Talking Policy in Nashville
Two weeks ago, a group of 21 metro cities government relations professionals gathered in Nashville for two days of roundtable discussion. You can read the official recap here, but here are photos from our trip to Nashville.
Policy, politics and chamber specifics dominated the discussion with a strict “what happens in Nashville stays in Nashville” code for conversation confidentiality.
“The gathering had the perfect mix of peer-to-peer discussions for those of us in the trenches every day running campaigns and crafting policies that support economic vitality, said George Allen, senior V.P., Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. “ We shared backstage secrets for victories and hard-earned lessons from disasters. I left Nashville with new political tools and engagement strategies, not to mention some country music CD’s that simply blow me away. Thanks Nashville!”
“I appreciate the opportunity to meet and share ideas and insights with my Metro Chamber colleagues in a roundtable environment,” said Rob Bradham, V.P., public strategies, Chattanooga Chamber. “Our metro areas face many of the same challenges, and exchanging ideas with my counterparts allows me and my chamber to better serve our members and investors. The interaction allows each of us to sharpen our professional abilities and therefore strengthens our profession.”
“The ACCE Government Relations conference was an absolute home-run,” said Jay Barksdale, V.P., public policy, Dallas Regional Chamber. “I’ve been a public affairs professional for many years, but am relatively new to the chamber world. Spending time with colleagues from around the U.S. who face similar challenges and experience the same rewards of this job was the best professional development in which I have participated. I can’t wait to see this talented and motivated group again!”
For a detailed write up, visit the official ACCE news story.
MO's Kansas City Chamber Takes Top Honor
The Greater Kansas City Chamber’s decision to move its offices to Union Station, its leadership on the Kansas City earnings tax election, its service to its members and advocacy on behalf of business were just a few of the reasons the chamber was named Missouri’s 2011 Chamber of the Year by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Former Chamber Chair Peter deSilva, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of UMB Bank, accepted the award Tuesday night, Nov. 8, at ceremonies held at the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
“For years, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has relied on the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce for support of statewide initiatives at the Capitol. In addition, The Chamber plays a critical role in advancing economic development in the Kansas City region,” said Daniel P. Mehan, president and Chief Executive Officer of the Missouri Chamber. “The Greater Kansas City Chamber truly is an economic powerhouse for the region.”
Each year, the Missouri Chamber selects a local Chamber of Commerce that “sets the standard in economic development, advocacy and innovation.” The Greater Kansas City Chamber was chosen from more than 200 chambers of commerce across Missouri.
“We’re obviously pleased to be honored in this way,” says Jim Heeter, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Kansas City Chamber. “As a chamber focused on civic progress, we appreciate the recognition for the work we do.”
Photo caption L to R: Dan Mehan, President and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Jim Heeter, President and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce; Peter deSilva, past Chamber Chair and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of UMB Bank; and John Hancock, Chair of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The Consumer Chamber Member
Here's an interesting idea that was featured in the e-communication, "Idea of the Week" - a joint project with the Indiana Chamber Executives Association and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Executives. The idea comes from the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce in Illinois.
The strategy is simple; the chamber is asking all chamber members - Arlington Heights residents and those who work in Arlington Heights - to invest in an economic development campaign by becoming a consumer chamber member. The chamber calls it a "My Town - Arlington Heights" consumer membership. By signing up on-line for this program, members will have access to exclusive local discount coupons that will encourage them to shop and save at local businesses. A $20 a year economic partnership investment will give them access to on-line coupons from local chamber members for 12 months.
As a Chamber Member Business, they can create and post on-line coupons that will be accessible and valid only for My Town Members. This unique business to consumer marketing tool is included in their yearly member benefits.
Participants can create as many active offers as they wish and are encouraged to enhance those offers in order to drive new business through their doors.
The Origin of Veterans Day
In 1953 the Korean War had ended, with memories of World War II still fresh. In Emporia, Kansas, a young man named Al King, who had been too young to participate in World War II (although he tried to join the Navy toward the end of the war, at age 15), was dissatisfied with the holiday called “Armistice Day” on November 11. Why commemorate the service of just the veterans of World War I? Why not honor the service of all veterans?
King became obsessed with the idea of changing Armistice Day into what we now know as Veterans Day. He was a shoe store owner and well known around town. Soon the Emporia Chamber of Commerce became involved. It surveyed local merchants and found that 90 percent of them, plus the Board of Education, were willing to observe a holiday for all veterans on November 11.[i]
A bill was introduced into Congress and signed into law by President Eisenhower on May 26, 1954. Veterans Day was observed across the country that November. So the rest of the country was only a year behind Emporia.
The Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau maintains its involvement:
“We traded off [organizing the event] with the Legion for a long time,” said Harold Burenheide, quartermaster of VFW Post 1980 in Emporia. “It’s just been our two organizations. But now, the Chamber gets involved, and it’s a week-long celebration.”[ii]
Filling the Leadership Pool
What's a community to do when it faces an aging leadership base? A shortage of volunteers? Facing such a predicament, the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce in British Columbia, Canada, is developing a pilot project—"Building Community Leadership"—that seeks to identify, train and connect community leaders to community boards and organizations.
In an article in the Mission City Record, Chamber Manager Michelle Favero explained that 10 percent of chamber members are community organizations facing a leadership deficit. The article cited the Mission and District Lions Club as one example. The Club had been part of the community for 60 years until last summer, when it was forced to fold due to a lack of volunteers. Favero identified an aging leadership base, lack of volunteers with skills, and no local affordable leadership education as barriers to finding new recruits.
As part of the project, the chamber, in partnership with the University of the Fraser Valley, seeks to host a series of workshops, featuring several high-profile speakers who will share their leadership experiences. According to the article, "they hope to make each session an affordable $20, but that price could drop with corporate sponsorship support."
Sounds like it could be a winner with buy-in from the city council, which passed a motion to consider a way of recognizing those who attend all the workshops with an official leadership designation.
Six Key Points on Regional Cooperation
What can you learn in 2 days and 2 nights at a palatial estate in the Hudson Valley with a room full of smart, experienced regionalists? I'm sure glad I'm in a position to answer.
Last week I participated in a symposium on states and regions organized by the Citistates Group. The event was generously hosted by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and supported by the Carnegie Corporation and the William Penn Foundation. Citistates founders and 2009 ARS-John Parr Award Honorees Neil Pierce, Curtis Johnson and Farley Peters pulled together this ‘meeting of the regional minds’ to address one central challenge: metropolitan regions are the geography of the economy but not the geography of government.
Along with a couple of chamber leaders, I was joined by representatives from MPOs, COGs, universities, foundations, think tanks, and several former big city mayors. To articulate the professional accomplishments and accolades of this distinguished group of veteran practitioners and thinkers would easily run two hours or more. And it did. Thirty minutes into the introductions my suspicions were confirmed; I was the low man on the totem pole in both credentials and class. I just hoped a few of the collected IQ points might rub off on me.
From Wednesday evening through midday Friday we discussed and debated. What is the best structure to organize regional stakeholders? Can state governments help, or do they need to just get out of the way? Can you expect regional cooperation without a galvanizing crisis? Does the “ism” in regionalism turn people off? Can the Cardinals really come back with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the bottom of the ninth?
Scattered amid the discussion were some fantastic success stories from leaders in the field: Atlanta’s regional regulatory and infrastructure action to quickly solve an acute water crisis, Seattle’s alignment of two major ports and dozens of distinct municipalities to speak with a unified voice on international trade and investment recruitment. Don’t be surprised to see more detailed write ups of these success stories soon.
At the end of the day I left with renewed confidence in some core convictions about regional cooperation:
- Business leadership is essential to regional action. Business groups are the only entities with political leverage across the multiple jurisdictions that comprise a region.
- The outcome of regional action is far more important than the structure or governance of regional organization. As the Atlanta Chamber’s Sam Williams said, “Results and outcomes equal power and influence.”
- Someone has to provide neutral turf to get suspicious stakeholders together. Whether COG, MPO or chamber, the regional convener role is vital.
I also picked up a few concepts that, while not necessarily new, are now crystal clear and I'm likely to repeat:
- Economic competitiveness can be the great unifier for regions. The downturn has compounded our challenges but it has also provided a rallying point for individuals with different political affiliations and groups with different agendas – jobs, trade and investment.
- We’re all the same, but we’re not. There is plenty of head-nodding and “me too” expressions when someone describes the challenges facing his region, but the context is always unique. Orlando is not Cleveland is not San Diego, but they can learn a lot from each other’s experience. That’s why I think detailed success and failure stories are as important (if not more important) than models.
- Business can’t do it alone; it needs a strong public sector partner. I’m not just talking about public/private partnerships, I mean a visionary elected or appointed public sector leader willing to cross political divides and work with non-traditional allies for the common good. Almost every success story cited last week mentioned dynamic individual players from the public and private sectors. I should note here that Mick has said this to me dozens of times, but I really get it now.
Where does the learning and collected input from last week’s symposium go from here? I’ll leave that tough question in the capable hands of Neil, Curt and Farley. For me, I brought back a renewed conviction in the important role chambers must play as regional actors and the important role ACCE must play in equipping chambers with the information, connections and success stories to fulfill that role. Expect to see more…
A Room Full of Iowans
How do you entertain a room full of 30-something Iowan transplants on a Thursday evening in Washington, D.C.? For the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the answer is simple: fresh pie, the Nadas and Templeton Rye.
Last Thursday night I had the pleasure of joining a group of young professionals from all walks of life in a neighborhood in Northeast D.C. Most arrived as strangers but they shared a common link: Iowa. Granted, there were a few native Minnesotans and Nebraskans thrown in, but even they were Iowa-educated.
They were drawn together by the Greater Des Moines Partnership-sponsored East Coast Living Room tour by the Nadas, a talented Des Moines-based rock band that has been a staple of the Midwest university scene since the mid ‘90s. The pie and rye (Templeton is distilled in Iowa) were gravy for the guests.
This is the second such Nadas tour the Greater Des Moines Partnership has helped throw. Last spring they did a West Coast train tour that inlcuded stops in Portland, Seattle and Spokane. Their goal: stanch talent drain by reminding native sons and daughters about the great professional and personal opportunities back home. For a talent-hungry region with low unemployment, is there any better strategy than luring returnees? Iowa housing prices alone would perk the ears of anyone living inside the beltway.
So what’s this North Carolinian's Iowa link? I never turn down an invitation for drinks with Jay Byers.
What's Your Line?
Reunion with Cornell University championship football team was a blast this past weekend. The stories of our prowess grow more amazing each decade. Fantastic connections to be made with old friends. An energy engineer in Alaska, Ivy League academics, a Madison Ave. ad agency CEO, politicos in DC, business leaders from Chicago, two judges, a machinist, a truck company owner, a truck driver, an oncologist, two surgeons, a dentist, a coach or two, a juvenile crime specialist and the radio announcer of the Colorado Rockies. Oh, and one fairly well-known Hollywood star who sports a Super Bowl ring.
When I attempted to answer the "what's your line?" questions of my old teammates, there were, as usual, tilted heads and quizzical looks. They pretend to understand what the president of an association of chamber people might actually do. All of those smart, wired, experienced people find it easier to understand what a mortgage-backed securities analyst (yes, we have two of those in the group) might do than what an association executive does. Finally, I found an analogy they could relate to. Since so many are lawyers, I just started answering the cocktail party questions -- "ACCE is like the American Bar Association for chamber of commerce people." "Ohhhhh, that sounds . . . interesting. Have you tried the shrimp?"
I'm the mushy sentimental type. Big surprise, right!? I fire up and tear up when the news covers a soldier's homecoming or the long-suffering Lions fans get a win. This week, I received a simple message that touched me deeply and provided the motivation I need in order to do this job. It was a handwritten note from Rob O'Brien, the CEO of the Joplin Missouri Chamber. It accompanied his substantial ACCE dues check and it was a reply to the note I wrote him on his membership invoice. In light of the unfathomable tornado damage that struck his town, I had written, "Rob, do what you can. If you need to send nothing this year, don't sweat it." Or something like that. His note back said: "Thanks for the offer to accept less for dues, but we are good right now . . . enclosed is our full amount. Keep doing great things. Rob."
Rob will have a tough time fully rebuilding the economy of Joplin, but he and his team are already hard at it, with efforts to restore the hospital (focus of every network camera in May), the schools and the business base. Their "YES WE ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS" roster of establishments that have reopened, along with those that never closed, grows every week. The transition from response to recovery is getting assistance from many corners. And yes, they are open for business.
Recently, in response to what the pundits, pols and pottymouths of both parties have been spewing, Jon Stewart on the Daily Show said, "We need some perspective -- these are hard times, not end times." When I see the kind of determination and faith displayed by Rob and his team in Joplin, even in the face of destruction that resembles the stuff of biblical end times, I am amazed and inspired. When the going gets tough, the tough keep you going.
P.S. If you want to help, go to: www.joplincc.com
Frank Ryll, Jr. Honored . . . Again
After being honored with ACCE's Life Member Award during ACCE's annual convention in Los Angeles this year, Frank Ryll needs to make room on his shelf for yet another award.
The Florida Association of Chamber Professionals (FACP) recognized industry legend, Frank M. Ryll, Jr., with the inaugural Pillar Award, at the 91st Annual Conference, held October 4-6, 2011, in Destin, Fl. The award was created by the FACP Board of Directors to recognize an industry leader who has demonstrated a commitment to the Chamber profession that epitomizes the characteristics of a pillar, strength and support.
Asthe inaugural recipient of the award, Frank has devoted a lifetime of work within the chamber profession. Frank’s service started in Florida and then continued in Greenville, South Carolina. Frank later returned to Florida and set upon a legendary career, familiar to most with The Florida Chamber of Commerce, that has been recognized and celebrated nationally.
“I had the privilege of working side by side with Frank for the past few years,” stated The Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce and FACP President & CEO, Tammy C. Bracewell, during her presentation of the award. “What a true pleasure and blessing Frank has been to me both professionally and personally.”
Upon presentation of the award, it was noted that the FACP Board decided to name the award in Frank’s honor, as the Frank M. Ryll, Jr. Pillar Award.
Photo caption: (left to right) 2010-2011 FACP Chairman, Shane Moody (Destin Area Chamber) congratulates FACP’s inaugural Pillar Award recipient. Frank M. Ryll, Jr. (The Florida Chamber), presented by FACP’s President & CEO Tammy C. Bracewell (also of The Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce).