Family United… With a Lot of Help
As a member of ACCE and a service provider for the chamber industry for eight years, we’ve always experienced great service from our counterparts serving in the chamber industry. But recently, Central Holidays West went beyond the definition of customer service.
I’ve traveled with Central Holidays West on a few European trips, and they always deliver what they advertise and more. Last November, when a group of ACCE members traveled to Sicily, was no exception. The itinerary allowed plenty of free time to explore on our own, but there were also interesting excursions and guided tours that gave us a taste of the island. We picked and pressed olives, enjoyed a home-cooked meal in a tiny villa, and climbed Mt. Etna for the season’s first snowfall.
But the “above and beyond” moment I have to share was a highly personal experience. Both of my grandparents are from Sicily and, although we’ve never met, I still have family on the island. My dream for this trip was to meet some of my relatives for the first time. My Sicilian relatives were a couple hours’ drive away and I doubted that I could pull off a visit, particularly without disrupting the group’s experience. But I asked our amazing tour guide Lorenzo Tarzia anyway, to see if it might be possible.
Within an hour, Lorenzo met me in the hotel lobby and told me that a car would pick me up in the morning and drive me to the small, out-of-the-way village where my relatives lived. I would then be able to meet up with the rest of the group later in the day.
“Really?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied, “you’re all set.”
This was a "bucket list" item for me and he’d made it possible in an hour. I was blown away. This guy is amazing!
As promised, the next morning Sebastian from “Sicily with Sebastian” arrived at the hotel in a beautiful new Audi. Lorenzo was there, like a father watching a daughter leave for prom, to make sure I was all set. Sicilian-born Sebastian speaks fluent English and knows every spot on the island and its history. Besides being a historian, he’s also an avid photographer. Throughout our two-hour excursion he’d pull over at one amazing vista after the next, making sure I didn’t miss any photo opportunities.
When we arrived at my relatives' business to meet them for the first time, Sebastian acted as an interpreter and photographer. We spent 4-5 hours touring the village and saw where my grandparents lived, went to school and church. By the time we left, Sebastian and I both felt like family. A couple of hours later I was back with Lorenzo and the group.
Central Holidays West and their local connections made this a trip of a lifetime for me. Thank you Ian, Kent and Lorenzo for making this a trip I will cherish the memories from for the rest of my life!
Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber earns Economic Development Award
The Mid-America Economic Development Council, which represents economic development agencies in 10 states, has recognized the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber with an award. The Chamber's OH-PA Stateline Export Initiative, launched earlier this year along with the International Trade Assistance Center at Youngstown State University, was recognized in the Business Retention and Expansion category. The initiative is designed to bring exporting awareness, foreign direct investment and supply chain matching to a 10-county region in Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.
You can read the full story here.
Road Work: Michigan Chambers Help with Transportation Funding
After a long and hard fight in the legislature and at the ballot box, Michigan finally has a long-term plan for road funding.
Transportation funding has been a top priority for several years, but the final solution wasn’t found until after voters in May struck down a measure that would have increased the state sales tax by 1% to help raise $1.2 billion for transportation. In the worst defeat for a Michigan ballot measure in 52 years, 80% of voters said no. While it was clear that this particular plan was not what voters wanted, the public and the business community were still clamoring for a solution to solve a looming transportation crisis.
According to a study released in the spring, 38% of Michigan’s major roads are in poor condition, 45% are fair, and only 17% are good. Under current funding, the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council estimates that 53% of those major roads will be in poor condition by 2025. With the “Pure Michigan” campaign spending money to draw travelers to Michigan, and countless other industries relying on surface transportation, it was clear that funding infrastructure improvements was overdue.
Transportation has long been a major priority for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. A 2015 member survey found that transportation was a top concern, with 64% saying that poor road conditions had an impact on their business. So, when a balanced package was being considered in the legislature to raise the $1.2 billion with a combination of new revenue and existing state dollars, the chamber moved to support the measure.
Grand Rapids joined five other regional chambers in support of a common sense, long-term funding solution calling for $600 million in dedicated funding from existing state revenues, and $600 million in new money. The other five chambers were The Chamber of Commerce – Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg, the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce, the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.
According to Josh Lunger, director of Government Affairs in Grand Rapids, “the unified show of support was helpful in advancing the plan.” On Nov. 4, the Michigan Legislature passed the compromise package which was signed a week later by Gov. Rick Snyder. The $600 million in new revenue will come from $400 million from increasing the gas tax 7.3 cents per gallon and creating diesel parity, and $200 million from a 20% increase in registration fees.
The revenue increases take effect in January 2017. Moving forward, Lunger stressed the importance of working hand in hand with legislators to effectively plan for future budget pressures and the shift of $600 million in “existing state dollars". He urges deliberate and thoughtful consideration to determine where best to make changes so that important programs, such as Early Childhood Education and Workforce Development, are not compromised.
Is your chamber’s annual meeting this much fun?
A performance by Tony Orlando, cheerleaders, prize giveaways, a bacon mascot, trapeze artists, and a chamber president singing “You Belong To Me”: this was the Greater Lehigh Valley (PA) Chamber’s recent annual meeting and awards luncheon held earlier this month. The chamber team led by President/CEO Tony Iannelli bills the event as “the most infotaining event of the year.” It always sells out with more than 1,000 members attending.
Recognized as “not your typical annual meeting,” the chamber event is definitely fun. According to an article in The Morning Call, Tony Iannelli’s “entrance was a little more subdued than last year's, when he landed on the stage in a spacesuit to the sounds of the classic David Bowie tune ‘Space Oddity.’”
Watch highlights from this year’s annual meeting: https://vimeo.com/144896476. If you think it’s pretty awesome, the chamber’s COO & EVP of Member Relations Frank Facchiano says, “Wait till you see the gala!”
At a time when some chambers are partnering with neighboring chambers or entering regional alliances, the Anchor Bay (MI) Chamber of Commerce went against the tide when it decided to break a four-year partnership with the Sterling Heights (MI) Regional Chamber of Commerce. The Oct. 2014 break up was a mutual decision between the two chambers after former president Lisa Edwards resigned.
Now, what was old is new again for the Anchor Bay Chamber, as it returns to its original roots and relaunches itself to serve its local communities. After spending the past year rebuilding itself as an individual organization, the chamber is looking forward to 2016 being, as it told local newspaper, The Voice, "a break-out year." The chamber’s existing membership base is energized for the organization’s future, despite the tasks on its to-do list, which include creating a new board and developing a new website. It was evident at the chamber’s annual meeting last month. In an interview following the meeting, local business owner and chamber member Mark Miller said, “The meeting was awesome. It was positive, and those in attendance would like to see a very successful local chamber grow again.” Learn more about the Anchor Bay Chamber’s story and the spirit that is driving its exciting rebirth: http://www.voicenews.com/articles/2015/11/07/news/doc563a3d962c55c673809370.txt?viewmode=fullstory
ABC’s of Running for Office
November is the month for politics and Michigan’s Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce is cultivating future elected leaders by hosting a Candidate Information Workshop.
For a nominal fee, anyone interested in seeking public office – from school board to state level positions – can get a crash course on campaign rules, marketing, fundraising, and more. In an article promoting the event, Wes Eklund, chair of the chamber’s government affairs committee, commented on how, through public office, community members can be drivers for prosperity in their own backyards: "Participation in the political arena from all citizens in the community is essential for dynamic and innovative growth and development." Read more: http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2015/11/muskegon_lakeshore_chamber_of_7.html
Announcing DCB Live Chat Support! Plus, FY 2015 Surveys Now Open!
Fiscal Year 2015 surveys in Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking (DCB) are now open for participation, including the Salary Survey and the Operations Survey.
DCB is open 24/7, and free to members – but you can now get immediate help via live chat! So please enter your FY 2015 data now – and encourage your peers to do the same! The more data in the system, the more comprehensive the reports, and the quicker we can release FY 2015 comparisons and reports.
What you need to know:
- Login here.
- Complete three sections: Chamber Profile, Operations Survey, Salary Survey.
- Don't have time to do it all at once? Use the dynamic "Save" feature in each survey section to save your work as you go!
- Instant reports and comparisons are still available for FYs 2012-2014! (And the surveys never close: You can enter or update your data at any time.)
- Need help? Visit our Support page and access the Quick Start Guide and Data Collection Worksheet. Use our live chat support in DCB or email us (HERO@acce.org) for assistance anytime!
For more details, visit Working with Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking.
Chamber Statistics Snapshot Reports
We have several new FY 2014 reports available, based on chamber data collected in Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking:
- The Membership Statistics Survey – FREE to all members
- Operations Survey Report – Available for purchase; free to Horizon Investors and All ACCEss Pass members.
- Salary and HR Statistics for Large, Mid-Size, and Small Chambers – Available to CEOs in the ACCE Bookstore (also free for Horizon members!)
If you have any questions about how to find these reports, please contact HERO@acce.org.
Developing Talent in Sarasota
As a pillar of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s Sarasota Tomorrow Economic Development Initiative, the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is using a collective impact strategy to secure 30,000 new degrees by 2020. The Partnership is creating a comprehensive career pathways system, at both the high school and post-secondary level, which enhances area students’ opportunities for career exploration, skills development and placement in high-demand, high-wage careers. As a new Partnership, Talent4Tomorrow is focused on building operational support, research, data, communication efforts and incorporating assessments.
Interview Participant: Steve Queior, CCE, President & CEO, Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce
Q: How did your community begin to focus on Education Attainment and Workforce Development?
Throughout the recession, our region experienced several rounds of painful job cuts, yet we saw employers struggling to fill open jobs due to a lack of talent. We started to feel the pain of this skills gap in our community and began to look at what chambers in other communities around the country were doing to address their workforce issues. Over a period of two years, our Chamber connected with national groups like the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, and learned how communities were rallying together through strategic coalitions. We knew we needed to do the same in the Greater Sarasota Area.
Q: What were the most important factors that helped spur the chamber’s efforts to strategically address local workforce issues?
The most important factors involved having the right people at the table. In addition to private sector employers, our Chamber’s board consists of the school superintendent, leaders from both city and county government, and four college presidents. During our board meetings and retreats, we have the necessary stakeholders listening to employers saying ‘hey, I read about the high unemployment rate; yet I can’t get a precision machinist at my specialty manufacturing facility;’ or ‘I can’t find skilled healthcare workers or construction workers.’ We were able to aggregate these conversations to find that it came down to four industry classifications that were the most in-need of workers. From there, we focused on a dual strategy to re-train unemployed individuals while also developing a long-term career awareness and career pathways strategy for our young people. The next factor was key community organizations- such as the community foundation and Career Edge, a group specializing in adult training and retraining- stepping up to provide funding and operational support.
Q: What are other efforts related to education and workforce development that your chamber leads?
There are four chamber-led boots-on-the-ground efforts:
Internship Database: A portal on the chamber’s website provides a space for employers to post searchable available internship opportunities for students; then we facilitate matches between the two. With support from ACCE’s Lumina Award for Education Attainment, we plan to reengineer this portal to include resources such as a “how to” workshop for employers who have not traditionally utilized interns; and a database with information on internship providers and success rates (i.e. how many of the students who get an internship go onto the next step in their schooling, what impact these internships have on graduation rates and what students go on to do in their careers).
Career Exploration: After eight months of research leading up to the launch of Talent4Tomorrow, we realized a major weakness in our community was that students lacked awareness about potential careers and how to prepare for those careers. Our partners are working on piloting a 6-week “Summer Bridge” program with Road Trip Nation, a group that creates innovative career exploration experiences and resources. Through the program, students receive scholarships covering tuition, books, etc. and complete up to six college credits by taking two courses- including “Student Life Skills,” which is a project-based curriculum developed by Road Trip Nation.
The Chamber is launching a Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) for the Central West Coast of Florida in Fall 2015. During the twenty-one week program, middle and high school students will go on company tours, build a business plan, and launch a legally operating business. Business professionals will serve as mentors and speakers. The program has had great success in other cities, and statistics show that students that go through the YEA program progress in school, earn degrees and pursue productive careers.
Addressing the Skills Gaps: After a labor survey conducted last year revealed a critical skills gap, a coalition of community stakeholders created a curriculum called Precision Machining. The Sarasota County Technical Institute provided the space; local counties donated a third of a million dollars for equipment; and local companies lined up to hire individuals who finished the course. Our manufacturing action team is currently working to bring the Manufacturing Skills Standards Certification into area high schools and has developed a community-wide career awareness campaign for high-demand careers in this industry.
Q: Best practices or lessons-learned to share with other chambers working on education reform?
The Chamber conducted an asset map to assess education needs in our community and get a sense of which organization was doing what. We found that efforts related to early childhood education, as well as those addressing adult workforce training and re-training, were strong. But efforts to ensure middle and high school students were on a path to college needed to be strengthened. Right now the average age that a young person returns to college after entering the workforce directly after high school is 28. This information gave our chamber a focus moving forward.
**More lessons and insights from the 2014-15 ACCE Lumina Award Winners will be available in the upcoming Fall edition of ACCE's Chamber Executive Magazine.
Creating an Information Systems and Technology Education Pipeline
The Greater Omaha Chamber is committed to implementing cradle-to-career strategies that strengthen the talent development pipeline for the region’s highest-need industry sectors. Working with key partners from K-12 and higher education institutions, and their Workforce Investment Board, the Chamber is identifying opportunities to build strong curriculum and programs that support their IT sector, and promote available IT-related education and career opportunities.
Interview Participants: Sarah Moylan, Director, Talent and Workforce
Q: Can you provide some background on how your community began to focus on education attainment and workforce development?
A: The story begins about 5 years ago when the Greater Omaha Chamber received a grant from National Fund for Workforce Solutions. During that time, the state controlled the Workforce Investment Board (WIB), and a lot of decisions weren’t being made from a local perspective. We really wanted to get back to a place where we were directly dealing with the challenges and opportunities that existed in the community. Support from the National Fund enabled us to leverage technical expertise, build capacity within our staff and community partners, and learn from best practices and models other states had utilized in working with their WIBs. Over the next few years, the Chamber worked directly with community partners to create a new non-profit organization outside of the Chamber called Heartland Workforce Solutions. Because of the structure and sustainable system plan put in place through this organization, it eventually regained control of the WIB from the state. From there, we built the American Job Center, a new workforce center serving the region under the banner of Heartland Workforce Solutions. The center houses 15 workforce system partner organizations that provide training and education services. Having these partners and agencies under one roof really streamlines efforts and improves collaboration and communication.
Q: Today, what would you say that your chamber’s most important role is within this body of work?
A: Our main focus is to grow the economy in the Greater Omaha region to help bring prosperity to the people living in our area. To do this strategically, the Chamber has been a leader in convening stakeholders around jobs, labor, and workforce data. Data has been one of the biggest factors driving the decisions and actions of both the Chamber and Heartland Workforce Solutions. We lead with data, and in regards to educational attainment, use data as a platform to help people understand their role in driving change and improving outcomes.
The role we play as a convener brings groups to the table that would benefit from working together to help build a better education system. Within education there are also lot of partners, such as direct service providers, working with students or adults outside of traditional institutions. Our role has been to solidify a system that’s working together—bringing philanthropy, education, government and private business to the table—to help strengthen the education pipeline.
Q: Can you tell me about your chamber's overall education and workforce development portfolio of work?
A; The chamber is leading a three-pronged strategy to build a cohesive cradle-to-career system, ensuring systems and partners are in alignment from preschool to workforce development.
The first leg of the strategy uses data to realign talent development along the P-16 pipeline in alignment with workforce needs. We convene partners to provide data on where the jobs are and what skills they require, and then work on how to realign programs, such as those focused on Information Technology and STEM, to meet those industry needs. An analysis we conducted of workforce needs for our region showed that our talent supply was not meeting industry demand, specifically in areas of IT and engineering. We had a huge demand for that type of talent, but our post-secondary completion rates in those fields were falling way behind the curve. For example, last year we surveyed 156 companies that are looking to hire over 1400 IT professionals over the next 2 years; and the number of students graduating college with those skills is nowhere near that number. The issue wasn’t that students weren’t graduating, but it was that not enough students were getting into the programs that match workforce needs. Therefore, we looked deeply into the kind of career awareness and exposure students get at a very young age that could lead them into post-secondary STEM focused programs, such as IT.
The second leg of our strategy is to grow and retain talent through career awareness programs and marketing strategies focused on engaging individuals at a young age. The ACCE Lumina Education Attainment Award is helping us expand a career awareness campaign that exposes youth to IT and other STEM careers. Marketing and promotion taking place within the schools helps shift student perceptions about IT careers and directs them to outside opportunities to work alongside IT professionals—such as camps, internships and mentorships. We also host Teacher Internships to build career awareness among students. Forty educators work with twenty participating employers over the course of a week to learn about STEM and IT careers and the kinds of skills needed to land those jobs. (See program video here.) Participating teachers are paid for their time and are required to submit new lesson plans that incorporates what they learned from their internship into their curriculum.
The third leg of our strategy is to take on an advocacy and public policy role that drives decision-making at the local level. We were at the table advocating for new leadership within our public school system by: 1) recruiting candidates from the community to run for school board positions; and 2) serving on the selection committee for the public school superintendent. We also recently completed a bond proposal for supporting public schools, which our chamber’s board supported and helped pass locally.
Q: What best practices and/or lessons learned can you share with other chamber professionals working on education reform?
A: Having data to drive your strategies and decisions is huge. It changed the way in which we operated and gave us information that everyone could convene around, understand and utilize. Then, it’s important to understand that the power of convening partners around a common issue and finding opportunities to collaborate is far more beneficial and influential than one could possibly realize. Also, quality relationships take time to build and they require maintenance, but they’re huge for our work! Making relationships a focus of your work and being that convener that brings people together is crucial. Lastly, it’s important to respect different perspectives and what everyone brings to the table. Often when trying to influence or advance an education and workforce development issue, stakeholders will have different experiences that represent all sides and shapes of an issue. Many of us are not educators, yet we’re trying to influence what happens in education, so respect is essential when working collaboratively.