s the same with homebased businesses or young tech companies. If you show up in a suit, they might assume your organization is too formal for them.

Turley: DON’T SELL. Instead, solve problems for your customers and good things will come.

Clark: CONTACT THREE NEW SALES LEADS every day for 21 days and it will become a habit.

Fanelli: IT’S GREAT IF A PROSPECT SAYS “yes.” “No” is OK, but “maybe” is quicksand. As sales people, our job is to get the sale. Sometimes we want to avoid a “no” at all costs, but that can be dangerous. It’s OK for them to say no. Then you can move on and not waste time (wasted time = quicksand).

If my prospect is stalling after I’ve guided him correctly through my entire sales process, I say this: “It seems like maybe the timing is just not right for you to join the chamber now. I’m going to close your file and you can get in touch with me when the timing is better.” One of two things will happen. They’ll say “No, don’t close my file! I want to join!” Or, “The timing really isn’t right. Go ahead and close my file and I’ll be in touch.” Now you know and you can move on and not waste any more time.

Keibler: ALWAYS DO BETTER THAN LAST MONTH. That is my motto since my second day of work. When I started this job they told me to go out that day and not return until I had two memberships, so I did. I worked for four years before they told me that they were kidding! They didn’t think I would be able to do it! For the first eight years I sold at least two every day. I didn’t know any better.

What’s the best sales advice you ever heard?

Pruente: ADMIT YOU’RE IN SALES. Many of us got into this profession but didn’t want to be in sales. We all hope to position our chamber as a resource, and educate businesses about our programs and services, but that is sales! Once you admit that you’ll open yourself up to training and development tailored specifically for sales, and you’ll learn techniques that work for other sales professionals. In the end the chamber name/brand will get you the meeting, but sales training will help you close the sale quicker and more often. It took me 3-4 years to come to grips with the fact that I was a “salesman” but once I did, I benefited greatly. And let’s be honest: the chamber is an easy sale!

Turley: FOLLOW THE FUNDAMENTALS. Selling is a matter of repetition. You should have a system in place that allows you to replicate steps each week which keeps your meeting list full and your closing opportunities great. The litmus test for a great salesperson is staying with your plan when times are tough. Too many salespeople throw in the towel when times get tough. By practicing the fundamentals of sales and tailoring those steps to your personality, you can ensure a level of consistency throughout your sales career.

Clark: DON’T TAKE “NO” PERSONALLY. It might mean “not now but maybe later.” Always follow up in a timely manner. Three basic components to any sales job: Prospect, Follow Up, Close the Sale.

Fanelli: DON’T KNOCK YOUR COMPETITION. In some industries, you need to point out your competition’s weaknesses to highlight your strengths, but I don’t recommend that in the chamber world. I always tell my prospects that it’s not that one chamber is better than the other. Chambers are all alike in some ways and different in others. A chamber membership is a marketing tool. I describe to them how our chamber will help find new clients. Focus on your strengths, not other chambers’ weaknesses. Take the high road.

Keibler: LOVE YOUR JOB. Always find a way to connect to the business you are trying to sign up. Talk to your board, friends, family. Someone is likely to know the person at the business you want to sign up.

What advice would you give to a veteran sales rep in a slump?

Pruente: DON’T TRY SO HARD. I was recently in the worst slump of my career. I was calling prospect after prospect and none of them would join. The more I called, the more my results were the same: no sales. I was smothering my prospects and they could feel it. You never want your prospects to feel that you need the sale. So I took a step back and didn’t make any calls for two days (which was very hard to do). Instead I went out and called on existing members that I knew would be good for a few new referrals. Sure enough my meetings generated new leads. I focused on and researched them instead of harassing my old tired leads. In the end some of my old/tired prospects came in, but getting out of the office and talking to existing members gave me new leads to focus on and cleared my head.

Turley: DON’T OVER-ANALYZE. It can do more harm than good in a slump. Step back and analyze your daily activities and which ones actually contribute to sales. Are you taking care of non-sales tasks before the day begins so you can focus on meetings, follow-up and closings? Or are you letting unproductive activities take you away from your central focus. We all get too comfortable from time-to-time, especially veterans who have a long track record of success. I would also recommend staying up on current sales practices through books, seminars, etc.

Clark: GO BACK TO THE BASICS. A well maintained prospecting list (from years back) and a cancelled member list becomes a great new prospecting list. Hit the street and start prospecting again. Watch ads in magazines and newspapers for non-members. Cold Call.

Fanelli: PROSPECT, FOLLOW UP AND CLOSE. If you’ve been in sales for a while, chances are you’ve had referrals coming your way and you may have become a bit complacent. You’re starting from scratch now. Jump in like you did on your first day.

Keibler: NEVER GIVE UP.

What’s the most important habit/trait for a successful membership sales person?

Pruente: SCHEDULE TIME FOR YOUR CALLS. A sales consultant suggested two prime selling times on three days of the week: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 9-11 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. These are the best times to catch prospects on the phone or in person if you stop by. The concept sounds easy, but doing it takes a commitment. I often close my office door during these hours and appear anti-social to my co-workers, but those are the best times to connect with prospects. Organize/research/plan your day from 7-9 a.m., make actual sales calls during the 9-11 a.m. window, send follow up e-mails over lunch, and then make calls again from 2-4 p.m., concluding your day delivering all of the follow-up that you promised during your calls. This is much harder than you think, but if you work towards this goal you’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish.

Turley: WORK ETHIC! You have to have a strong work ethic to keep working at sales when others would quit. Some of the most successful salespeople succeed not because they are smarter, but because they out-work everyone else.

Clark: BE A SELF-STARTER, self-motivated, confident, and believe in what you’re selling.

Fanelli: DON’T OVER-SELL. When you’re describing how the chamber is going to work for them and they say, “That sounds great!” ask for the check! Don’t start in on other wonderful things about your chamber. Ask for the check! We have a tendency to get very excited about our chamber, which is great, but when you’ve hit on the perfect element for your prospect, you’re done.

Keibler: BELIEVE IN WHAT YOU’RE DOING, keep learning and listening for new fresh ideas. Remember, you are not selling a tangible product that they can hold in their hands. More than likely you will be the one they rely on.

What’s the best way to interest a prospect in joining the chamber? Is there a best way to close the sale?

Turley: ASK QUESTIONS. I’ve studied books on closing and presentations, and establishing a relationship should be foremost when meeting with a prospect. I don’t agree with some of the closing tactics presented in books. I always have a list of questions to ask business leaders so I can better understand their needs. From there, I can better represent what my organization can do to help solve their problems. And, you have to ask for their business. Too many sales people do not ask, “Will you join?” I’ve had businesses say they enrolled because I asked when others would not.

Clark: LISTEN TO THE PROSPECT’S NEEDS. Match the benefit of joining the chamber with their needs. A business owner doesn’t always want to know every little piece of information. Be able to read your prospect. Sometimes we over-sell or talk too much. The best way to close is to ASK: “Will you be paying with check or credit card today?”

Fanelli: DON’T LAUNCH INTO A DISSERTATION ON THE VIRTUES OF MEMBERSHIP. Ask questions to determine which elements of your programming will work best for this particular business. Don’t wade through the entire information packet. Start with a blank pad of paper. Ask questions, jot down the answers. Match your response to their communications style. If their questions indicate a “right-brained” person, paint a picture of how your chamber will help them or tell how a similar member has been successful there. If they’re asking for numbers and statistics, it’s a left-brained person and your answers should make them see themselves being successful in your chamber. Pull out parts of the packet that pertain to them and their business and you’ll be customizing a presentation that will interest them.

Keibler: DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I check out all companies online, find out who knows them and use that person to help me. I always end with “if you’ll just take a minute to fill out this membership application your benefits will start right away.” Do not ask “are you ready?”

Lessons from Leaders: Regional Collaboration
Fall 2014
By Several Authors

Fall 2014

If there ever was a time when a single chamber could marshal resources and tackle big community issues alone, that day has surely passed. Today in regions large and small, collaboration— productive partnerships with schools, civic organizations, elected leaders, universities, employee groups, state agencies and other business interests—is the way big things happen. Leading a collaborative effort can feel like thankless work. After all, collaboration means sharing the work and the credit, and focusing on a broader outcome. While chambers often deflect the credit to partners at home, ACCE’s recognition programs shine a spotlight on chambers and their successes.

The following case studies in community development, advocacy, and enterprise support are the result of significant regional collaboration. They are drawn from chambers who took home top honors at the 2014 ACCE Annual Convention.

Changing the Economic Tide
Putnam County (Fla.) Chamber of Commerce 
2014 Chamber of the Year, Category 1

In the midst of the recession, Putnam County, a predominantly rural area in north central Florida, was suffering from one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. With area businesses closing, unemployment rising and retail sales declining, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce sought to reverse the trend and help strengthen the local economy.

The chamber saw an uptick in inquiries about starting a business, and lots of existing businesses approached the chamber for help on marketing strategies and funding sources. The community’s entrepreneurial drive was alive, but the chamber’s five professional staffers were not fully equipped to assist.

The solution was to establish a local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), housed at the chamber, to provide a fulltime office with certified professionals who could offer advice and training to potential entrepreneurs and existing businesses seeking assistance to recover and grow. Alignment with Florida’s SBDC Network would bring the best business assistance resources. It was up to the chamber to marshal the financial resources necessary to make it happen.

The chamber reached out to all the local government entities. The County Commission, City of Palatka Community Redevelopment Agency, and Putnam County Development Authority all contributed to the new initiative while the chamber raised private funds. The balance, roughly $50,000, was funded by state and federal grants Changing the Economic Tide Putnam County (Fla.) Chamber of Commerce 2014 Chamber of the Year, Category 1 through Florida SBDC and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

By March of 2012, the chamber and a selection committee hired a business consultant and begin publicizing the full range of services. The roll-out consisted of open house events, radio ads, social media and direct mail to invite the whole community to take part in this new, exciting resource.

Performance benchmarks including quality of client counseling, effectiveness of workshops, and number of new businesses were established to track results. So far, the program has been hugely successful, serving over 400 clients, helping retain 45 jobs while creating 40 new jobs and spurring $9.4 million in new investments. This has been done through 600+ hours of counseling and 24 workshops during the first 12 months of service.

The return on investment for the creation of the Putnam County Small Business Development Center has been tremendous. For every $1 invested, more than $4 was returned to increase the tax base of the region due to increased sales and new jobs.

The Putnam County Chamber of Commerce elevated the potential success of its service area by acting quickly in troubled times to ensure future success. By working together with the Florida SBDC and local government partners, the chamber was able to turn the corner on a growing crisis and put the community on a path toward growth.

 

Uniting Business Voices 
McLean County (Ill.) Chamber of Commerce 
2014 Chamber of the Year, Category 2

Central Illinois is home to a major research university and a diverse business base with several multinational corporate headquarters. It’s a vital driver of the state’s economy but is often politically overshadowed by Chicagoland to the north. To better represent the region’s interests in Springfield, the McLean County Chamber of Commerce joined with 16 other chambers to form the Central Illinois Regional Chamber Legislative Effort (CIRCLE).

Each year, CIRCLE conducts a member survey about issues that affect their businesses. Survey responses are then compiled and prioritized to make up CIRCLE’s advocacy objectives for each year.

Now in its fifth year, CIRCLE has become a powerful force at the statehouse. In 2013 CIRCLE joined a successful push for pension reform legislation and helped prevent a statewide minimum wage increase. With the minimum wage issue back, CIRCLE’s 2014 priorities are:

•   Continued opposition to the proposed statewide minimum wage increase

•   Oppose permanent increase of 68 percent in Illinois’ income tax rate

•   Comprehensive worker’s compensation reform

This year’s strategy included a Central Illinois Lobby Day in Springfield that featured CIRCLE-organized meetings, panel discussions with legislators, testimony from member businesses and presentations from the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. In addition to advocacy efforts at the statehouse, CIRCLE also pushes information to members about legislative and policy concerns.

The capacity of the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, or any other partner entities, to affect policy change is heightened by this collaborative effort. Together, members of CIRCLE are able to continue their collective commitment to enhancing economic vitality and promoting a climate conducive to capital investment and job creation.

 

Fighting for Flights 
Hilton Head Island-Bluffton (S.C.) Chamber of Commerce 
2014 Chamber of the Year, Category 3

Hilton Head Island attracts 2.4 million visitors each year who create an economic impact of $1.2 billion and support 24,000 area jobs. It is obviously a tourist-reliant region.

The foundation of Hilton Head Island’s economy was shaken in the recession as the travel market slumped and air carriers began cutting service to the Savannah/Hilton International Airport. AirTran announced that it was pulling out of the market completely. With fewer carriers and flights, accessibility dropped and ticket prices rose dramatically. In 2013 USA TODAY ranked the airport among the country’s top 10 most expensive.

With 48 percent of passengers flying into the airport headed to Hilton Head Island, the Hilton Head Island- Bluffton Chamber of Commerce recognized the need to attract additional service to secure the region’s attractiveness for business and leisure travelers. By working with the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, the Savannah Chamber of Commerce, and the Savannah Economic Development Authority, the chamber was able to compile economic and market data compelling enough to attract a new carrier, JetBlue, to enter the market.

Along with their partners, the chamber held meetings with officials from JetBlue over the course of 18 months. Data from current and past carriers, growth projections and other metrics were vital, but the entire community rallied around wooing the new airline. A community video called “JetBlue We Want You” was a highlight of the public campaign.

In 2013 JetBlue announced that it would begin two direct daily flights from New York’s JFK and Boston’s Logan to Savannah/Hilton Head. Initial demand was so high that JetBlue began scheduling larger planes before the routes opened.

Attracting JetBlue has not only replaced service lost during the recession, it also has opened additional new service and lowered overall flight costs. Delta announced in 2013 that it would begin routes to JFK to compete with JetBlue. The “walk-up” ticket price, used as an industry benchmark, has also declined 64 percent from $758 to $276.

The collaborative effort that the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce engaged in enhanced its ability to work strategically on improving tourism for the area. Advanced reservations for Hilton Head Island travel are up 16 percent over the previous year, with much credit given to the ease of travel from the two top market sources, New York City and Boston.

 

Rallying Regional Investment 
Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce 
2014 Chamber of the Year, Category 4

In November 2013, several metro chambers were asked by Ohio Governor John Kasich to identify key community projects for inclusion in Ohio’s capital budget for fiscal years 2015 and 2016. The catch: they’d have to get their projects submitted by Dec. 18.

In response, the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce reinstated its White Paper Committee, comprised of business leaders and elected officials, to solicit and identify the best projects to submit for future state funding.

With a very tight turn-around time, this group couldn’t run at typical chamber committee pace. They created an aggressive timeline with a public calendar to keep staff and volunteers on target. The first meeting took place Nov. 15 to organize the review process. That gave them just over a month to solicit input, review possible projects, select the best, get buy-in and submit a proposal by the deadline.

The chamber sent out multiple calls for action to members and the community, gathering 29 projects for review. This process was intentionally inclusive. By involving business leaders and elected officials from both parties, it was easier to get broad support for the final list of projects. More inclusion also meant a better crop of prospective projects.

In the past, many projects were rejected for state funding due to eligibility issues, so the chamber’s public Rallying Regional Investment Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce 2014 Chamber of the Year, Category 4 white paper committe affairs staff clarified the state’s evaluation process and was responsible for vetting eligibility of specific projects submitted. They hoped thorough vetting would bring a higher percentage of state funding to their region and achieve a greater number of total projects.

In the end, 14 priority projects amounting to $15 million were submitted to the state. After review, 11 of those were slated for nearly $7 million in state funding. In addition, the state reviewed arts-related projects separately, awarding $3.5 million to those in the Toledo area. With a total of $10.5 million in funding, it was more than double what the region had received in the past two capital budgets, and increased the percentage of the state’s total budget received by the area by 20 percent. This funding will leverage more than $100 million in funding for other community projects.

This enormous effort took 30 volunteers along with chamber staff and elected officials more than 400 hours to complete, all with minimal expense—only $100 was spent on lunches.

In addition to the significant impact on jobs and investment, the Toledo Regional Chamber was acknowledged in major newspapers for its leadership in the process. The commitment to collecting public and private sector input on budget projects provided an opportunity to improve the region significantly for sustained economic growth.

 

Boosting College Enrollment 
The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce 
2014 Regional Innovation Award Winner

Recognizing that 85 percent of all new jobs nationwide require some level of postsecondary education, the Greater Austin Chamber realized the key to improving Metro Austin’s economic competiveness is higher education attainment. The chamber has taken the lead in removing three obstacles to earning a college degree identified by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation:

•   If you don’t apply to college, you won’t go.

•   If you don’t have the money to pay for college, you won’t go.

•   If you’re not academically prepared for college, you won’t graduate.

In 2005, the chamber embarked on an ambitious plan to boost college enrollment of high school graduates to 20,010 by 2010, a 30 percent increase in five years. The chamber pushed 15 school districts to add one college enrollment manager at each high school, and lobbied colleges to accept a common Texas college application. ApplyTexas, a free web portal, has simplified application and enrollment processes for college counselors.

To address the financial issue, the chamber expanded and promoted the Financial Aid Saturday program, which provides free assistance to high school seniors and parents in navigating financial aid forms, and coordinated IRS and Department of Education processes to allow counselors and applicants to better track their aid status. Aid applications are up 99 percent over eight years.

To chip away at the college readiness issue, the chamber funds Partners in Education, which brings volunteers into the classroom to tutor and mentor 1,000 seniors in every high school.

Round one was so successful, the chamber has doubled down for round two. The next five-year plan aims to raise the share of local graduates who enroll in college directly after high school from 62 to 70 percent by 2015. The chamber has partnered with the University of Texas Ray Marshall Center to launch the Student Futures Project, which tracks graduates for four years after graduation to gather trends and data on employment and higher education outcomes. They will also launch a summer counseling program.

Throughout the effort, the chamber has embraced data-collection and continuous improvement principles. With student surveys, graduate tracking, and regional report cards, the chamber relies heavily on statistics and data to support and adjust its approach. The chamber also has been highly collaborative in this effort, engaging 15 school districts, 10 higher education institutions, state and federal agencies, and, of course, hundreds of business leaders.

Holistic, collaborative, multi-platform, data-intensive and business-led. A sophisticated strategy for a complex challenge that is producing real results.

 

Building an Ecosystem 
The Dallas Entrepreneur Center 
2014 Regional Innovation Award Winner

The Dallas/Fort Worth region has a strong and highly active corporate community. But historically that base hasn’t engaged with the startup community. The Dallas Entrepreneur Center wants to change that.

In collaboration with the Dallas Regional Chamber, The Dallas Entrepreneur Center (DEC) was launched in June 2013 to support the Dallas/Fort Worth entrepreneurial ecosystem, support job growth, and stimulate the regional economy. It provides a centralized location for incubation, co-working, education, training, mentoring, and access to capital. The DEC supports entrepreneurs through its incubator program by matching mentors based on skills and experience, helping students at local universities start businesses, building a community within the ecosystem, and promoting the region nationally as a hub of entrepreneurial activity.

The DEC is a collaborative environment brimming with experts and thought leaders. It was built on the belief that the strongest entrepreneurial ecosystems must be nurtured from all segments of the talent and resource spectrum. Therefore, the DEC has built unique, value-added partnerships among corporations, start-ups, investors, academic institutions and government entities.

The DEC was built on strategic regional goals embraced by the Dallas Regional Chamber: increasing job creation and capital for startups. In just one year of operation it has racked up an impressive checklist of stats:

•   5,000 entrepreneurs have attended an event at the DEC

•   200 entrepreneurs have formally applied to be in the DEC

•   150 mentors have signed up to mentor companies through the DEC

•   500 mentor hours have been devoted to helping startups in the DEC

•   five national programs have been launched through the DEC (Co Founders Lab, Tech Cocktail, Google Next, 1 Million Cups, Startup Grind)

•   $3 million in equity has been raised by DEC companies • $300,000 has been donated by corporate sponsors and the City of Dallas to launch the DEC

Lessons from Leaders: Outstanding Work in Chamber Communications
Fall 2014
By Several Authors

Fall 2014

Virtually every entry in ACCE’s Awards for Communication Excellence program is a valuable case study in effective chamber communications. While available resources for chamber communications projects range widely from meager to generous, the mission scope is laser focused: assist business, advance community.

This year’s ACE competition attracted 163 entries in four categories: advertising/marketing, campaigns, electronic, and publications. Awards were given in two size classes: chambers with budgets exceeding $1 million and those with smaller budgets. Winning was not based merely on good writing and excellent design. Results matter. Was the communication effective?

Judges declared one Grand Award trophy winner in each category in the two size classes, and gave Award of Excellence certificates as they deemed appropriate. Judges added the phrase “Special Recognition” to some certificates when the entry was a trophy contender.

At ACCE’s August convention in Cincinnati, a second group of judges evaluated the four Grand Award winners in the two size classes and bestowed “Best in Show” awards, which were announced during the convention awards program.

The following narratives were excerpted from the winners’ entry forms. Use these summaries as benchmarks and learning models, applying the best of the best to improve your chamber’s communications.

 

Class 1 (chambers with revenue above $1 million)

Campaigns 
Grand Award and Best in Show 
Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce - “WorkIT Nashville” Technology Recruitment Campaign

The technology industry in middle Tennessee is projected to grow an average of 4.4 percent annually, and a recent study noted that Nashville had 836 information technology jobs open, but only 50 of those jobs were entry-level. Most local companies need IT workers with 3-5 years of experience. This could be a barrier to future economic development efforts if not addressed proactively. WorkITNashville. com is the result of a year-long collaboration among the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County, Nashville Technology Council, Williamson County and businesses in the region.

The goal of WorkITNashville.com is to create a platform where any company in our 10-county region can post jobs at no cost and search for qualified candidates locally, nationally and abroad. Our goal was to help businesses across the 10-county region by identifying a talent pool of experienced tech workers interested in relocating to the Nashville area. Our strategy:

•   The central portal is WorkITNashville.com, featuring a unique job-matching technology that benefits job seekers and companies. Candidates upload their resumes, create an individual profile, connect to LinkedIn and search for jobs. Local companies post their job openings, create company pages and search the database of candidates. The website also markets the Nashville region with robust content about the local IT community, neighborhoods, entertainment, cost of living, demographics, philanthropy, family activities and more.

•   The WorkIT Nashville Guidebook helps 1,500 local employers promote the features of our community as they recruit.

•   Digital marketing tactics included social media, blogging and online advertising to tell the stories of IT workers in our region and direct people to the website.

The launch of the website included more than 300 business and government leaders from across the region. More than 200 companies have used the website in its first year. Since launch, we’ve had more than 182,000 job searches, and candidates from 42 states and 45 countries have created profiles, expressing interest in moving to the Nashville area.

 

Advertising and Marketing 
Grand Award 
Columbus (Ohio) Chamber of Commerce 2013 - Annual Meeting Promotion: “Lead Like a Champion”

Early 2013 marked a pivotal point for the Columbus Chamber. It was one year into a new business model in which the chamber revamped its offerings to better serve Columbus businesses. The Annual Meeting offered an opportunity to celebrate the successes of the “new” chamber.

The first step was to recruit a keynote speaker who would capture the community’s attention. Urban Meyer, in his first year as The Ohio State University head football coach, agreed to serve. It was his first major public appearance. Building on Meyer’s success (the team enjoyed a 12-0 season), our theme became “Lead Like a Champion,” and his talk focused on attracting and retaining top talent. Other speakers emphasized the chamber’s role as a “Champion for business.” Thanks to aggressive event promotion, attendance rose 27 percent to 1,400, net profits increased 32 percent, and 98 percent of the attendees rated the event excellent or good. More importantly, 95 percent said they agreed that the meeting reinforced their understanding of the chamber’s new mission.

 

Electronic 
Grand Award 
Allegheny Conference on Community Development - ImaginePittsburgh.com

In 2013, the Allegheny Conference launched its redesign of ImaginePittsburgh.com, a powerful job search engine and a virtual concierge, showcasing Pittsburgh’s work, live and play assets. The new website encourages people to re-imagine Pittsburgh to advance a career and build a life. The website was originally launched to build awareness of the 250th anniversary of the naming of the city of Pittsburgh. It was enhanced in 2008 with a job search engine. Market research shifted our focus to our talent shortage and the need for mid-career talent.

The website has a new job search engine that finds job openings in the 10-county region by searching 950 national sources. There are more than 24,000 open positions available across all sectors and experience levels. The website also includes profiles (photos and video) highlighting new residents and why they chose Pittsburgh. Site visitors are encouraged to connect with them through LinkedIn to learn more about careers and opportunities in the Pittsburgh region. Paid sponsors (employers) have profiles on the site, with photos and video, showcasing their companies as great places to work.

Since launch, we’ve averaged 16,000 visits per month, a 37.8% increase from before the launch. Time spent on the site is 4.29 minutes, almost 3 minutes longer than previously.

 

Publications
Grand Award 
Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce - “Music Industry Study”

One of the core competencies of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce is original research, which helps support and promote the growth of industry in our region. To support this goal, the chamber launched its Research Center in 2013 to provide members with data, analysis and industry research on economics and demographics. One of our first studies was commissioned by the Music City Music Council to evaluate the economic impact of Nashville’s music industry. Among other conclusions, the study found that Nashville’s music industry contributes $9.7 billion to the city’s economy each year and accounts for 56,000 jobs within the Nashville area.

The study was designed and produced by the chamber’s communications team for the Research Center. The 85-page publication combined data analysis and narratives, which presented new findings, insights and opportunities for the industry. Findings were reported by The New York Times, The Atlantic Cities, The Tennessean and the Nashville Business Journal, among other national media.

This important research and exposure validated Nashville’s reputation as an international powerhouse of the entertainment industry, elevated the work of the chamber’s Research Center, and differentiated the chamber’s brand from other organizations in the region. The success of this study has opened doors to new research clients, which has created an additional revenue center.

 

 

Class 2 (chambers with revenue below $1 million)

Campaigns 
Grand Award and Best in Show 
Champaign County (Ill.) Chamber of Commerce - Business Emergency Relief Campaign

On Nov. 17, 2013, 73 tornadoes ripped through the Midwest, causing more than $1 billion in property damage. The next day, in partnership with the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce established a Business Emergency Relief Grant Program. The goal was to prevent businesses in our community from becoming part of the following statistics: the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says 40 percent of businesses do not reopen after a disaster; another 25 percent fail within the first year after a disaster. The U.S. Small Business Administration says the failure rate increases to 90 percent by the second year after a disaster.

Fundraising for this project started on Nov. 18 and ended Dec. 5. The process was stress-free for affected businesses to access emergency relief funds—they simply had to fill out a one-page application which was available on the chamber’s website. Affected businesses could use the funds for building materials, labor costs associated with rebuilding, direct costs related to operation of their business, lost revenue, replacing inventory, payroll, paying bills, new equipment such as computers and printers, office supplies, and any other approved use on a case-by-case basis.

A committee of business and civic leaders reviewed applications and determined how the funds would be dispersed. Businesses of the Gifford community also were offered complimentary chamber memberships for one year, exposure in our newsletter and complimentary admission to a spring breakfast. We wanted to create a program that assisted businesses in neighboring counties that were negatively impacted by this disaster, regardless of whether they were members of the Champaign County Chamber. In addition to raising money to help affected businesses, we wanted to increase awareness about the severity of the event and show other communities what can be accomplished when we all work together to reach a common goal.

Our marketing included press releases, emails to members, notices in our weekly e-newsletter, and exposure on local TV and the local newspaper about our progress.

More than 40 different businesses and community members donated $16,859.50 in less than 20 days. We distributed funds to 15 businesses in the town of Gifford, helping to keep businesses open and creating awareness that the commercial core of a community is instrumental to the success of any thriving community.

 

Advertising and Marketing 
Grand Award 
McLean County (Ill.) Chamber of Commerce - Image Piece

In February 2013 we set out to create an image piece highlighting the value and benefits of membership in the McLean County Chamber of Commerce. Collaborating with local design company Business Builders, we developed a dynamic 9” x 7” booklet with an interior pocket on the inside back cover. It has surpassed our expectations and now serves as an integral component to new member recruitment.

The piece focuses on our mission statement, with two-page spreads devoted to each mission component, as well as statistics from the latest Schapiro report regarding the value of chamber membership. The layout provides a general overview of the services offered by the chamber in a format that is conducive to face-to-face presentations. It’s also designed to be read on its own. A pocket on the inside back cover allows us to customize additional content we want to deliver to a prospect.

Since production of the brochure, we have seen more than 115 new members join the chamber, which we believe is a direct result of the creative delivery of our message.

 

Electronic 
Grand Award 
Thomasville (N.C.) Area Chamber of Commerce - All-America City Video

In 2011, the Thomasville Area Chamber of Commerce led the community through the development of a broad consensus on a community vision and strategic plan with full engagement and buy in from elected officials and the business community. The plan includes strategies for generating visibility for the community.

We applied for the 2013 All-America City award as part of this strategy. To win, communities must apply, then reach the finalist category and make a presentation at the annual All-America City conference. The award focuses on citizen engagement in community problemsolving as demonstrated through three specific projects. Only 10 winners are selected from the entire country each year. The Thomasville Area Chamber spearheaded our community’s All-America City effort, including fundraising, application, script writing and more.

Competing communities are encouraged to create a community video. Our video was filmed by professionals and featured two individuals who told the story of two of our projects. Neither person was scripted. They were interviewed and spoke naturally and authentically about some of our community improvement efforts. Local scenes were included that reflected the community’s transition, people and resilience.

The chamber staff managed the process including recruiting the video team (who donated their talents), arranging speakers, suggesting interview questions, and arranging locations and filming schedule.

Thomasville was a winner of the 2013 All- America City award. The award and our video have helped greatly in promoting Thomasville. Our mayor has reported an increase in calls and inquiries to his office as a result of the award, and 2013 outpaced 2012 and 2011 in new business investments. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwFPV-tH2QM)

 

Publications
Grand Award 
Kerrville (Texas) Area Chamber of Commerce - BusinessLink Monthly Newsletter

The Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce partners with our local daily newspaper, the Kerrville Daily Times, to produce a monthly newsletter, BusinessLink, exclusively featuring chamber members. BusinessLink, the only newsletter focused solely on our business community, is distributed at key locations around the community, at the chamber, in all relocation packets, and through the Kerrville Daily Times as an insert. Total monthly distribution exceeds 11,000.

Each month, our Communications Committee selects a theme which is carried in all communications from the chamber, including our e-newsletter, seminars, and news releases. It’s also the feature of the month’s BusinessLink.

For example, the June 2013 theme was “Hub of the Hill Country.” The Hill Country of Texas is a multi-county region of which Kerrville County, population 50,000, is the heart. Kerrville merchants and businesses serve thousands of tourists and regional consumers who drive two hours from surrounding communities to conduct business here. This theme also supported our three-year strategic plan, which includes community-wide branding, increasing economic growth, and emphasizing Kerrville as a “regional hub” and “tourism destination.”

The Kerrville Daily Times staff sells advertising for BusinessLink, with a small portion of ad sales returned to the chamber. We incur no costs for printing and distribution.


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