Regional Cooperation in Waco

Ian Scott on Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 4:00:00 pm 

An historic announcement from central Texas this week…10 local and ethnic chambers of commerce across McLennan County announced the signing of an MOU to form an alliance. The McLennan County Chamber Alliance forges a closer working relationship (and cements board level cross-pollination) between the organizations on public policy, economic and community development, infrastructure and other key issues.

“We can do special things if we work together,” said Matt Meadors, Greater Waco Chamber CEO. Anyone who’s tried to build a regional coalition knows how many barriers and interests are overcome to get to this stage of cooperation. We’ll be watching as this group evolves.

Read more about the formation of the McLennan County Chamber Alliance.

Tags: regional cooperation, regionalism

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Recent Poll from Achieve Tracks Voter Perceptions of New Education Standards

Carmen Hickerson on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 3:10:00 pm 

Achieve, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization, recently conducted a national poll to determine voter perceptions of public education and the Common Core State Standards. Here are some highlights from the survey:


  • In the landscape of issues facing the country, public education was ranked on par with the economy and government spending, with 82% ranking improving the quality of public education extremely/very important compared to 88% for job creation and economic growth, and 78% for reducing the federal deficit and government spending.
  • About two-thirds (67%) of voters agree that it is better for states to have the same standards in math and English rather than having different standards.
  • The majority of those polled (63%) reported hearing little or nothing about Common Core State Standards.  Those who were aware were split in their opinion of the standards – 37% favorable; 40% unfavorable.
  • However, once the respondents were provided with an explanation of Common Core State Standards and then asked if they would favor or oppose their implementation, a solid majority 69% (36% very strongly) were in favor vs. 23% in opposition.

The poll also tested who voters trusted the most when it came to information about education reform.  The most powerful messengers were – in order – teachers, principals/superintendents, educational leaders and college presidents.  Local employers also carry a lot of weight, particularly among business leaders.

ACCE’s Education team is working closely with Achieve and other national education foundations to spread word about the critical importance of improving college and career readiness. There are several resources available to help your chamber communicate effectively about education reform and the Common Core State Standards.  Achieve has compiled a comprehensive set of tools and resources available at  You can also check out a previous ACCE blog post on Business-Friendly Tools for Chambers to Support a College & Career-Ready Agenda

If you have any education-related questions contact Jessie Azrillian at, 703.998.3571.

Created in 1996 by a bipartisan group of governors and business leaders, Achieve is dedicated to working with states to raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability.  The national poll was conducted in November of 2013.



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Quickpoll Results: Common Core Standards

HERO Team / Sarah Myers on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 

ACCE's Education Attainment Division developed a QuickPoll on Common Core Standards and the results have been tallied and published. There were 140 responses in this poll.

In reviewing the poll results, we learned that:

  • My chamber has a policy platform that includes or emphasizes higher/ more rigorous K-12 academic standards and assessments as a strategic priority. 44% said "Yes" and 22% indicated "No, but would like to develop one." 31% said "No".
  • 88% of responders said they are "working with the state education agency / local school districts / local teachers. 79% said they are "communicating to chamber members about the CCSS/higher standards." And 63% are "holding events focusing on CCSS/higher standards and/or inviting education leaders to speak at chamber events about CCSS/higher standards.
  • Find these statistics and more in our QuickPoll on Common Core Standards.

For assistance with education programs at your chamber, please engage with ACCE's Education Attainment Division or contact Alysia Bell or Jessie Azrilian or call (213) 580-7535. You can also update your profile status online to receive Division communications.

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Business Outlook Reports Offer Some Optimism, but Employers Still Fearful of Uncertainty

Carmen Hickerson on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 2:38:00 pm 

The recent release of several economic outlook reports offers a mixed bag of attitudes from employers.  While many are optimistic the economy will pick-up in 2014, most are still expressing concerns about the ‘unknowns’ including the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the regulatory environment, immigration reform and the new call for an increase in the minimum wage.  Here’s a round-up of some of the results.


  • McDonald Hopkins, a business advisory and advocacy law firm, recently released its 2014 Business Outlook Survey.  The headline is that ‘2014 is the great unknown.’  There is considerable caution and uncertainty as respondents expressed numerous concerns about the rising cost and complexity of healthcare and fear of additional burdensome regulations.  Some highlights include:
    •  67% believe the Affordable Care Act will have a negative impact on their company’s bottom line; and 46% said increasing health care costs are the greatest challenge facing their company
    • They have no confidence in Congress to help improve business conditions, with just 33% saying they are cautiously optimistic
    • 41% say they are likely to ‘slightly’ increase their number of employees and the same percentage – 41% say their number of employees will stay about the same
    • 51% expect to make a ‘moderate’ investment in capital; 55% will dedicate more resources to domestic growth


  • The National Federation of Independent Business’ latest survey indicates that only 12% of small business owners plan to add jobs in the next three months.  However, NFIB’s Chief Economist Bill Dunkelburg calls the number ‘solid’ and says it is the highest job creation since September 2007.  “Small businesses are telling us they would hire more workers if they could find qualified applicants,” added Dunkelburg.  “Nearly half of NFIB members surveyed said they tried to hire workers, but reported few or no qualified applicants for open positions.”

  • The recent Federal Reserve report indicates banks are easing lending restrictions making it easier for businesses to access new capital.  According to the survey, ‘Banks eased their lending policies for commercial and industrial loans to firms of all sizes and experienced stronger demand for such loans over the past three months.”  The banks cited increased competition, a more favorable economic outlook and a greater tolerance for risk for the new standards.

  • Finally, economists polled in USA TODAY’s quarterly survey predict that the U.S. economy is headed for stronger growth in 2014.  They also believe we will see steady improvement in the unemployment rate. Many of the 40 economists surveyed Feb 5-6 cut their first-quarter forecasts due to the January weather and an expected pull-back in business stockpiling after firms aggressively replenished shelves in the second half of 2013.

    • “While growth late last year was driven largely by the stockpiling, this year's expansion will be fueled by higher consumer and business spending,” says Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist of Barclays Capital.
    • "I think we will regain momentum and not fall on our face," says Diane Swonk, chief economist of Mesirow Financial, drawing a contrast with previous ups and downs in the five-year-old recovery.








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In the Know: Operations Survey Tutorial

HERO Team / Sarah Myers on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 

It's time to participate in ACCE's Annual Operations Survey. The Operations Survey provides chambers with information they can use to establish comparisons and benchmarks with similar chambers of commerce. 

Participate in the 2013-2014 Operations Survey NOW through March 3rd. 

To get started, please view our NEW TUTORIAL on completing the Operations Survey.

Ready to jump right in? Visit our Operations Survey web page complete with access links and instructions.

Here are the direct steps to complete the Survey:

For any questions or assistance, please email

Tags: Annual Operations Survey, Operations Survey, Operations Survey Tutorial

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What does the State of the Union Address Mean for Business?

Carmen Hickerson on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 

President Obama laid out his agenda in his State of the Union address declaring 2014 would be a ‘year of action.’ Despite his promise to do whatever he needs to do to move the country forward whether Congress is willing to or not, it is unclear exactly what the administration can, or will, implement without Congressional approval.  So what should businesses anticipate from the White House in the coming year?


  • He assigned Joe Biden the task of a top-to-bottom review of the government’s job-training programs.
  • He asked businesses to take the lead in hiring the long-term unemployed and creating more job apprenticeship programs.
  • He introduced a plan to start manufacturing innovation institutes and pledged to assist manufacturers with finding skilled employees.
  • He is planning a summit on family-friendly workplaces.
  • He flexed his muscles on minimum wage by indicating he will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay at least $10.10 per hour and strongly encouraged the Congress and/or state and local governments to raise the minimum wage across the board.
  • He offered two proposals to address what experts have called a “retirement-savings crisis” - automatic IRA’s where workers opt-out rather than opt-in; and directing the Treasury to create a new government-backed retirement plan for small-dollar savers to be offered through employers.



  • He promised to ‘streamline the permitting process’ for key infrastructure projects.
  • Congress – with some help from the Supreme Court – has already given the President the authority he needs to roll out aggressive regulations on coal-fired power plants.  He has directed the EPA to present draft rules by June 1.



  • He once again asked Congress to pass tax reform, however his proposal falls short of details and fails to address what most businesses are looking for.  He says his proposal would simplify the corporate tax code and use revenue generated from the transition to a new tax system to finance infrastructure projects. He also says he would use money generated by tax reform to pay for deficit reduction.  But with a lack of specificity on what ‘reform’ actually means it’s hard to understand how the new revenue would be generated.



  • He once again called on Congress to pass immigration reform, although he spent very little time talking about the issue, presumably to give the House the room it needs to maneuver.  However, House Speaker John Boehner has indicated the Republicans in the House are hesitant to pass any type of reforms because they ‘do not trust the administration’ to enforce border security and law enforcement.


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The Push for Tax Reform Continues in Statehouses in 2014

Carmen Hickerson on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 

When it comes to the scope and sheer number of tax reforms proposed and enacted in the states, 2013 was a year like none before. However, as states continue to tinker with their tax systems, most have tended to overlook the need for more fundamental tax reform to reflect structural economic changes.  Tax reform, according to University of Tennessee professor William Fox, "would seem to achieve more goals than just revenue chasing. Other goals might include better revenue elasticity, improved fairness, reduced efficiency costs, and easier administration and compliance."

2014 is shaping up to be another busy year.  At least four governors will push to revamp their states’ tax systems in 2014, and several more are proposing significant changes or cuts. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has created a “Quick Guide to Key Trends and States to Watch in 2014 State Tax Policy Debates.”

Few issues are as important to the business community as taxes, and as a result, staying informed about tax policy changes and their implications is a critical job for Chambers of Commerce. To help you keep up, ACCE has updated its Chamberpedia page on Taxes with several new links and resources.  Click here to check it out.

ACCE will continue to closely monitor state tax policy proposals as they develop and keep you up-to-date with the latest information.

If you have any questions about Tax Reform, policy positions on Tax Reform or additional resources to add to the Chamberpedia page, please contact Carmen Hickerson at






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Participate in the 2013-2014 Operations Survey now through March 3rd

HERO Team / Sarah Myers on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 

It's that time of year - yes, sit down with a nice cup of hot coffee, watch the snow pile up outside, and participate in ACCE's annual Operations Survey.

The Annual Operations Survey provides chambers with information they can use to establish comparisons and benchmarks with similar chambers of commerce. Participate in the Survey through March 3rd.

How to participate:

The Results:
The Operations Survey results will be published this spring and you can expect to see a full report, Members Statistics mini-pub, and survey data to download via spreadsheet. Starting in May, chambers can order your customized Ops Survey presentation.

The Benefits:
By participating, your chamber is eligible to apply for ACCE Awards like the Awards for Communication Excellence (ACE) and Chamber of the Year (CoY).

For questions or assistance, please email Thank you for participating in the Annual Operations Survey!

Tags: Operations Survey

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An Affinity Program Worth Studying

Tania Kohut on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 

Always looking for what’s new in the world of chamber affinity programs, ACCE’s Chris Mead stumbled upon one that offers fantastic education savings for members of the Naperville, Ill., Area Chamber of Commerce (NACC).  

It’s the Naperville Chamber of Commerce Tuition Discount Program that is offered through Benedictine University - an independent Roman Catholic institution in Lisle, Ill. just 25 miles west of Chicago.  According to the program’s website, there are two plans available at the school’s main campus:

  •  Individual Plan: Twenty-five percent (25%) discount on traditional undergraduate and graduate tuition for NACC members and immediate family.
  • Chamber Company Plan: Chamber companies sponsoring an adult accelerated learning program of 15 or more students at their site are eligible to receive a 50% tuition discount per student.

Quite a deal with a school that is recognized as one of the best in America. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country’s fastest-growing campuses between 2001-2011 in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of private nonprofit research institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among “America’s Top Colleges” for the third consecutive year in 2013. Benedictine University’s Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain’s Chicago Business as the fifth largest in the Chicago area in 2013.

For more information on this program, click here.

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Creating Pride of Place in Saratoga

Tania Kohut on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 12:00:00 am 

Saratoga has built it and now they want you to come and see it—and take home ideas for your own community! In April the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce will host a conference: “Experience Saratoga Springs – How to Create a Vibrant Downtown.” This two-day event (April 3-4) will showcase Saratoga Springs and explain how it has become one of the most vibrant downtowns in America. The event is the first of its kind for the chamber, and it’s being presented with help from the mayor, the City Center, and the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau.

According to Todd Shimkus, CCE, president of the Saratoga Springs Chamber, the keynote presentation by Sally Hogshead at last year’s ACCE convention inspired the chamber to structure this conference as an experiential learning event. “This past summer at the ACCE national leadership conference, I saw a presentation by Sally Hogshead on how organizations can be fascinating,” said Shimkus. “From that session, we transformed our plans for this conference from one where people interested in downtown development sit in an auditorium and listen to expert speakers to one that is more captivating, engaging and fun. Our three unique and separate conference experiences, and the assignment of local personal escorts, will enable attendees to really see, feel and taste (because of the Springs) the vibrancy of our downtown and to learn how the actions our community took to rebuild our downtown over many years can be replicated.”

Conference attendees – including economic developers, city planners, downtown business association leaders, chamber executives, and others – will be organized into small groups of between 12 and 20, and a personal escort will be assigned to each group. Participants will have the choice of three unique “experiences” where they will stay overnight in one of three different hotels, dine at select local restaurants, visit with retailers and meet with different local leaders depending upon the experience they select. The “Spa-Set” experience will focus on how cities can attract upscale residents, tourists and development to their downtowns. The “Saratoga Adventure Awaits” experience will explore how cities can attract young professionals to live and visit their downtowns. The “Saratoga Community” experience will delve into details of how local people can rebuild their downtowns one project at a time through public-private partnerships. Along with the experiences, the conference will include a few general assemblies with panel presentations led by local experts.

For more information about the conference or to register, visit:

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