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Midwestern Momentum

Ben Goldstein on Monday, November 20, 2017 at 9:00:00 am 

For Matt Pivarnik, CEO of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, the most important part of a strategic plan is the results. So when the chamber and its partners began pursuing the Momentum 2022 strategic plan, he opted for a five-year plan, as opposed to some of the longer-running plans seen elsewhere.

“We chose a 60-month plan because we want to have an immediate and measurable impact,” said Pivarnik. “We didn’t call this plan Momentum 2035 or Momentum 2050 for a reason.”

In its early stages, the plan was guided by a 43-member steering committee that drew from the public, private and nonprofit sectors. One of the committee’s main recommendations was the need to expand skills and education attainment levels in the local workforce.

“We put a very heavy focus on development of homegrown talent in Momentum 2022,” said Kayla Bittner, strategic coordinator at the Greater Topeka Chamber. “Some areas of emphasis are to ensure that all children are ready for kindergarten, and that every student has a pathway to college or a career.”

A second goal of the campaign is to enhance “quality of place” in the Topeka region, by building out amenities like pedestrian walkways, expanded access to the city’s riverfront and increased development of recreational and residential offerings in downtown—a process Pivarnik says is already underway.

“We’re seeing a real resurgence in restaurants and bars,” he said. “If you want a loft in downtown, then get in line, because everyone wants a loft in downtown right now.”

The plan calls for the consolidation of the Greater Topeka Chamber and three other economic development groups — GO Topeka, Visit Topeka and Downtown Topeka Inc. — into one umbrella organization, which will be called Greater Topeka Partnership. The organizations being combined will retain their boards and CEOs, and will coordinate through a council including the four CEOs, their chair-elects and several at-large members.

“Bringing together these four groups will enable all of us to perform our work with a type of coordination we haven’t seen in the past,” said Curtis Sneden, executive vice president at the chamber. “We’ll enjoy a number of operational efficiencies just by being together under one roof.”

Pivarnik says he brought the idea for the consolidation of the four groups with him from his previous role as president and CEO at the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce, which operates under a similar structure.

“When I was at the Tulsa Regional Chamber, which has 15-plus organizations and brands operating under one umbrella, I didn’t understand how valuable and powerful that structure was until I had to operate without it,” he explained. “I don’t think it makes a whole lot of sense to have all these separate convention and visitors bureaus and downtown organizations, when you could have a more collaborative approach.”

Pivarnik says Momentum 2022 will change the way people from the rest of the country perceive Topeka.

“When people hear about Topeka, Kansas, in the future, we want them to think of it as a renaissance city and a magnet for entrepreneurial development and talent attraction,” he said. “We want them to know that there is a lot of positive growth happening here.”

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Immigration fuels the Great Lakes region

Ben Goldstein on Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 9:00:00 am 

The Great Lakes region is an economic powerhouse, fueled by manufacturing, international trade and a combined GDP of more than $6 trillion.

One of the biggest drivers of regional growth is sometimes absent from the popular narrative—immigration. That message is on display in a new report from the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, published in partnership with New American Economy.

“We wanted to respond to the narrative that our region is isolationist and not welcoming of immigrants,” said Brandon Mendoza, manager of government affairs at the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. “We wanted to say, 'actually, immigration in this region has helped accelerate our economies away from what folks refer to as the Rust Belt and the manufacturing decline.'”

One important way that immigration fuels economic growth is by combatting population decline and out-migration. Immigrants were responsible for more than half of the region’s population growth from 2000–15. Foreign-born workers are also younger, on average, than their native-born counterparts, which helps keep the region’s workforce youthful and vital as Baby Boomers retire in large numbers.

“When you look at the top 25 metros in the Great Lakes area, immigration has been a net-positive in terms of reversing out-migration and growing their populations,” said Mendoza. “It’s a lifeblood for a lot of these cities like Pittsburgh, Rochester or Akron, where slow population growth really acts as a drag on economic growth, in general.”

But immigrants are not only filling jobs, the report found. They are also creating them, in large numbers. The study found that immigrant entrepreneurs make up 20 percent of small business owners, and have created over 226,000 jobs in the region from 2000–15.

“Immigrants, by their very nature, are risk-takers,” explained Mendoza. “They’re taking a big risk moving to a foreign country and restarting, so they’re more inclined to start new businesses.”

Mendoza stressed that immigration should be understood as a regional issue, not a national one.

“Our whole message is that we should be thinking about immigration in terms of regions,” he said. “In the Great Lakes region, we really need to make sure our immigration numbers are high and we’re supporting high-skill immigrants, as well as comprehensive legislation at some point in the future.”

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Tags: Great Lakes Chambers Coalition, Great Lakes Region, Immigration, Research, Survey

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Energized to save

Ben Goldstein on Monday, November 13, 2017 at 8:00:00 am 

Tony Rescigno, president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, has seen a lot of things change in his 17-year career leading the organization. And even now, as he makes plans to step down from the helm, Rescigno is exploring ways to transform the chamber’s energy footprint to a more sustainable model better-suited for the 21st century.

He’s doing it through the Energize Connecticut initiative, a partnership between the state of Connecticut and its utility providers that helps businesses and residences trim energy costs. The program is funded through the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, which, in turn, is paid for through a surcharge on customer energy bills.

“A year ago we went from having a lease that didn’t include energy costs to a new lease that required us to pay, and you have a different attitude when you have to pay for it,” said Rescigno. “Through this program, we’ve estimated projected savings of over $5,000 annually, which is huge for us.”

Rescigno says the chamber has already realized substantial savings by swapping out the chamber’s old lighting for 256 LED fixtures designed to reduce costs and improve lighting quality. Next, he wants to replace the chamber’s fleet of 45 heating and air conditioning units with newer, more efficient models through the energy initiative.

“The cost of energy in the state of Connecticut is unbelievably high, and it’s one of the major deficits we face trying to attract businesses,” said Rescigno. “The fact that we’re showing other businesses how to lower those costs by investing in energy efficient alternatives is something we’re very proud of.”

Through Energize Connecticut, workers from state utility United Illuminating visited the chamber and drafted a conservation plan to help it identify opportunities for saving. The chamber’s monthly lighting bills are already one-third lower, down from $1,500 to $1,000.

“The first thing they do is send somebody to do an analysis and literally count the light fixtures,” said Rescigno. “The total investment on our part is less than $4,000, and we plan on making that all up in a year or less, so we weren’t at all worried about putting up the cash for this.”

Rescigno, who announced plans to retire earlier this year, said he’s accepted a part-time position at Southern Connecticut State University as a business executive-in-residence. One of his tasks in that job will be facilitating collaboration between the local business community and its talented student population, which includes Yale University.

“My next job will involve connecting the business school with the students with the businesses in the region,” he said. “That plays into my strengths, because I’ve been around a long time and I know a lot of these people.”

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Tags: Cost-Savings, Energy usage, Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, Sustainability

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Think big, Shop Small

Ben Goldstein on Friday, November 3, 2017 at 11:00:00 am 

Small businesses are the backbone of local economies, and oftentimes are some of the most engaged members of chambers of commerce. Small Business Saturday, which falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, was launched by American Express in 2010, as a way to encourage people to patronize small businesses.

Each year, American Express invites community organizations, businesses and chambers of commerce to pledge to be Neighborhood Champions, and provides them with resources and marketing materials to promote the day.

Here are a few ways chambers are celebrating, and why they’ve made it a priority to do so.

How is the chamber celebrating Small Business Saturday?

Jessica Hart, Billings Chamber (Mont.): “For the past five years, we’ve made a Monopoly board featuring our small business members. Because it’s grown so much since then, we’ve decided to make a checkers board instead for this year. The way it works is people shop at the businesses on the board and return their game pieces to any of the participating businesses. That way they can enter to earn gift cards and prizes from our members.”

Robert Killen, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce (Ore.): “Now that Small Business Saturday is fairly-well established, we’ve decided to launch a full suite of programs throughout the month of November, which we’ve identified here as business development month, like a leadership symposium, some lunch-and-learns and a half-day business conference. We’re also creating a bingo card filled with businesses participating in our downtown region, and once somebody gets five in a row they can turn that into the stores and enter into a raffle for some gift baskets we’ll assemble, too.”

Anna Rainhouse, Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce (N.Y.): “We’re having a kick-off party where we’re giving out goody bags of promotional materials and save-the-date pamphlets for our member businesses. We’re also promoting what we call the “12 Days of Shopping Small,” where we’re using little passports, and anybody who shops locally over the next 12 days can get their passport stamped and return it for prizes and rewards.”

What is the value of celebrating the work that small businesses do?

Jessica Hart (Mont.): “I think that small business is about building your community. Spending your money locally helps your friends and neighbors build something better for your community, so we can keep these businesses open and thriving.”

Robert Killen (Ore.): “Supporting small business is support for an entire community. We know that a dollar spent in a small, locally-owned business largely stays in the community in ways that making purchases any other way simply can’t. The more dollars we retain in a community, the stronger it is for everyone.”

Anna Rainhouse (N.Y.): “The small businesses in our area are really the heart and soul of our economic system in a small town like Watkins Glen, so promoting them and supporting them in any way we can is going to be really beneficial for the whole community.”

This year, ACCE invites members to participate in a contest that highlights Small Business Saturday successes. Tell us how your chamber of commerce is encouraging the community to #ShopSmall. Learn more.

Tags: #ShopSmall

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Harnessing the Internet of Things

Ben Goldstein on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 at 2:36:00 pm 

Atlanta, home to the world’s busiest airport and some of the top global supply chain companies, has long been known as a transportation hub. Now, the city is leveraging its expertise to capitalize on the next big technology in logistics and connectedness: the Internet of Things (IoT).

The Internet of Things refers to the interconnection of devices, appliances and other items embedded with electronic sensors through the infrastructure of the internet. Its proponents predict that it will disrupt and revolutionize everything from manufacturing and supply chain management to healthcare and energy management.

“Infrastructure-wise, we’ve already got the framework here in Atlanta to be a leader in the mobile IoT space,” said Cynthia Curry, director of IoT at Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. “We have strong ecosystems like cybersecurity and fintech that are going to be vital to the growth of IoT.”

In September, Metro Atlanta Chamber expanded the focus of its major councils to include the biggest regional voices in IoT, like GE, AT&T and The Weather Company. The new taskforce, IoT.Atl, will focus on expanding educational offerings for IoT-related skills, bridging relationships between small firms and large enterprises and attracting top IoT talent and investment to the Atlanta region.

“Mobile IoT is basically touching everything right now,” said Curry. “When you take IoT and all the data that’s going to be generated from the billions of connected devices and combine that with the open-source, open data mentality we’re moving toward, we’ll be able to gain much better insight on what’s happening in the world around us.”

Atlanta is already experimenting with IoT and big data. In 2016, the city partnered with Georgia Tech to construct the North Avenue Smart Corridor, which uses hundreds of embedded sensors to remotely monitor lighting and energy levels and help police catch criminals by tracking gunfire in high-crime areas.   

“There are huge economic reasons why this will impact companies’ bottom lines and help them save millions of dollars,” said Curry, adding that, “What’s perhaps more important, though, are the huge health benefits we can realize from monitoring things like diabetes and heart disease through connected devices, if managed correctly.”

The IoT innovations being pursued in Atlanta will ultimately better the quality of life in the city for everyone,” says Curry.

“I think it’s going to work itself out of the tech community and into the citizens’ everyday lives,” she predicted. “I see Atlanta being one of the next smart cities of the future and people here being able to enjoy easier commutes, safer environments and better health care.”

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Tags: Internet of Things, Metro Atlanta Chamber, Technology

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Indy goes global

Ben Goldstein on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 1:42:00 pm 

Indianapolis, with its burgeoning life sciences, technology and manufacturing sectors, has transformed itself into a bona fide global city. To capitalize on its rising status, the Indy Chamber and its community partners spearheaded Accelerate Indy, the metro area’s first comprehensive strategic plan in more than 20 years.

“Accelerate Indy is a strategy for the next 10 years on how to move this region forward,” said Maureen Krauss, chief economic development officer at the Indy Chamber. “It was a truly inclusive process between mayors, economic developers, private business and the philanthropic community—which really says a lot about how things are done here.”

A major leg of the plan calls for fostering talent among startups and entrepreneurs. Accelerate Indy addresses this through the Business Ownership Initiative, which contains the largest chamber-run microloan program in the U.S., and offers business coaching with a curriculum that includes topics like building a business plan and managing financials.

The plan also aims to expand and diversify international trade in the nine-county metropolitan area. This led the chamber and its partners to develop the Metro Indianapolis Global Trade & Investment Strategy, which aims to expand global trade by leveraging the region’s life sciences ecosystem and investing in its transportation infrastructure.  

“Indiana is already the number one export-dependent state in the U.S., but the bulk of that trade is concentrated in just a handful of large corporations,” said Krauss. “This plan will help our companies realize the benefits of a diverse customer base, while exploring new markets and technology partnerships.”

To embrace its newfound global status, the Indy Chamber has helped the city send ambassadors to countries like Poland, Hungary and Cuba. It is also trying to get local companies focused on global opportunities through Global Indy, a program that serves as a resource center for businesses looking to advance their international operations.

“By encouraging international decision makers to come here and have dialogue, we’re strengthening our base and helping our economy grow,” said Krauss. “It’s made a big difference building awareness that we have strong assets in our region that are valuable around the world.”

Accelerate Indy helps the region’s largest players, or its “anchors,” expand through the Anchor Revitalization Initiative, which boosts these companies by strengthening supply chain relationships and further developing their talent pipelines.

“It used to be the case that economic development strategies would be focused solely on getting companies to move from other regions,” said Krauss. “We know how many jobs are created by our businesses here in Indy, so we’re trying to figure out how we can help them continue to grow and expand.”

The chamber has used surveying, focus groups and research from local and national consulting firms to formulate a communications strategy that complements the economic development components of Accelerate Indy. The goal, says Krauss, is to better tell the story of the Indianapolis business community.

“Any time we want to tell our story, we want it to be authentic,” she said. “Doing this really deep dive into the components of our story is ultimately going to boost business and talent attraction in Indy.”

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Tags: Accelerate Indy, Chambers of Commerce, Indy Chamber, Strategic Plan

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Work hard, play hard

Ben Goldstein on Monday, October 23, 2017 at 10:00:00 am 

At the Vail Valley Partnership in Eagle County, Colorado, President and CEO Chris Romer encourages staff to take a “work hard, play hard” approach to doing business. Under the VVP's Results Oriented Work Environment (ROWE), employees are evaluated solely on the results of their work—and given maximum autonomy to figure out how best to get the job done.

“At its simplest form, this is about treating adults like adults, and it’s about individual and team accountability,” said Romer. “If you manage people, they’re going to do the minimum of what needs to be done, but if you set the example and lead, then they will want to lead too.”

As part of the ROWE philosophy, VVP doesn’t adhere to the 40-hour, 8 a.m.5 p.m. work schedule common at most businesses and nonprofits. Instead, employees are only required to be physically present in the office for 20 hours each week and are empowered to structure the rest of their hours as they deem fit.

“We don’t think the most effective way to lead a team is by tracking where people are at every single hour,” said Romer. “We encourage staff to go to their kids’ school plays or volunteer in the community. If someone wants to take a yoga class on a Tuesday at 10 a.m., they shouldn’t have to take paid time off or track comp time to do that.”

Employees at VVP are given unlimited time off, so they can handle unexpected events like illnesses or family emergencies. The chamber is also experimenting with a new policy that would incentivize employees to “unplug” for two weeks each year, meaning they don’t check emails or engage with staff electronically during their vacation.

“We’re asking people to leave the electronics; no voicemail, no email and no checking on work,” said Romer. “With the golden handcuff of the technology, you’re not fully present with your family and when you come back, it’s almost like you were never gone because you were checking your email and voicemail every day.”

Some Fridays during ski season, the staff will take a morning off to hit the slopes together. Employees are granted free ski passes as a perk, which they can swap for other recreational benefits like stand-up paddleboards or yoga classes, says Romer.

“It goes back to valuing people and recognizing what we are as a community,” he said. “If skiing is their thing or yoga is their thing and it makes them happy, then they can come to work and be jazzed because they had a great time in the morning."

Despite the generous amenities and flexible work schedule, it’s not all fun and games at VVP. Employees are expected to live up to their end of the bargain by meeting monthly benchmarks and quarterly goals.

“We don’t do annual reviews with our team—we set targets and benchmarks and we review those on a monthly and quarterly basis,” said Romer. “It’s an ongoing feedback loop and dialogue with the team.”

Romer says that a flexible and accommodative workplace culture has translated into higher employee retention and customer service levels.

“It’s great from both an employee and member retention standpoint,” he said. “We give people direct ownership over their jobs, and that encourages them to provide a really high level of service.”

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Tags: Flexible scheduling, Paid Time Off Policy, Vail Valley Partnership, Workplace environment

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Nevada Lights up the Capitol

Ben Goldstein on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at 11:20:00 am 

Lawmakers and Hill staffers were treated to a night at the casino when the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual gala on Capitol Hill last week.

At the celebration, dubbed Nevada Lights up the Capitol, attendees sporting cowboy hats and bandanas were greeted by cigarette girls and Venetian stilt walkers, as a jazz trio rattled off show-tunes and a contortionist writhed on a platform in the dimly-lit hall.

“We view this as an opportunity to bring our members together and enable them to build relationships with our leaders here in Washington, D.C.,” said Kristin McMillan, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber. “It’s a great way to celebrate our state, while at the same time communicating to people in D.C. that there are important issues in the western part of the U.S. that need to be addressed.”

Guests at the party tried their luck at an assortment of table games like blackjack, craps and roulette, while snacking on hors d'oeuvres and sipping cocktails. Vendors representing organizations from across the state manned booths distributing swag and chatting with passersby.

“This isn’t just southern or northern Nevada—it’s the whole state,” said Bill Noonan, senior vice president at the Boyd Gaming Corporation and chairman of the chamber’s board of directors. “We have such a diversity of things to offer people who come and visit, and we want everybody to be exposed to that tonight.”

The gala kicked off the chamber’s annual D.C. fly-in, a tradition that dates back to 2006. Aside from the festivities, the chamber uses the trip as a chance to engage lawmakers, agency officials and policy experts on longstanding regional issues, like its ongoing opposition to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository due to safety and environmental concerns.

“Yucca Mountain has resurrected itself with the new administration, so we’re fighting it with a multi-pronged approach,” said Cara Clarke, associate vice president of communications at the Las Vegas Metro Chamber. “Because tourism is so vital to our entire state economy, any type of accident, even a minor one, could devastate that industry and scare tourists. It’s just too much of a risky proposition.”

Infrastructure is also a major priority for the delegation, which wants to see construction begin on Interstate 11, a planned freeway that would connect Phoenix to Las Vegas. Those metro areas are currently the two largest adjacent U.S. cities without a direct freeway link.

“With Interstate 11, eventually, we’re talking about building a pathway between the new ports under construction in the Gulf of Mexico all the way up to Canada,” said Clarke. “The connecting of business and economies and trade and shipping will all be huge drivers for the entire U.S economy.”

McMillan says that she hopes that those who interact with the delegation during its time in Washington will gain a greater awareness of the issues that affect the western U.S.

“So many decisions that are made in Washington are viewed from an east coast perspective,” she said. “We’re hoping that there starts to be more understanding that when you invest in the West, you’re actually growing the national economy, too.”

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Tags: D.C. Fly-in, Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, Washington

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From the winner's circle: Georgia 2030

Ben Goldstein on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 11:45:00 am 

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce was coming up on its 100th anniversary when it decided to pursue a change of strategy. Prompted by shifting political, demographic and industrial headwinds, the new 15-year strategic plan, dubbed Georgia 2030, was meant to serve as a road map for leaders in business and government to better address new challenges before they become unmanageable.

“Coming into 2016, we were really faced with a state that’s rapidly changing, and we knew we needed to pivot as an organization,” said Kelsey Moore, director of economic development and special projects at the Georgia Chamber. “For much of the state, especially the rural counties, the outlook doesn’t look good, so we set out to empower them to change before some of these predictions become a reality.”

Chamber staff began by pulling data on demographic and economic trends, using subscription software from Chmura Economics & Analytics, as well as the U.S. Census Bureau and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. They found that, by year 2030, Georgia will have an additional 1.9 million residents, and will no longer be majority-white or Republican.

Armed with their findings, a delegation from the chamber embarked on a tour of the state’s 12 regions, which was organized into a series of sessions held at affiliate chambers and open to the public. Attendees engaged with the presenters using interactive live-polling software, which allowed them to fill out surveys in real-time on their smartphones and tablets to provide feedback about key issues in the state. 

“We were selling out and it was usually standing-room only, which honestly came as a shock to us,” said Moore. “For a lot of these communities, no one ever really asked them before what they thought about these issues. They were really appreciative that we weren’t just lecturing them—we were actually listening to their opinions.”

The Georgia Chamber drew upon the survey data and insights gained from the listening tour and synthesized it into a strategic document. The final report found that 76 percent of respondents think the state’s legal environment is too costly for business; 83 percent support advancing dialogue with diverse communities; and 60 percent support expanding Medicaid or implementing a Georgia-specific alternative. Another major finding was that 85 percent of respondents want to see the chamber more actively promote Georgia-made products and services.

“We found that our investors and stakeholders expect the business community to be involved in issues that we weren’t previously involved in, like race, diversity and poverty,” said Moore. “We’ve always been involved in education, but there’s more of an understanding now that if a child doesn’t have enough to eat, he won’t be able to concentrate in class.”

The success of the Georgia 2030 strategic initiative helped the chamber land the coveted Chamber of the Year title at the ACCE convention in Nashville in July.

“It was a wonderful, outside nod to all of the blood, sweat and tears we put in and all of the thousands of miles spent travelling around the state,” said Moore. “Getting that recognition from an international organization really reaffirms the work we’re doing and gives us a boost to keep going.”

Looking ahead, Moore says the chamber plans to use the data and feedback from the listening tour to foster a dialogue with diverse communities about issues like healthcare, education and workforce.

“We received so much great feedback from across Georgia by engaging and conversing with all of our stakeholders and giving them a voice,” said Moore. “We know that if we can show you what the future looks like and start talking about it today, then we have the opportunity to change it. That’s a really positive thing for a lot of our communities.”

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Tags: Strategic Plan, #ACCE17, #ACCEAwards, Chamber of the Year, Georgia Chamber, Georgia2030

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Hitting the road with the AWB

Ben Goldstein on Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 12:15:00 pm 

The Association of Washington Business is going on tour. Assembled into two decked-out buses, the AWB team is crisscrossing Washington state visiting local manufacturers to celebrate  National Manufacturing Day. The six-day, 70-plus-stop tour has brought the group to a 154-year-old textile manufacturer, a four-year-old brewery and a maker of first responder vehicles, as part of an effort to promote locally-made goods and public policies that support makers.

“This is our inaugural statewide bus tour celebrating and highlighting the importance of manufacturing to the economy and the state of Washington,” said Kris Johnson, president and CEO at AWB. “We recognize that a vast majority of manufacturers are either privately-held or family-owned, so it’s not just about building strong companies, it’s about building strong communities and families as well.”

The crew is travelling in two buses, outfitted out with colorful logos and eye-catching designs. At every stop along the tour, workers are invited to autograph the bus and pose for a group photo with the signed bus in the background.

“How often has it been legal for you to write on a vehicle?” mused Johnson. “There must be 3400 signatures on it with the different logos. It’s really cool to see the all the personalization on this bus.”

Among the tour’s stops was Lampson International LLC, a family-owned maker of heavy lift cranes that employees 450 people in the Tri Cities area of southeastern Washington. They also stopped off at John I. Haas Inc., the leading provider of hops throughout North America.

“Every single manufacturer we’ve visited is so appreciative that we’re doing this,” said Johnson. “We are seeing a mixture of the types of products we all use in our everyday lives, but sometimes forget they are made right here in our local communities.”

Aside from meeting with manufacturers, the tour also includes an educational component. At Delta High School, a STEM school in Pasco, Washington, Johnson spoke to students about available science and technology opportunities in the local economy.

“At Delta, they’re preparing students for the types of STEM-related careers you can get when you’re done with high school,” said Johnson. “We know that 70 percent of all job openings by 2020 will require some type of STEM or post-K-12 experience, so these programs are really essential for developing talent locally.

Johnson says he hopes the tour will spread awareness about the important role that manufacturers play locally, as well as the policies they need to thrive. He says that issues related to regional competitiveness, like lowering tax rates on manufacturers, will be key to increasing prosperity in the state.

“The folks we’re meeting with clearly understand how important competitiveness relief is, especially when they’re competing against companies all across the globe,” said Johnson, adding that, “these companies could really use some predictability, reliability and common sense relief from a competitiveness standpoint.”

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Tags: workforce, Association of Washington Business, education, Manufacturing, talent, Tour

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