The Early Childhood Imperative
Last month I became a true believer in the importance of early childhood initiatives for America's economic future. I saw the light in Boston, sometime between dinner Thursday and lunch Friday at the National Business Leader Summit on Early Childhood Investment. This two-day meeting of more than 200 corporate, foundation and non-profit executives was organized by the Partnership for America's Economic Success - a project of the Pew Center on the States.
Maybe it happened during the opening keynote when Harvard's Jack Shonkoff illustrated the science of childhood brain development or during the lunch panel when Boeing's senior V.P. for human resources spoke candidly about America's long-term need for creative, adaptable workers. Perhaps it happened in the afternoon workshop when Tim Bartik from the Upjohn Institute highlighted the economic returns for every dollar invested in young children. Regardless, I left Boston a believer.
What struck me most was learning just how much each of us is set up for success or struggle, productivity or incarceration, by the events of our first four years of life. It made me feel quite small. On my way home Friday, I called my mother from the airport and thanked her for reading to me every day from birth until I could comprehend the words on my own.
In addition to a fresh dose of humility, I left Boston with the passion that Kim Sheeler at the Richmond Chamber and Billy Canary at the Business Council of Alabama already have for this issue. Newly minted CCE Jim Page from the Decatur-Morgan County (AL) Chamber, who was also in Boston, informed me that early childhood education is their number one issue.
Chambers of commerce have a long history working on education. The issues are always complex and often emotionally charged. Progress is slow and setbacks are many. But education continues to top chamber agendas because businesses need talent. Our economy runs on smart, adaptable, well-educated people. The innovative, talented people America needs are shaped long before they enter first grade.
Many state and local chambers are already champions for more effective policies to help children develop into successful adults. Others are poised to join. To provide chamber leaders with the best information about the economic and workforce benefits of early childhood programs, ACCE has entered into collaboration with the Partnership for America's Economic Success, a project of the Pew Center on the States.
Yesterday evening I joined the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber and the State Chamber of Oklahoma on Capitol Hill for their annual legislative receptions. Both groups brought great crowds of business and chamber leaders to DC. After the “great to see ya, how ya been’s,” many conversations with people from both delegations quickly turned to energy.
No surprise that energy is a big topic for these groups; Pittsburgh has long had close ties to the coal industry and there is an oil derrick on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol. But the conversations weren’t really about coal and oil. They were about nuclear, natural gas, renewables and all the attached economic and job opportunities with each. Despite all the reasons for pessimism about the economy, the folks from Pittsburgh and Oklahoma were decidedly optimistic and a lot of their optimism centered on energy.
Energy = economy is not a new formula, but it has taken center stage lately, including in the President’s Jobs Bill speech. Here are some recent energy/economy headlines you should read:
From Reuters: US shale oil output set to soar - DOE panel report
From the Washington Post: Charlotte looks beyond financial sector in effort to become ‘energy capital’
From the Detroit Free Press: Natural gas touted as energy of future by ConocoPhillips chief
But the energy news has been bullish on all fronts. This week's bankruptcy announcement from solar-cell manufacturer Solyndra, to whom the Obama administration provided a $535 million loan, has left the administration with egg on its face.
From CBS News: Solyndra failure draws attention to other firms
From the Washington Post: Obama green-tech program that backed Solyndra struggles to create jobs
Jobs Act: What’s in it for the States?
President Obama announced he would send his American Jobs Act to Congress later today and urged them to pass it “immediately.” In a televised address last Thursday (Sept. 8), the president introduced his job-creation plan and called on the states to partner with him to lower the national unemployment rate.
The White House blog has broken down the American Jobs Act by state, so you can see what impact it will have in your community: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/09/09/state-state-look-american-jobs-act?utm_source=wh.gov&utm_medium=shorturl&utm_campaign=shorturl
House Speaker John Boehner said that Congress will send the bill directly to the Congressional Budget Office to be scored and then lawmakers will begin their review.
Stateline.org – Obama pitches American Jobs Act: What’s in it for the states?
LATimes.com – Obama presses Congress on jobs plan
Happy Hour x 3
Aaron Nelson, president and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, worked a three-hour shift tending bar at the Town Hall Grill in Chapel Hill, N.C. recently as part of the chambers' outreach program to local businesses. In the next two months, Nelson will work for 10 chamber members to better learn what members need and how the chamber can support them. Full story.
Real Economic Stimulus
What would real economic stimulus look like? Author and governance authority Eleanor Bloxham recommends an "enterprise development and market competitiveness project ... designed to raise incomes and employment…. Focusing on the role of small and medium-sized enterprises ..." And, she has a plan to fund it. Full story from CNNMoney.
Tulsa looks to change its form of city government
On the Nov. 8 election ballot, Tulsa voters will have the opportunity to vote on four amendments to the city charter that would change Tulsa’s city government. One of the amendments is proposed by the City Council and the other three are proposed by a local nonprofit group, Save Our Tulsa.
The Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce government affairs team and its board of directors have studied these proposals since December, and the chamber, as well as the League of Women Voters, has been outspoken in its opposition to the council’s proposal to replace the government with a council-city manager structure and the Save Our Tulsa’s proposal to add at-large councilors and make the mayor chairman of the council.
The Chamber is still considering its stance on the remaining two proposals.
Tulsa Metro Chamber President Mike Neal says that “the chamber’s outspoken stance is meant to prevent the issue from becoming another reason for Tulsa to be overlooked. Government upheaval in any form staves off a city’s ability to attract business and grow jobs.”
Tulsa Chamber Board Chairman Gerry Clancy says that “the chamber supports good governance and a collaborative spirit of representation. Good governance is vital to communities’ economic prosperity, safety and quality of life.” He also said that the chamber has monitored local issues in trying to best represent the needs of business and industry.
Tulsa World: Chamber: Opposition to government change is for the best
Tulsa World: Chamber, League oppose change to Tulsa city government
Milwaukee Sick Leave Mandate Voided
At the end of July, Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Thomas Cooper handed the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) another victory in their fight against the Milwaukee sick leave mandate.
In May, MMAC celebrated as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a bill that would pre-empt local ordinances from requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees for family, medical or health issues. Three weeks later, 9to5, the National Association of Working Women, asked a judge to let the law take effect for at least two years.
On July 28, attorneys from 9to5 and MMAC disputed which state law should stand—the one that Gov. Walker signed in May pre-empting local sick leave ordinances, or the one that requires laws approved through voter referendum to take effect for two years before elected officials can amend or repeal them.
The Milwaukee County Circuit Court ruled that the state law that invalidated the city of Milwaukee’s mandatory paid sick leave law makes an ongoing court effort to implement the city’s law a moot point. This ruling puts an official end to the city law, and subsequent legal battle, which mandated paid sick leave for employees in Milwaukee.
Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce: Judge Cooper makes it Official: Milwaukee Sick Leave Mandate Voided
Policy Clearinghouse Blog: Governor Walker signs bill at MMAC
Most Inclusive Business Community in the Country
Who has the most inclusive business community in the country? The Charlotte Chamber wants to claim that title for the Queen City.
Last week they launched a new program called the Charlotte Minority Economic Development Initiative (CMEDI). The program pairs minority-owned business enterprises with corporate sponsors in a two-year mentorship arrangement. Minority business owners gain exposure to the broader business community while also getting professional and technical support. Already 13 corporations have teamed up with 18 minority businesses. Read more here.
“Last week's Chamber meeting at the Hilton Charlotte Center City was packed to capacity. As I stood in the back jotting a few notes, it was clear to me that Charlotte's business community is not only fully engaged, but that the city's best days may be just around the corner.”
That is music to any chambers’ ears. Read more here.
Can't Cut This Class
From left, José Paulo D. Cairoli, President of CACB (Confederation of Commercial and Business Associations of Brazil); Sergio Papini, V.P., CACB, Kwanele Gumbi, V.P., Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry; ACCE President Mick Fleming; Julio Alfaro, President, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of East Timor.
Dealing with the formalities of international business has been a challenge for a guy born without diplomatic genes. My Buffalo, N.Y., roots make it tough to tolerate
for-the-record speeches, endlessly translated through earphones. Such programs are inevitable, however, in my role as vice chair of the World Chambers Federation (WCF).
My recent trip to Brazil included the dreaded for-the-record speeches in Portuguese, but there were some touching moments,such as the little ceremony shown in this picture. Following my participation in Salvador, Brazil on a panel of experts from around the world, one of my fellow presenters was overwhelmed with gratitude to have been included. Mr. Julio Alfaro of the new country of East Timor showered each of us with gifts and “hooded” us with lovely ceremonial shawls. The big old American bear on the stage felt a bit awkward, but Julio’s appreciation was so genuine and his words were so poignant, how could I not be moved?
When Julio said “It is nice to be here; it is nice to be anywhere,” he was not joking. You see, this soft-spoken, charismatic guy is running a chamber that is recovering from a decade-long revolution. Former teen (and pre-teen) conscripts in guerilla armies are now learning trades and business skills from his organization. Generations of government corruption are being overcome through his advocacy work. And we think chamber management is tough in the US!
I sometimes tell ACCE Board members that the WCF experience is MY professional development. Thanks to all of you for letting me take this “class.”
Chamber-EDC Merger Talk on the Rise
Talk of mergers between chambers of commerce and economic development entities have dotted local headlines lately.
At a news conference yesterday, the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corporation confirmed they have finalized merger talks. An 11-member “unification committee” will present recommendations by Nov. 30 on how the combined organization will be funded and governed.
Also last week, The Indianapolis Business Journal reported that officials from the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and Develop Indy are discussing formal cooperation. "I wouldn't rule out the possibility they could be merged," said chamber Chairman John Neighbours, a partner at Baker & Daniels.
These announcements come just weeks after the York County (PA) Chamber and the York County Economic Development Corporation approved an MOU to become affiliate organizations under a 501(c)3 parent corporation called the York County Economic Alliance.
Follow the trail of newspaper coverage for any of these mergers and you’ll find some common themes. Chiefly, civic leaders believe that coordination is better than fragmentation, and major corporate funders are tired of writing multiple checks. I take this as a sign that the regionalism mantra has caught on and, post-recession, businesses expect more return from their civic investment.
Are chamber-EDC mergers a trend? The past month would suggest so, and there have been other high profile chamber-EDC mergers in the past few years: the Birmingham Business Alliance, the Quad Cities Chamber and Syrcause’s CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity, for example. But there have also been some splits – Tampa and Albany, GA come to mind.
Are we destined to see more chambers and economic development entities joining forces, or is there a cyclical ebb and flow in regional civic leadership that brings players together then breaks them apart? Share your thoughts...