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Waiting for "Superman"

Chaaron Pearson on Monday, March 14, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

Last Thursday, the US Chamber hosted a conference call with former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and Michelle Rhee, former superintendent of DC public schools, founder and CEO of StudentsFirst and was featured in the documentary, Waiting for “Superman”.  They participated on the call to urge the business community to get involved with education reform.

Waiting for “Superman” analyzes the failures of the American public school system by following several students through the education system.  The documentary finally made its way to the top of my Netflix queue a few weeks ago and I would encourage anyone who has an interest in education reform to make the effort to see this film.  Director Davis Guggenheim puts faces on education statistics and reminds us that the future of our country is determined in the classroom.

Call to Action from the US Chamber:

As discussed in the US Chamber call, the American business community has a great opportunity to make a difference and lead the charge in calling for real education reform. It's crucial that businessmen and women from across the country initiate these discussions. We encourage you to take advantage of the "Reel" Resources for Education Reform kit to initiate the interest in education reform among businesses in your community, which will also be available online soon.

The National Chamber Foundation has obtained a license on behalf of your organization that allows you to publicly screen Waiting for “Superman” provided that certain conditions are met.  In order to comply with the license agreement, your organization must meet the following requirements:  

  • You MAY NOT screen the film at commercial theatrical venues, libraries, and educational facilities.
  • Screenings in public venues are subject to a 150-person limit.
  • You MAY NOT charge fees, resell, or make copies of the Waiting for “Superman” DVD.
  • Permissible screening venues include local community or civic centers, public recreation centers, chamber facilities, office complex meeting rooms, or private residences.  Note: screenings in private residences are not subject to legal requirements.
  • Once the venue has been determined, you are required to sign and send in a detachable form, which you will receive in the “Reel” Resources for Education Reform kits, to ensure compliance with the license agreement.
  • All screenings must occur before August 31, 2011.
  • Your organization is solely responsible for complying with these requirements.  If you have questions about screening, please email Blair Fowler at bfowler@uschamber.com.
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Bowling Green (KY) Chamber Reaches Out to Japan

Tania Kohut on Monday, March 14, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

Looking for ways to be more involved in relief efforts, the Bowling Green Area (KY) Chamber of Commerce is offering its help to victims of the devastating earthquake in Japan. They are in constant contact with the Japan America Society of Kentucky - an organization that builds business and community relationships between Japan and Kentucky. Watch the news story here: http://www.wbko.com/news/headlines/Bowling_Green_Area_Chamber_of_Commerce_Reaching_Out_117972619.html
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Guest Post: Greg Roth - Kentucky passes landmark criminal justice reform

Chaaron Pearson on Friday, March 11, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

On March 3, the Kentucky legislature passed historic legislation which will dramatically reform the state's criminal justice system. Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law H.B. 463 after it moved quickly through the General Assembly, passing the Senate unanimously and the House by a vote of 96-1. The reforms are expected to save the state $422 million over ten years. 

For the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, staunch supporters of the bill, the passage is the culmination of a two-year effort to measure the state's budgetary woes and advocate for better policies. As detailed in remarks by CEO David Adkisson, the state chamber began studying the state budget in 2008 and found that corrections was one of the top areas ripe for reform. The state currently spends over $20,000 per inmate and had one of the fastest-growing prison populations in the nation over the past decade. According to Adkisson, the business community pays 40% of state taxes in Kentucky, making sentencing and corrections an issue of economic competitiveness.

The findings of the chamber's study were released in the 2010 Leaky Bucket Report. As a result, the chamber began engaging legislators across the state in discussions about how to make the penal code more cost-effective.

According to Lexington' s NBC affiliate:

“The bill modernizes Kentucky drug laws by reducing prison time for low-risk, non-violent drug offenders who possess small amounts of illegal drugs. It then reinvests the savings from the reduced prison costs into drug treatment opportunities for offenders who need help. The law also strengthens probation and parole laws by basing key decisions on the risk posed by offenders and improving supervision, and links offenders to appropriate community resources.”

The bill itself was the result of analysis and recommendations from a robust task force that included legislators from both parties, the Chief Justice, the secretary of the Justice Cabinet, a former prosecutor, a public advocate, and a  county official.  The task force was aided by technical assistance from the research-driven Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States.

ACCE and Pew have been working together in a handful of states to educate business leaders on the necessity of and opportunity for sentencing and corrections reform that will improve public safety, hold offenders accountable and control corrections costs. Kentucky stands as a shining example of what can be achieved when the business community lends its voice to this important issue.

-Greg Roth

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Partnering for a New Member Perk

Tania Kohut on Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

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

 

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Making Honey or Studying Hive Behavior?

Mick Fleming on Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

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.

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It Ain't So

Mick Fleming on Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 
A recent story posted on a Chapel Hill newspaper's website talked about possible legal and tax problems for assorted parties if local governments are paying members of state or local chambers.  It just ain't so.  The writer was correct in stating that there can be many reasons why a chamber or government entity would not WANT to be in a member relationship.  There are, however, no prohibitions, threats to non-profit status, or legal problems related to municipal governments or their agencies joining chambers.  The writer was misinformed or misunderstood the statutes, rules and precedents involved, some of which go back to the founding fathers.  Venable Partners, one of the most prominent non-profit law specialists in the country, will soon be providing written guidance and further clarification for members of ACCE.
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Helping Local Entrepreneurs Succeed in Green Bay

Tania Kohut on Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

 

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

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Guest Post: Rod Henry - Meth and Policy

Chaaron Pearson on Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

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.      

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Association Healthcare Plans, Post-Healthcare Reform

Chaaron Pearson on Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

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: 

  1. How will the reforms affect my association?
  2. Is it best to retain “grandfathered” status for our health plan?
  3. 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

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Stampeding Their Way to Durham

Tania Kohut on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

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, Mozambique, Spain and 31 states!"  Certainly this effort has received its fair share of attention; read more about it here: 

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