Comeback Cities

Ian Scott on Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

I don’t pay too much attention to the rankings and top-ten lists that litter the news these days. I think they are usually easy (lazy?) journalism, plus their methodology is often suspicious.

However, I did enjoy flipping through Kiplinger’s 11 Comeback Cities for 2011.  It’s not a ranking, it is not a ten best or ten worst.  It is simply snapshots of several regions that are well positioned for economic growth; music to every chamber’s ears.

  Not mind blowing growth, but pretty good considering job losses since 2008.  If you expect a list of growing US cities to be southeast heavy, you’re correct. Chattanooga, Nashville, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Charlotte, are the first five cities on the list.  There is also a big cluster of western cities: Las Vegas, Phoenix, Portland, OR, Seattle, and San Jose.  Flint, MI is the geographic outlier, and perhaps the most unexpected in this group. 

The absence of high growth cities from Texas, Oklahoma or other energy heavy states like Wyoming or North Dakota from this group is a little surprising.  Perhaps the Kiplinger folks felt those cities weren’t right for a ‘comeback’ list because they didn’t take as bad a hit in the first place.

Foreign investment is a common theme among this group of regional economies.  Whether its Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Siemens in Charlotte, Nissan in Nashville or European battery company ReVolt Technology in Portland, investment from abroad is aiding in recovery.  Predictability, health care, renewable energy and automotive are the other cluster themes that are mentioned as filling the jobs gap left by housing’s collapse.

Another common regional asset that jumps out when scanning this group – strong chambers of commerce!

Check out Kiplinger’s 11 Comeback Cities for 2011.

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Bringing Canada to Kalispell

Tania Kohut on Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 
The Kalispell (MT) Chamber of Commerce would like to roll out the Canadian red maple leaf-covered carpet and, by doing so, get more Kalispell businesses to accept the Canadian dollar. Why not?  It can be a win-win situation. According to Donna Townley, a local resident who is also a Canadian, "Every dollar spent generates another two dollars in this valley. That puts people back to work," she says. The Chamber thinks Townley’s ideas are just one more way to help boost the local economy and keep a good relationship with our neighbors to the north. Read more here.



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Offering More Than Just a Referral

Tania Kohut on Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

The Manatee (FL) Chamber of Commerce is set to launch a major marketing plan for its “Local Quotes 4 U”: an online program that offers people looking for services and products a chance to directly contact the Chamber’s 2,250 members and request a price quote. Since its inception in September 2009, the program has mostly been used by Chamber members. The Chamber is now marketing “Local Quotes” to the public, and it is hoping that it will encourage more residents to "buy local." “It’s a win-win,” said Carey Miller, the Chamber’s office administrator. “Not only does it drive more business to our area members who support the community, but the individual pricing request gets the best price possible.” Learn how the program works here.

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Council on State Taxation releases new Business Tax Competitiveness Study

Chaaron Pearson on Friday, April 22, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

This week, the Council on State Taxation (COST) and Ernst & Young announced the release of a new study ranking states by tax burden on new investment.  They have provided a state-by-state comparison of the tax liabilities that new investments in selected industries or types of economic activities would incur in each state.  

COST’s study identifies the 10 states with the highest and lowest effective tax rates for the types of new capital investments being made in the U.S.  The business tax burdens include income and franchise taxes on profits, real and personal property tax and sales taxes on business input purchases.  Overall, the study shows a large difference in tax burdens among the states.

In the study’s introduction, COST urges legislators to examine the entire system of state and local business taxes, not just a single tax, in evaluating their state’s tax competitiveness. 

COST acknowledges that tax liability on new investments is just one factor of many that weigh into a decision by a company to invest in a state.  Typically, companies select locations for new investments by examining a wide range of factors including workforce, property, tax system features and non-tax costs.  This study does not consider variable issues such as availability of tax credits or incentives, unemployment taxes or certain industry specific taxes. 

To read COST’s full report: Competitiveness of state and local business taxes on new investment

For more on using and fighting rankings, join us for a free webinar on rankings from a communications and public policy perspective next Tuesday at 1pm ET.  Click here for more information and to register.

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Flash Mob at Schmoomzapollza

Joan Cozart on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

Dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, a whole host of dancers entertained the Catawba County Chamber at its recent community event.  The sponsors were thrilled and are looking forward to the next one already.  Maybe a “Flash Mob” of dancers will spice up your next annual dinner?!  See the whole video here:

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States looking closely at for-profit colleges

Chaaron Pearson on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

Last year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan vowed to change the way for-profit schools do business after a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that for-profit colleges inflated graduation and job placement rates when enrolling students and signing them up for state and federal loans.  The Education Department has since postponed their planned new rules after receiving pressure from for-profit education lobbyists and opposition in Congress.

States, tired of waiting on the federal government, have taken matters into their own hands.  According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, lawmakers in 17 states have introduced for-profit college bills this year, many of them designed to tighten regulation of the schools. 

Maryland enacted measures that would eliminate all state aid to for-profit schools, ban commissions or bonuses for student recruiting and make all for-profit schools in the state contribute to a fund to protect students if any college in their group breaches a contract.

California lawmakers approved legislation that would restrict a for-profit college’s eligibility to receive state aid in the form of Cal Grants.

Nebraska’s state senators are looking to approve a measure that would update the state’s higher education regulations.  The bill’s sponsor, state Senator Greg Adams, says it would streamline the application process that schools have to follow to pass the Nebraska Commission for Post-Secondary Education.  The legislation would also increase the school’s accountability to the state once they were approved.

Not only are legislative branches looking at for-profit colleges, attorneys general in at least four states have launched investigations of for-profit schools.

For-profit colleges are concerned that states might be more concerned with closing their budget gaps rather than with education practices.  For-profit schools aren’t against updating an outdated regulatory system, but they are concerned if reducing/eliminating their funding is a way to solve the states’ budget woes.

To read more: For-profit colleges face more state scrutiny

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Grants Game

Mick Fleming on Sunday, April 17, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

At the US Chamber's BCLC event last week, I visited with a couple dozen foundation and government agency grantmakers who work predominantly on local/regional/community advancement.  People who fund kids and green priorities were on hand, but so were folks who invest in projects for the homeless and entrepreneurs.  Few of these grantors know what you  do . . . how chambers are involved in meaningful ways to advance their communities and regions.  BCLC certainly understands the role you play, but their national/international corporate and philantropic partners often think of you as an audience rather than as a grantee.  Some recognize that they might need the involvement of the business community and have some vague notion that this participation might come through  involvement of a chamber, but most don't really seem to get it.

I don't blame them . . . I can't.  In conversations with individual big funders during the two days of meetings, it was clear that few have had meaningful "pitches" from chambers.  No chambers were present during the meeting in Philly this year and they seldom attend this annual gathering of the community investors unless they are winning an award, (as Grand Rapids Chamber did last year and Chapel Hill the year before. 

It wouldn't be right to blame chambers either.  Most past approaches by chambers to national funders of community projects have been rebuffed.  Many chamber leaders have found meetings of foundation decision-makers to be frustrating affairs.  Somehow, we need to break through this divide.  There is too much that you are doing (or could do) that deserves foundation support.  And, there are too many foundation goals being left unfulfilled because they never connect with the business leaders they need to engage in their cool programs.  Since three big funders specificially asked ACCE to work on this disconnect, I think there's gotta be a way.

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State aid for community colleges shrinks as demand rises

Chaaron Pearson on Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

Community colleges across the country are losing state funding.  According to a Stateline analysis of Department of Education data, the state share of funding fell by one percentage point to 26.8 percent.  This drop doesn’t account for more severe cuts that states continue to debate as they work to close their budget gap. 

As state aid shrinks, community college enrollments are increasing at a rapid pace.  Federal statistics show a 20 percent increase in the number of students between 2004 and 2009.  Community colleges are providing training and education for unemployed workers and serving as a more affordable alternative to four-year schools for high school graduates.

Texas, Arizona and California community colleges are experiencing the greatest hit.  Community college administrators in Arizona expect to see the 1 percent state funding that they receive disappear in the coming years and California has had to turn away approximately 150,000 students due to overcrowded classrooms.  Texas community colleges will receive a 20 percent budget cut. 

These budget cuts are making administrators consider whether a community college can survive in this environment.  Administrators are worrying about rationing education in their communities and the possibility of leaving communities with no institutions of higher learning if the community college is forced to shut its doors.

Read more: Stateline – As enrollments soar and state aid vanishes, community colleges reconsider their role

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Chamber in NJ Adopts a Platoon

Tania Kohut on Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

The Fair Lawn (NJ) Chamber of Commerce has adopted a new platoon through its Adopt-A-Platoon program. It is currently collecting items to donate to the Marine platoon of 25-year-old local resident Steven D'Argenio, who is serving in Afghanistan. "In the past eight years, the Chamber has conducted a number of similar charitable drives on behalf of residents serving in Afghanistan or Iraq," said Debbie Berowitz, executive director of the Chamber. Read more in articles that appeared in the FairLawn Patch and in

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Government Participation in Chambers of Commerce

Tania Kohut on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

A recent opinion piece published in the Chapel Hill News questioned whether government agencies should be members of their local chambers of commerce. Specifically, the piece claimed that a membership relationship between a government entities and a chamber may be violating IRS regulations, thus jeopardizing their respective tax-exempt status.

Recognizing the possible implications of such a claim, ACCE contacted the association law experts at Venable LLP to investigate. In short, the attorneys found that there are absolutely no federal tax law prohibitions on the membership of state and municipal organizations or their agencies in chambers of commerce or other business leagues. 

Read their findings here. 


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