Partnering for a New Member Perk
The Blount County (TN) Chamber of Commerce and its local newspaper, The Daily Times, have partnered to offer new, first-time chamber members a free 3" x 5" ad in the newspaper. “This is a great new member perk,” said Greg Wilson, chair of the Blount County Chamber. “The cost for chamber membership, for a company with four or fewer employees, is generally less than $300. What that means for a new member is that for $300 or less, they will get all the benefits of being a chamber member plus a free display ad in the newspaper valued at $227.” Read more about this buy one-get one free deal here: http://www.thedailytimes.com/Local_News/story/Daily_Times,_chamber_offer_new_member_benefit_id_008597
Making Honey or Studying Hive Behavior?
Among those tasked with underwriting (as opposed to undertaking) efforts to restore and build local economies, there seems to be a growing understanding that it takes more than theorists and strategists to sweeten the future economy. Three times this spring, I will be meeting with collections of foundation, corporate and quasi-government types who appear to be considering adoption of some fresh or broader portfolios. They are at least talking about putting resources in the hands of groups that take action and make change at the local/regional level. Many (most) such resource pools have historically leaned toward funding bee watchers, and bee watcher watchers, rather than bees. Studies, conferences, public discourse and “thought leadership” about regional development provide worthy destinations for foundation dollars, but sending a few bucks to support the entities who actually make the honey, i.e., groups who help employers employ somebody. Let’s hope that one or more of these enlightened resources comes through for the who bring nector to the hives (chambers and chamber-like organizations). Since you face environmental dangers and predators galore . . . you could use the help.
It Ain't So
Helping Local Entrepreneurs Succeed in Green Bay
Thanks to Advance, the Green Bay Area (WI) Chamber of Commerce's economic development arm, small businesses and entrepreneurs in the area have a new outlet to turn to when seeking a loan. In partnership with ten local banks, the Chamber has created a microloan program to help these viable entities, that otherwise might not meet traditional loan requirements. To apply for a loan, "applicants must provide a business plan and at least 10 percent of project costs and must have a minimum of two months of working capital in reserve." According to Marianne Dickson, who leads the program, "Our focus is really for start up companies and emerging businesses — businesses that need just a little bit more money to grow or get started." Read more about these loans, ranging from $5,000 to $100,000, and all that the program entails here: http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20110308/GPG03/103080505/Advance-launches-MicroLoan-program
Guest Post: Rod Henry - Meth and Policy
Rod Henry, CCE, President and CEO of the Terre Haute (IN) Chamber of Commerce, graciously agreed to guest-post about his community's battle to rid itself of methamphetamine. Rod - thank you so much for taking your time to educate us!
What began nearly 7 years ago continues today. The battle against the most addictive drug ever to hit the streets, methamphetamine! The essential ingredient in the “cooking” of meth is pseudoephedrine (PSE). NO PSE, NO METH! Plain and simple!
The Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce recognized the impact meth was having upon the community and partnered with the Vigo County Sheriff, Jon Marvel, in developing the first tracking ordinance for PSE sales in the state of Indiana. This was a step taken after a great deal of thought and conversation because of how our actions could negatively impact our members. We quickly realized, however, the number of members selling PSE was relatively small and the negative impact upon their business was far outweighed by the impact upon the community.
Nevertheless, the Chamber of Commerce reached out to our impacted members providing them an opportunity to attend briefings to become better educated on the issue we were facing and to understand the best solution known at the time, tracking sales. Nearly every member attended one of the briefings and expressed the usual arguments … government intervention, reducing profit opportunities, etc. However, once they gained additional knowledge about the devastating effects of meth upon children, our citizens, the community, and taxpayers, they agreed to support the tracking ordinance or to get out of the sales of PSE products altogether.
Fast forward to 2010. The ugly face of methamphetamine is again an issue. Tracking worked for a few months at best. We find out that meth “cookers” and sellers have incorporated new ways to gain access to PSE. Everything from having a fist-full of fake ID’s, to increasing the number of people being recruited to buy PSE pills through a process known as “smurfing” … individuals hired to go make their allowable purchase of PSE, to college students being approached to purchase a $12 box of PSE and sell it for $50 to $75 to the “cooker.”
Previously, Terre Haute had the distinction of being #1 in meth labs in Indiana. Not something you want to promote or put on the home page of your website! Today, we no longer have that albatross around our neck relatively speaking, however meth continues to be a major issue not only for Terre Haute but also for a large portion of rural Indiana, as predicted several years back. This is when we were again asked for assistance as local and state public safety officials were seeking ways to decapitate meth labs by cutting off the opportunity for “cookers” to gain access to the only essential ingredient, PSE. Public Safety Officials suggested rescheduling PSE, which was done in 2006 in Oregon and in July 2010 in Mississippi. This would mean it would take prescription to obtain the product. Please note, I say “re-schedule” because a prescription was required for PSE until 1976.
Oregon has been the pioneer in requiring a prescription, setting the example with phenomenal results since their rule was promulgated in 2006. They have gone from a high of 473 labs in 2003 to a reported 13 labs in 2010, over a 96% reduction. Mississippi has seen a 70% drop in labs in the first seven months.
The arguments in favor of requiring a prescription seemed to be undisputable. Who could be against this? We are talking about newborn children being addicted, children being contaminated, education issues, workforce development, economic development, increased cost placed upon local and state units of government, county jail health care budget quadrupling during the same time period meth arrests swelled the number of inmates. How quickly we would find out.
As the chamber contemplated what level of involvement we wanted to expend on this effort we needed to gain a better understanding of the total impact meth was having upon the community in 2010. Property tax controls were causing local units of government to tighten their belts, scaling back on unessential services as well as services that are critical. Unfortunately, you cannot budget for the number of meth labs that may pop up in your community. Every time law enforcement begins to investigate an alleged meth lab, the tax impact meter begins to twirl. In Oklahoma, a study conducted by the Bureau of Narcotics estimates the impact of one meth lab to exceed $350,000!
Meth is like an octopus with its tentacles reaching out in every direction in the community, with each step equating into the expenditure of tax dollars. Take a step back and think about it for just a moment … a process my leadership was asked to do when briefed on the increasing number of labs in Terre Haute/Vigo County and the state of Indiana.
First, as mentioned earlier, you have Public Safety involvement including law enforcement to investigate, raid and close the lab; fire/rescue in case of an explosion, toxic fumes, on site medical attention. Guess who pays for it? Taxpayers, individual and corporate!
Health Care needs of the dependent’s, neighbors, public safety officials, and the alleged cooker/user whose health care needs are compliments of the taxpayer once they become a resident of the jail. The others, it depends upon whether they have insurance or not. In one case locally, a hospital expended $4.2 million for meth related cases of which $2.1 million was considered charitable or bad debt. Who ends up paying the bill? You and I through increased health insurance premiums.
Incarceration in Jail or Prison. Vigo County’s jail is overcrowded. 80% of the inmates are directly or indirectly the result of meth. They might be “booked” for cooking or dealing meth. They may be in jail because of robbery, murder, or other violent or property crimes due to the influence of meth. The annual budget for health care for inmates has quadrupled since the increase in meth arrests. The bottom line … meth is the contributing factor and guess who pays the bill? Taxpayers, individual and business!
Social service and education. Children are contaminated by the fumes from meth labs, some sleeping in the room adjacent to a functioning lab. Imagine the danger the kids are in because of the irresponsible actions of parents or guardians. Imagine the health care needs of these young boys and girls and the possibility they have suffered brain damage due to the toxic fumes. Connect that now to the special education classes that become necessary to provide even the semblance of having a somewhat productive life. ADHD. MIMH. MOMH. LD. ED/EH. ADD. The list goes on.
Now, think for a moment the newborn child, addicted to meth. They become wards of the court almost immediately. Foster care. Their opportunity for having a normal childhood leading to a productive life is greatly minimized if even possible. Now you think about welfare, unemployment. Guess who pays the bill for the extra services to assist children? Yep, you and I as taxpayers!
Criminal activity grows as meth grows in a community. Earlier I discussed the root cause for those in the county jail was meth. Meth cookers and users need to find money to feed their habit. When they can’t find it easily, they resort to criminal activity. Home invasions. Prostituting children for meth. Using PSE for currency. It is happening now from sea to shining sea!
Reducing meth labs does have a direct correlation to the reduction in overall criminal activity. In Oregon crime dipped to the lowest level in 4 decades (FBI stats) in spite of having the largest percentage increase in unemployment. Violent crime fell 2.1% from 2008 to 2009, lowest crime rate since 1969. Property crime dropped 10.2% in the same time period, falling below the national average for the first time since comparable data was collected (1960). Oregon experienced its lowest property crime rate since 1966! And some say it is a coincidence, we are not comparing apples to apples. The bottom line, again, crime costs someone. That someone is the taxpayer, individual and corporate.
Let’s not forget what the chamber of commerce is all about. Economic development. Workforce development. We are aware of companies who have terminated good employees because they have flunked the drug test. Meth is one of the leading reasons. Imagine the costs of retraining a new hire to reach the same level of productivity. One company has reported $35,000 for one position.
The issues surrounding meth are not apparent until you have it in your front and back yard. It is a problem that is attracted more towards rural areas of the state, thus the reason that if you live, work, play and pray within the “beltway,” you probably do not see the significance for such drastic measures. This is a problem you can’t embrace fully unless you have experienced it first-hand. I can guarantee you, however, each and every taxpayer in the state, individual and corporate, pays the price which is why the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce has embraced this initiative.
Association Healthcare Plans, Post-Healthcare Reform
As portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act of 2010 come into effect, associations that offer healthcare plans must navigate the new regulations, keep costs under control and educate employees.
As the federal government looks at the details of healthcare reform, associations are left with the following questions:
- How will the reforms affect my association?
- Is it best to retain “grandfathered” status for our health plan?
- What will be the immediate and long-term costs?
ASAE gathered a team of experts to offer their advice on the healthcare legislation in a recent article of ASSOCIATIONS NOW. The article looks at how to prepare for the impacts of the new legislation, pros and cons of grandfathering health plans, communicating with employees and offers additional resources.
Read more: ASSOCIATIONS NOW, March 2011
Stampeding Their Way to Durham
As part of the Durham (NC) Chamber's initiative to promote Durham as the place to start a new business, it has launched a project called the "Bull City Start-Up Stampede." For 10 to 15 lucky entrepreneurs, the project will provide them with free office space and other perks, such as free high-speed Wi-Fi, for 60 days in downtown Durham -- all in an effort to give them a taste of what it is like building and operating a business in Durham. Casey Steinbacher, the Chamber's president and CEO, says, “We want to make this experience top-notch for these entrepreneurs. The Stampede is an effort to expose more entrepreneurs to the great startup scene we have in Durham and give them the opportunity to be in an environment that will foster new innovation and scalable companies.” So is the Chamber being stampeded by applications? According to Sheena Johnson, the Chamber's director of communications and marketing, within the first six days the website for this program was live, they "received 25 applications and received web hits from China, Australia, , Spain and 31 states!" Certainly this effort has received its fair share of attention; read more about it here:
Union showdown spreading to other states
As we watch Wisconsin’s public employee protests unfold, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana are also bracing for protests aimed at legislation targeting public employee unions.
Read more – Stateline.org: Union Showdown Spreads
Michigan teachers in West Bloomfield didn’t show up for work on Feb. 15 in the midst of contract negotiations.
Read more – MichiganCapitolConfidential.com: The West Bloomfield Teacher ‘Sick Out’
Ohio’s state house doors have been locked as thousands of union protesters gather to hear a bill regarding public employee bargaining rights.
Read more – DaytonDailyNews.com: Ohio Statehouse locked amid union protest
Indiana’s democratic lawmakers imitate Wisconsin and flee the state delaying the legislative process.
Read more – IndyStar.com: Indiana Democrats trigger Statehouse showdown over anti-union legislation
Thirty years ago, the public sided with Reagan during a labor dispute. How will the public react to Wisconsin?
Public Opinion History from Pew Research Center for the People & Press: In Showdown with Air Traffic Controllers, the Public Sided with Reagan
Main Street Fairness Act
The subheader for H.R.5660 – Main Street Fairness Act is “To promote simplification and fairness in the administration and collection of sales and use taxes, and for other purposes.”
This legislation would require online retailers to collect sales tax for all purchases. This changes the current law, which requires sales tax be charged on purchases when the retailer has a physical presence in the state.
Many states already require consumers to report online purchases when they file their taxes and remit the sales tax if the retailer does not collect it, but many, if not most consumers either do not know they are required to make these payments or fail to mention their online purchases on their state tax forms. Collectively, states are losing from $21.5 billion to $33.7 billion in sales tax revenue every year.
The Main Street Fairness act claims that charging sales tax for online purchases will bring fairness back to small local business that are required to collect sales tax and thus charge consumers more at checkout. It will also remove the burden on taxpayers to report their online purchases and revenue to state and local budgets. Argument for Main Street Fairness Act: International Council for Shopping Centers or StandWithMainStreet.com
Groups opposing the act claim that instead of helping small local businesses, the Main Street Fairness act would become a burden to small businesses that sell online and other online entrepreneurs. Articles presenting the side against and the consequences of the Main Street Fairness act: Bloomberg.com, TechJournalSouth.com, and WSJ.com
I reached out to the Council on State Taxation (COST) to see if they had an official position on the Main Street Fairness Act. Here is COST’s official policy statement on the issue: Simplification of the Sales and Use Tax System. Fred Nicely, Tax Counsel for COST, says that "COST supports the MSFA so long as it has the required simplifications in our policy statement. At issue with the MSFA is how compensation and central administration of the telecommunication transaction taxes is addressed in the MSFA. The version introduced in the House last year “punted” on those issues for the interested parties to work out the details. We do not feel the compensation provided by the SSUTA Governing Board is adequate and we are still waiting to see what happens on the telecommunications issue."
Full Text of Bill: Main Street Fairness Act
Has your chamber taken a position on the Main Street Fairness Act? Are your members pushing for you to take a position?
Two Chambers Consolidate: So far so good?
At the end of last year, the boards of the Dutchess County (NY) Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Southern Dutchess (NY) Chamber of Commerce decided to consolidate both organizations. Now that the merger is just about complete, how are things going? According to Charles North, president of the newly-consolidated Chamber, "I am so very pleased that things are working well. I didn't know what to expect." Certainly there were a number of matters that had to be undertaken in such a merger, including: combining staffs, addressing each organization's philosophy, merging events hosted by each of the chambers, combining foundations and more. Read more about the consolidation, how it was handled, and what members think of the new Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce here: http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/article/20110213/BUSINESS/102130341/Consolidation-working-well-