400 Chambers in 90 days?
Maybe not quite that many, but . . .
A trip to the WACE meeting San Francisco. Adinner with chambers in Central GA. The Council of State Chambers wintermeeting. Two three-day sessions of theFord Regional Development Fellows. USChamber Committee of 100 meeting, NW Chamber Leaders Conference in Coeur d'Alene. World ChambersFederation board meeting. Throw in a dozen chambers stopping by our offices in Alexandria for awards judging and I may haveset my personal record for member contact in a quarter.
In most of those meetings, the inevitable question arises: "So how are things - out there?" And the simple answer? Chambers are figuring out how to do more work with 20% fewer resources.And at home? Yourplanned vacations have been shortened or postponed, in part because of your guilt over the workload you're imposing on your staffs.
My good friend Jay Chesshir at the Little Rock Chamber told me the other day: "Hey, it ain't easy, but chamber leaders are NOT Dilbert."
And that's one more reason that I am so glad that we are . . . in this together.
ACCE Members Visit the Dubai Chamber
On March 6-12, the Dubai Chamber generously hosted an ACCE Metro Cities Council delegation of 45 people from 22 states and one Canadian province. This group, headed by ACCE Chair Dave Adkisson (president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce) and ACCE Metro Cities Council Chair Roy Williams (president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce), visited many parts of Dubai, including the world's tallest building (the Burj Khalifa), the seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel, the Palm Jumeirah luxury development just off shore in the Persian Gulf, the world's largest man-made seaport, a $3 billion racecourse, the world's largest shopping mall, and even an indoor ski slope!
The Dubai Chamber also facilitated meetings with key business people throughout this metropolis of 1.8 million people that serves a trade area for close to 2 billion people. The ACCE group, moreover, was invited to the palace of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, where Dave Adkisson sat next to the legendary leader of Dubai and the delegation members were served colorful fruit drinks as they listened to interesting conversation and, in the background, heard peacocks rustling in the garden.
Check out more from ACCE's trip to Dubai:
- Adkisson leads chamber executive delegation in Dubai (PDF)
- UAE, US chambers exchange ideas
- Dubai Chamber brings Dubai business, US chamber leaders face to face
- Top US business delegation takes to Dubai (video)
- Dubai Chamber brings Dubai business, US chamber leaders face to face (video)
- US delegation are impressed with Dubai (video)
Corrections Reform Webinar
On February 17 ACCE and the Pew Center on the States hosted a webinar on the business case for corrections and sentencing reform. ACCE Chairman Dave Adkisson joined the Pew Center's Adam Gelb to discuss how states can spend more efficiently on the penal system and the role chambers can play in driving this agenda. Sarah Hubbard from the Detroit Regional Chamber moderated the discussion.
Indiana Guns in the Workplace
The highly controversial, highly contagious Guns in the Workplace bill is now moving through the Indiana statehouse.
Like similar measures in many other states, Indiana SB 25 and HB 1065 would prohibit business owners from banning firearms on company property. The Indiana Chamber has expressed opposition (see remarks from Chamber CEO Kevin Brinegar) on the basis of companyproperty rights and workplace safety. But this is not an easy position for all chambers to take, it frequently splits chamber boards and policy committees.
Why is this issue so controversial? Take a look at how the NRA, proponents of Guns in the Workplace legislation, have framed the issue:
"They argue that companies can void the rights of law-abiding citizens on company property, even if the property is open to the general public. ... It's not just guns. Lobbyists for big business in Florida claim that they can ban books, Bibles, or even a copy of the U.S. Constitution, from your vehicle as well. Their argument is simple: Any business can declare the constitutional rights of a person to be null and void, if that person is on company property."
Click to read the NRA's position on the guns in the workplace issue.
We've tracked similar pieces of legislation since the Policy Clearinghouse's inception in 2007. As of now at least nine states: Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi and Oklahoma, have statutes that prohibit employers from banning weapons on their own property.
Rhode Island School Cleans House
All educators at the high school in Central Falls, RI will be fired after this school year. The drastic measure is part of a program to reinvent this troubled school which ranks among the worst in the state.
The shake up is driven by a federal program that provides funds to reform a state's worst performing schools. According to the Boston Globe:
The shake-up comes as Rhode Island's new education commissioner, Deborah Gist, pushes the state to compete for nearly $13 million in federal funding to reform the worst 5 percent of its schools, including in Central Falls.
To get the money, schools must choose one of four paths set under federal law, including mass firings. Gallo has said she initially hope to avoid layoffs by adopting a plan that would have lengthened the school day and required teachers to get additional training and offer more after-school tutoring.
The four options for failing schools to receive federal money are:
- Turnaround: replacing a school principal and at least half the staff;
- Restart: converting a school to an autonomous charter school or hiring an education management organization to run it;
- Shutdown: closing a school and dispersing its students;
- Transformation: replacing a principal, improving teacher effectiveness and taking other steps for comprehensive reform.
Despite being applauded by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan as, “showing courage and doing the right thing for kids,” teachers unions in Rhode Island are moving to block the mass firing.
State UI Debt
Do you know how much money state unemployment trust funds owe the federal government for emergency loans?
The answer is that as of February 19, 2010, 27 states and the US Virgin Islands owe a combined sum of $32,323,094,836.53 on outstanding loans from the Federal Unemployment Account. That figure is up more than $22 billion since July 1, 2009. For specifics and the latest figures, click HERE for the US Dept of Labor.
The potential ramifications of this debt on the business community are huge. For example, the Philadelphia Business Journal reports that New Jersey businesses will face a $1 billion payroll tax increase costing $300 to $1000 per employee starting July 1, 2010 if a solution for the UI trust fund gap is not found.
This is a tough, immediate issue without a clear solution. Many chambers are pushing for comprehensive UI reform, but that still leaves 27 states with staggeringly large debts. Please share your thoughts...
More Proof that Chamber Members are Great
Want another reason to brag on your chamber members? ACCE has the ammo.
Results of the ACCE-Cortera study relased yesterday indicate that chamber-member companies have significantly better credit ratings than the average company has.
In the 10 chambers studied from 10 different states, involving more than 10,000 businesses, the credit reporting firm Cortera found the average credit rating for chamber members nationwide is 629 as compared with only 557 for businesses as a whole. That is a significant difference. The better and stronger companies in town tend to belong to the chamber.
You may consider it obvious that chamber members are a cut above the rest, but people both inside and outside of your chamber may not realize it until they see or hear about the data. I encourage you and your staff to spread the word.
Click for the ACCE Cortera Study Press Release.
Oklahoma Education Funding
Initiated by the Oklahoma Education Association, State Question 744 would amend the state constitution to require state education expenditure to equal the average per pupil expenditure of Oklahoma's six neighboring states - Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico and Texas. The amendment includes no provision for how to pay additional education funding.
Many business groups in the state, including the State Chamber of Oklahoma, are concerned about the impact this unfunded mandate will have on the state budget at a time when balancing the budget is already a huge challenge. According to the State Chamber, appropriations for common education in 2007 accounted for 41% of Oklahoma's $6.7 billion state budget. Increased spending to reach the 6 state per pupil average would be significant. Furthermore, the average per pupil expenditure per state doesn't factor in differences in funding models or other federal and local funds that are allocated to education.
For more information download OK State Chamber - SQ 744 White Paper.
To check out messaging from proponents of OK SQ 744 go to: www.hope4ourkids.org/
Look for updates about this issue from the ACCE Policy Clearinghouse.
Good Ink for Downtown Des Moines
The New York Times just featured a glowing profile of downtown Des Moines. They attribute the city's development to a strong economy (based on large, stable employers and emerging alt energy firms), efficient governing, and vibrant public private partnerships.
Here's one excerpt from the article that illustrates how the region is investing in itself:
Richard A. Clark, the city manager, said Des Moines had invested an average of nearly $2 million annually in public dollars over the last several decades to help businesses assemble parcels of land, improve streets, build parking structures and other infrastructure. The public money has leveraged over $2 billion in private investment downtown since the 1990s, he said.
Des Moines even spends $250,000 in tax revenue annually to support public art. Its hotel-motel tax contributes $740,000 annually to a $2.45 million regional account that the city shares with seven suburbs to support the zoo, a civic center, a botanical garden, a symphony and other cultural institutions.
Click HERE to read more.
Oregonians Vote For Taxes
Last week voters in Oregon approved two ballot measures that amount to a $700 million tax hike. While the decision to increase taxes was made via popular vote, the burden for generating new tax revenue will fall primarily on Oregon's businesses and business owners.
The two ballot measures, 66 and 67, were both very targeted. Measure 66 raises income taxes by 2% on individuals earning more than $125,000 a year and on couples whose income exceeds $250,000. Measure 67 raises taxes on businesses, including a rise in the corporate minimum tax.
The statewide campaign to approve this tax hike was largely funded by public employee unions who outspent a coalition of chambers, trade associations and tax advocates by more than $2 million. Television and radio advertising supporting the taxes played heavily class themes to win 54% support.
Support for this kind of tax hike plays off growing populist sentiment and is fanned by anger at Wall Street. Other states could face similar tax proposals, particularly as the reality of budget deficits set in.
To read more about Oregon Measures 66 and 67 check out these two articles:
- Wall Street Journal - Taxpayer Ambush in Oregon
- New York Times - Voters in Oregon Approve Tax Increases
Click for info the coalition opposing the tax hike - Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes