Montana on the mind

Ben Goldstein on Wednesday, August 23, 2017 at 12:00:00 am 

At 3,000 feet above sea level, tucked away between Big Mountain and Glacier National Park to the North and Blacktail Mountain and Flathead Lake—America’s largest— to the south, Kalispell, Montana, isn’t the first place you think of when you think winter getaway.

So, when United Airlines announced it was launching a two-month trial series of direct flights from San Francisco to Glacier Park International Airport in December 2016, the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitor Bureau (KCVB) knew it had to find a way to capitalize on the opportunity to attract tourists and increase regional awareness.

“The main driving factor was filling the seats on those flights,” said Kate Lufkin, marketing and communications specialist at the KCVB. “With a trial flight like that, the better it performed, the more likely the airline is to expand service, so we really wanted to fill those seats.”

The KCVB teamed up with a public relations firm based in Missoula, Montana, to brainstorm a marketing and advertising campaign to promote the region as a wintertime tourist destination in the San Francisco Bay Area market. The intended target audience was young, active adults who are passionate about outdoors adventure and skiing.

“A lot of people don’t think of us as a travel destination in the winter, but this area doesn’t shut down by any means,” said Lufkin. “We wanted to promote our skiing, snowmobiling and other winter activities, and San Francisco was a fantastic addition, because of the likeminded folks there that are drawn to the outdoors.”

The PR firm created native content for the Weekend Sherpa, a popular northern California-based e-magazine geared toward outdoors adventuring, which was promoted through social media, email newsletter blasts and as a feature on the online magazine’s homepage.

The series of sponsored stories, dubbed “Montana on the Mind,” featured rousing images of northwest Montana’s rugged, snow-covered landscapes, and generated hundreds of thousands of impressions on social media.

The KCVB also targeted outdoor enthusiasts in the San Francisco Bay Area through Facebook advertising, including carousel ads on both mobile and desktop newsfeeds. These digital efforts garnered over one million total impressions and generated nearly 3,000 link clicks to the campaign’s website.

The biggest development, however, occurred just after the campaign’s conclusion in February 2017, when United Airlines and Glacier Park International Airport announced expanded daily commercial air service to and from San Francisco for July through September 2017. The KCVB credits the success of the campaign in-part for the decision by United to expand its flight offerings to the area.

“I think it’s a huge testament to see the confidence United had to expand the flight beyond the two-month trial period,” said Lufkin. “We hope to see it continue to grow, and maybe even become a new year-round direct service.”

Another rewarding moment for the KCVB came when it learned it won a Communications Excellence Best in Show award from the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives at the group’s annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee in July 2017.

“As a smaller chamber in a smaller market, we were thrilled to be recognized, even just as one of the finalists,” said Diane Medler, director of the chamber’s convention and visitor bureau. “When we found out we won Best in Show, we were just over the moon.”

Medler says the KCVB has continued to build on the winter campaign’s success with a spring and summer campaign. She says the key to launching a successful destination campaign as a smaller-sized chamber is to “be targeted and strategic” in your communications.

“You can’t be everything to everyone, and you have to decide who your audience is and what results you hope to achieve,” said Medler. “If you’re more targeted, then you’re ultimately going to be more successful, because your message will amplify and resonate within that group.”

Want to see your story featured in the #ACCESpotlight? Share your story with Ben Goldstein.

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The origin of certificates of origin

Ben Goldstein on Monday, August 21, 2017 at 12:00:00 am 

For almost a century, governments around the world have relied on chambers of commerce to verify the origins of overseas exports. And, while the issuance of certificates of origin—first assigned to chambers through the Geneva Convention in 1923—is an essential function of the chamber world, it is also one of the least understood.

What is a certificate of origin?

A certificate of origin is a stamped document that verifies where goods are manufactured, so governments can assess tariff rates and enforce embargoes on imports. They are required for all international trade, unless exempted by parties to a trade deal like the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The origin of the goods refers to the location the final product was assembled, not its parts. For goods that were manufactured in multiple countries, the country that bore more than 50 percent of the costs of assembly is considered the country of origin. All valid certificates must be signed by the exporter and then verified and stamped by a local chamber of commerce.

Advice from the pros

At the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Executive Assistant to the President Kristin Gochenour uses eCertify, an electronic certification software, to issue certificates digitally. The chamber charges exporters $20 per certificate, $5 of which is paid to eCertify, meaning it profits $15 per certificate, not counting the $1000 annual fee for the software. For exporters that hit 100 certificates within a calendar year, the cost is reduced to $10 per certificate, while nonmembers pay up to $75 each.

Asked if it would make sense for a smaller-sized chamber to issue certificates of origin, Gochenour said it “all depends on their volume,” adding, “They’d have to do at least 200 certificates a year just to recoup the eCertify cost for the fee, not even counting the $5 charge per certificate. It’s a substantial number.”

At the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, Vice President and Chief of Staff Justin Simmons swears by eCertify as the most efficient way to issue certificates of origin.

“The old, paperbound process required a courier or staff time for the company, and you’d have to actually sit down and manually stamp and sign,” said Simmons. “The efficiency gained for the exporter enables them to do it from their desk, with a much shorter turnaround than what it would take to drive them across town.”

Rife with fraud

Because of the decentralized nature of the certificate of origin process in the U.S., American exports have attracted scrutiny from foreign officials who have been tipped off about fraudulent behavior in the issuance process. Examples include documents signed by fictitious employees and chambers lending out their seals for companies to stamp themselves.

“The basic problem is lack of oversight,” said Chris Mead, senior vice president at the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. “It’s been compared to a Wild West-type situation. Foreign countries are more on their toes now, so chambers should be careful that they’re issuing these certificates the right way.”

Scrutiny of fraudulent certificates of origin increased in 2011, after the Egyptian Consulate in Houston launched an investigation into improperly labeled food shipments. After determining that the goods were actually of Latin American origin, the consulate restricted certificates of origin for all but two chambers in a host of states.

“They did a test and quite a few of these certificates were not legit,” said Mead. “Egypt doesn’t have a strong food inspection system, so this potentially endangered the people living there.”

Bottom line

When deciding whether to issue certificates of origin, chambers should ask whether it will be a profitable enough activity for them to commit the resources needed to do the job right. And those who opt to issue should always act with integrity.

“Don’t lend out your stamp,” said Mead. “It’s like lending out your checkbook or the plaque you got for graduation. You just don’t do it.”

Want to learn more? Check out our Chamberpedia page on certificates of origin.


Tags: International Trade, Certificates of Origin, Exports

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Congratulations, Best in Show winners!

Ben Wills on Monday, August 7, 2017 at 10:13:00 am 

ACCE’s Awards for Communications Excellence celebrate top-notch marketing work that effectively communicates policy work, the accomplishments of the chamber of commerce, community advancement and economic development initiatives, membership attraction and retention, events and more.

The top three entries — one from each size category — are presented the Best in Show award.

At the #ACCEAwards Show in Nashville, Tennessee on July 18, three organizations — Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and Portland Business Alliance — were recognized as this year’s Best in Show winners.

Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce
West Bay, Grand Cayman
Economic Growth Matters Campaign

Kalispell Chamber of Commerce
Kalispell, Montana
Winter CampaignPress Release, Ski Vacation Contest Details, Weekend Sherpa Sponsored Content

Portland Business Alliance
Portland, Oregon
Portland Can Do Better Campaign

Judges of this year’s Communications Excellence awards selected one entry — submitted by the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce — to receive a specially-created recognition called the “Literally Perfect” award. Honored for creative execution and attention-grabbing results, Chattanooga’s Literally Perfect series is, well, literally perfect.

Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga: Literally Perfect Campaign

In addition to celebrating winners of the Best in Show and Literally Perfect awards, Grand Award winners took to the stage and Awards of Excellence winners were recognized. (Check out this blog post, where we announced Grand Award and Award of Excellence winners.)

See photos of Communications Excellence Best in Show winners here and Grand Award winners here.

Tags: Awards for Communications Excellence, Communications, Marketing, #ACCE17, #ACCEAwards

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Chamber leaders accepted to Fellowship

Ben Wills on Thursday, August 3, 2017 at 1:39:00 pm 

Leaders from 21 chambers of commerce, representing communities throughout the United States, have been selected to participate in ACCE’s Fellowship for Education Attainment.

The Fellowship is an immersive executive development program that provides chamber of commerce professionals with education and tools to improve the birth-to-career education pipeline in the communities they serve.

Throughout the year-long experience, Fellows work to develop a regional action plan that focuses on addressing specific education attainment or workforce development issues in their communities.

Congratulations to this year’s Fellows!

Kristi Barr
Director, Workforce Development & Education
Little Rock Regional Chamber
Little Rock, Arkansas

Travis Burton
Manager of Public Affairs
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
Frankfort, Kentucky

Cathy Burwell, IOM
President & CEO
Helena Area Chamber of Commerce
Helena, Montana

Tim Cairl
Director, Education Policy
Metro Atlanta Chamber
Atlanta, Georgia

Brett Campbell
Senior Vice President for Education and Workforce
Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Christopher Cooney, IOM, CCE
President & CEO
Metro South Chamber of Commerce
Brockton, Massachusetts

Jonathan Davis
Director of Workforce Initiatives
Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce
Augusta, Georgia

Melanie D’Evelyn
Manager, Education Attainment
Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation
Detroit, Michigan

Dexter Freeman, II
Director of Intelligence, Innovation, & Education
Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce
Irving, Texas

Christy Gillenwater, IOM, CCE
President & CEO
Southwest Indiana Chamber
Evansville, Indiana

Derek Kirk
Director of Community & Government Relations
North Orange County Chamber
Fullerton, California

Angelle Laborde, CCE
President & CEO
Greenwood Area Chamber of Commerce
Greenwood, South Carolina

Meaghan Lewis
Government Affairs Manager
North Carolina Chamber
Raleigh, North Carolina

Amber Mooney
Manager, Government Affairs
The Business Council of New York State
Albany, New York

Dr. Gilda Ramirez
Vice President, Small Business & Education
United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce
Corpus Christi, Texas

Chris Romer, IOM
President & CEO
Vail Valley Partnership
Avon, Colorado

JoAnn Sasse Givens
Director of Workforce Development
Effingham County Chamber of Commerce
Effingham, Illinois

Mary Anne Sheahan
Executive Director of Leadership & Workforce Development
Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce
Burlington, Vermont

Barbara Stapleton
Vice President of Workforce & Education
GO Topeka
Topeka, Kansas

Sherry Taylor
President & CEO
Mason Deerfield Chamber
Mason, Ohio

Emily Ward
Vice President, Foundation Supports & Grant Management
Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
Brooklyn, New York

Find more information about ACCE’s Fellowship for Education Attainment here, or contact Molly Blankenship, community advancement coordinator, by email or phone at 703-998-3530. ACCE will begin accepting applications for the next Fellowship cohort in May, 2018.

Tags: Education Attainment Division, Fellowship for Education Attainment, ACCE News, Education Attainment

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Meet the newest Certified Chamber Executives

Ben Wills on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 at 1:37:00 pm 

Nine chamber of commerce leaders from six states have recently joined an elite roster of professionals who have earned the Certified Chamber Executive (CCE) designation.

Since the first CCE designation was conferred some 40 years ago, more than 500 chamber professionals have become certified. More than 250 people have an active certification today.

ACCE celebrated this year’s Certified Chamber Executives — Lucia Cape, Brad Dean. Megan Lucas, Cheryl Millsaps, Mark Owens, Jeff Rea, Barbara Thomason, Michael Ward and Joyce Waugh — in the heart of downtown Nashville at the #ACCEAwards Show on Tuesday, July 18.

“The CCE program assesses and tests the applicant's knowledge of core chamber management areas —management, planning and development, membership and communication, and operations,” says Bob Quick, CCE, president and CEO of Commerce Lexington Inc. and CCE commission chairman. “Chamber professionals who are designated CCEs have rightfully earned this outstanding recognition through hard work, countless hours of dedication to their field, and leadership of their chamber to achieve the chamber’s goals. We are proud to have this year’s class join a long tradition of professional excellence.”

See photos of our newest CCEs at the #ACCEAwards Show

Congratulations, from your friends at ACCE!

Lucia Cape, CCE
Senior Vice President, Economic Development, Industry Relations & Workforce
Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce
Huntsville, Alabama

Brad Dean, CCE, IOM
Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Megan Lucas, CCE, IOM, CEcD
CEO & Chief Economic Development Officer
Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance
Lynchburg, Virginia

Cheryl Millsaps, CCE, IOM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Vice President of Finance and Administration
Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Mark Owens, CCE, IOM
Greater Greer Chamber of Commerce
Greer, South Carolina

Jeff Rea, CCE
President and CEO
South Bend Regional Chamber
South Bend, Indiana

Barbara Thomason, CCE, IOM, PCED
Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce
Houston, Texas

Michael D. Ward, CCE, IOM
Senior Vice President, Government & Public Affairs
Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce
Huntsville, Alabama

Joyce W. Waugh, CCE, IOM, CEcD
President & CEO
Roanoke Regional Chamber
Roanoke, Virginia

Learn more about the Certified Chamber Executive designation and meet our CCE Commissioners.

Tags: #ACCEAwards, CCE, Certified Chamber Executive

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Congratulations, Chamber(s) of the Year!

Ben Wills on Monday, July 24, 2017 at 9:07:00 am 

Last week at the annual #ACCEAwards Show, nearly one-thousand community-builders gathered at Music City Center in downtown Nashville to celebrate winners of many special awards, including Chamber of the Year.

Sponsored by WebLink, Chamber of the Year is the most prestigious and competitive award presented by ACCE and is the only globally-recognized industry award that honors top chambers of commerce for exemplary work.

Meet the winners (photos) >

State/Province Category
Georgia Chamber

Category Four
Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce

Category Three
Huntsville/Madison County Chamber

Category Two
Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce

Category One
O’Fallon Chamber of Commerce & Industries

This year's competition drew entries from chambers throughout the U.S. and Canada. To ensure the fairest competition, applicants are grouped into five categories based on: annual revenue, membership, area population, and several other factors.

Learn more about Chamber of the Year here.

Tags: #ACCEAwards, Awards, Chamber of the Year

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Sheree Anne Kelly named ACCE’s next CEO

Ben Wills on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at 9:03:00 am 

The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives is excited to announce that Sheree Anne Kelly has been named as the organization's next president and CEO.

Sheree Anne, who currently serves as senior vice president at Washington, D.C.-based Public Affairs Council, will join the ACCE team September 5. Mick Fleming, who has served as ACCE's president and CEO since July 2001, will continue to serve the organization throughout the transition.

Sheree Anne Kelly says hello to ACCE members

"Finding a talented leader is often a daunting task when searching for the best person to lead a proven and successful association," said ACCE Board Chairman Jay Chesshir, CCE, president and CEO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber. "Everyone involved in the executive search process has been extremely impressed with Sheree Anne and we look forward to working with her to build upon the amazing impact, strength, and resources we've created over the last 16 years."

Kelly was the unanimous choice of ACCE's 15-member CEO Search Committee, chaired by Roy H. Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. The committee worked with executive recruiting firm Korn Ferry.

"We went through a very methodical, disciplined process to find the right person," Williams said. "And at the end of that process, I believe the entire committee felt we perhaps exceeded our own expectations by finding Sheree Anne. Her attitude, enthusiasm, skill set, and personality should combine to take ACCE to a new level."

Kelly currently serves as PAC's chief public affairs expert and deputy for the organization, and executive director of PAC's Foundation for Public Affairs. In addition to strategic planning, operations management, and research oversight, she directs the Council's public affairs staff responsible for consulting, thought leadership and training on best practices and ethical considerations. She launched the international practice for PAC, which opened its first overseas office in Brussels in 2013. She's a frequent keynote speaker and guest lecturer, having delivered presentations across North America, Europe, and Asia. Prior to joining PAC, Kelly worked in the government affairs department of the National Association of Home Builders, and held positions at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in corporate relations and corporate development.

"Since my first job out of college was working for the U.S. Chamber," Kelly said, "ACCE is a real full-circle career moment. I've always had this idealism about giving back to communities and groups, and being a productive contributor to a mission-driven organization, so working with chamber leaders and ACCE's staff is a thrilling opportunity."

View the full press release

Tags: ACCE News

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Funding the Detroit Promise

Ben Goldstein on Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 12:00:00 am 
Image courtesy of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce

 The ongoing economic recovery of Detroit has produced some real success stories. Since filing for municipal bankruptcy back in 2013, Motor City has enjoyed a solid comeback, accompanied by a building boom in its downtown core.

But, as is the case in much of the country, the recovery in Detroit has been markedly uneven. Since 2007, employment for suburban residents has increased by more than 16 percent, while at the same time falling by 35 percent for the city’s urbanites, according to data from City Lab.

At the Detroit Regional Chamber, Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent programs, wants to attack this inequality by its roots—by providing low-income students at Detroit public highs schools with funding to attend community college, tuition free.

“There’s this big economic revitalization going on, and a lot of these new jobs demand a highly skilled workforce,”explained Handel. “There’s a hope that if we get more students onto a pathway for college, they’ll be able to fill these jobs that are coming back downtown.”

Handel says the program will also help reduce the the number of families leaving the city. Detroit’s population, which stood at well over a million residents for most of the 1990s, has fallen to just 676,312 residents in 2016, the last year data was available.

“This is largely about retention of residents,” said Handel. “The city has been losing residents, so there’s a hope that this will slow down or end that drain away from the city.”

In 2011, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder formed a working group with the Detroit Regional Chamber to brainstorm ways to reform the city’s education system. They settled on a last-dollar scholarship program, to be administered by the chamber and funded by the Michigan Educational Excellence Foundation, a nonprofit business foundation created to improve education outcomes for low-income Detroiters.

The new scholarship, which made community college available tuition-free for all students in the city, became known as the Detroit Promise.

“As we look to the future, the next generation of leaders is being developed here in our schools,” said Gov. Rick Snyder last Fall in a blog post. “The Detroit Promise helps to provide access to a high-quality education, so that our students are equipped with the skills necessary to continue the city’s comeback for generations to come.”

More than 2,000 students have used the funds to attend community college since the program’s inception four years ago. Starting last year, the Promise was expanded to several four-year universities in the area—although students must have at least a 3.0 GPA and a score of 1060 on the SAT to gain admission.

Of the students who attended community college through the scholarship, about 20 percent graduated, which is roughly the national average for low-income, first-generation students, said Handel. To boost success rates, the chamber hired coaches to help students navigate the college experience.

“From research, we know that some low-income, first-year students enter college with a feeling they don’t belong,” said Handel. “Coaches encourage them not to get too stressed or too down on themselves, especially after that first setback.”

Looking ahead, Handel hopes to increase the numbers of students attending community college through the Promise from 500 to 700, and to roughly double the graduation rate for participating students to 40 percent.

“As employers look to hire Detroit residents for jobs and internships, we want to encourage our students to be in that pipeline,” said Handel. “A lot of these students believe that college is a luxury they can’t afford, even if the tuition is paid for. We want to show these kids that a pathway to success exists.”

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Solving San Francisco’s gridlock puzzle

Ben Goldstein on Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 12:00:00 am 

For decades, the San Francisco Bay area has been a region of prosperity. Fueled by the wealth of Silicon Valley, the city’s population growth shows no sign of slowing down.

Now, the region’s renowned public transit systems are feeling the strain of decades of expansion, as traffic congestion makes it hard to move around and causes headaches for everyone—businesses and consumers alike.

At the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, Senior Vice President for Public Policy Jim Lazarus sounds a sanguine tone about traffic in the city.

“We don’t have congestion—we call it traffic,” he chuckled. “Traffic is good, congestion is bad.”

Lazarus has a behind-the-scenes view, as a member of the city’s new taskforce on reducing traffic, led by the San Francisco Chamber, which includes staff from the mayor’s office, regional agencies and a coterie of business associations.

“We have a fairly robust rapid transit system, but it’s bursting at the seams carrying hundreds of thousands of passengers a day,” said Lazarus. “There are no reverse commutes anymore. The traffic moves in all directions, all the time.”

The working group launched in 2015, in response to concerns the city would struggle to accommodate the one million expected visitors for Super Bowl 50. After the city successfully handled the influx, the group decided to continue meeting monthly to further develop strategies toward curbing the snarling congestion enveloping San Francisco’s winding grid system.

“This kind of ad hoc process led into some major meetings to give input to the city and the NFL,” said Lazarus. “That Superbowl, transit carried record loads, business didn’t grind to a halt and we survived with the kind of security constraints that were imposed on the town.”

At the working group’s monthly meetings, the agenda deals with strategies for enforcing traffic and parking control, as well as incentivizing sustainable options like carpooling and public transit. The group also studies current trends, like the effects of ride-sharing firms Uber and Lyft, which now comprise roughly 20 percent of the city’s traffic, according to a report from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

“There’s probably 56,000 ridesharing vehicles on the streets at any peak time in San Francisco,” said Lazarus. “It obviously adds to traffic, but it’s also replacing vehicles, so we’re trying to learn what the real net impact of all this is.”

And, in a nod to its Silicon Valley DNA, the working group is planning with an eye toward future adoption of autonomous vehicles, which Lazarus believes is looming on the horizon.

“Autonomous vehicles are going to give road capacity a big bump up, meaning there will be more vehicles in the same amount of roadway,” said Lazarus. “We don’t know what the full effects will be, but we think it will move traffic better if you take some of the human error out of the equation.”

Public transit in the region accommodates nearly one million passengers daily. The city has slated transit improvements for the next 510 years, including the electrification of the Caltrain commuter line and the addition of new several planned subway stations, that are expected to boost the system’s capacity.

“With the growth of deliveries, jobs, private vehicles and rideshare, San Francisco can’t add to the street grid,” said Lazarus. “We can only try to make it more efficient, and that’s our real goal here.”

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Capitol Hill gets a Taste of Hawaii

Ben Goldstein on Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 12:00:00 am 

 The Aloha Spirit came alive in Washington last week, as the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii hosted Hawaii on the Hill, its fourth-annual fly-in to the nation's capital.

The packed, two-day agenda culminated with the Taste of Hawaii gala in the historical Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building. Inside the posh ballroom, attendees donning aloha shirts and flower leis milled about to Hawaiian music, as dozens of vendors shared samples of Hawaiian treats and sundries nearby

“This is about showcasing Hawaii on the Hill, and providing opportunities for Hawaii businesses to expand locally, nationally and globally,” said Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii. “Although people see Hawaii as a tourist destination, we also want to educate them about our state’s innovative products and services.

Hawaii Food Manufacturers Association members served up authentic island cuisine, like kalua pig sliders—miniature pulled pork sandwiches doused with spicy ketchup—and Sun Noodle delights, ramen noodles topped with teriyaki sauce and garnished with crunchy Wun Tun Strips, a treat made by Hawaii Candy. Joining the strong food industry presence were companies like Hawaiian Airlines and Hawaii Gas Co., who were also there promoting their businesses.

“It's not just about food; We use this opportunity to showcase Hawaii’s various industries, like technology, transportation, and even education and health,” said Menor-McNamara. “These businesses participate in Hawaii on the Hill because they recognize the importance of keeping Hawaii on the map and continuing to inform our nation’s leaders about what our state has to offer.”

Feedback from participating chamber members has been unanimously positive, evidenced by the number of companies who now make the trip annually.

“It’s a great opportunity to network and showcase some of the high tech work we do,” said Eric Schiff, vice president at Navatek, a small defense contractor that works with the Office of Naval Research in the Marine Corps. “The Aloha State does it all—high tech, outstanding food—it’s just a fabulous place to work and play and live, and Hawaii on the Hill showcases that.”

Chamber of Commerce Hawaii was accompanied by the Neighbor Island Chambers, a partnership of chambers from smaller islands like Maui and Kauai.

“Here we are on the East coast, with all these friends and family, sharing Hawaii with them and all the amazing things our entrepreneurs make back home,” said Pamela Tumpap, president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce. “We want everyone who came out to remember that we do everything with the Aloha Spirit and a great pride in our culture.”

One major success story from past years is the Koloa Rum Company, which used the event as a springboard to expand its East Coast presence.

“Koloa Rum had a minimal presence on the East Coast, but since participating in Hawaii on the Hill from the very first year, they have expanded to more than 300 distribution channels,” said Menor-McNamara. “While these businesses are on the Hill promoting their products, they’re also able to connect with stakeholders and key contacts to build their businesses, so they see that as ROI, as well.”

Taste of Hawaii was part of the two-day Hawaii on the Hill trip organized by the state chamber, in partnership with Senator Mazie Hirono. Also on the itinerary was a welcome meeting and policy briefing with lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and heads of executive branch agencies. More than 100 delegates representing 65 Hawaiian companies participated in the visit, up from 25 companies in 2014, the first year the chamber made the trip.

“While it’s an exciting initiative, it’s also an important one, because we need to continue to work with different stakeholders to ensure that the Aloha State continues to be in the forefront and on the map,” said Menor-McNamara. “Hawaii on the Hill showcases that—while Hawaii is a great state to visit and vacation—there are also many other great things going on that contribute to our economy.”

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