Superman and the Chamber of Commerce
It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a borrowed idea.
As Superman and Batman battle in thousands of theatres in the coming weeks, it’s worth looking more closely at where the first of them – Superman – came from. Like a host of other successful creations of popular culture, Superman emerged from more than one mind.
Most of these beginnings can be seen in an MGM movie, “The Secret Six,” which came out in the spring of 1931. This film features six masked businessmen who were fed up with a local criminal and put him away. The criminal was named Slaughterhouse Scorpio and was loosely modeled on the famous evildoer of Chicago, Al Capone. The movie also included an idealistic, crime-fighting reporter named Clark. (This is Clark Gable, in one of his first major roles. He stole the show!)
So here, in one film, were key parts of the Superman story: secret identities, “good” vigilantes, and a crime-fighting reporter named Clark. Superman’s creator, Jerry Siegel, would name his idealistic reporter Clark despite the overwhelming (to that point) unpopularity of the appellation “Clark.” (That name did not even place among the most popular 200 boys’ names of the 1920s.) Siegel would later admit he named Clark Kent after Clark Gable.
Superman with his Clark Kent alter-ego emerged for Siegel in late 1933. That was only 18 months after “The Secret Six” opened. It’s hard to imagine Jerry Siegel suddenly invented his Superman independently from “The Secret Six,” which also included secret identities, “good” vigilantes, and a crime-fighting reporter named Clark. That is a long string of coincidences.
“The Secret Six” film was in turn influenced by something else. The movie was partly based on the “real” Secret Six, a group of Chicago business people who went after Al Capone and other gangsters in the early 1930s. These businessmen were a committee of a chamber of commerce, the Chicago Association of Commerce. They were extraordinarily effective by most counts, including Capone’s himself. At one point the criminal said, “The Secret Six has licked the rackets. They’ve licked me. They’ve made it so there’s no money in the game anymore.” The group hired a chief detective, Alexander Jamie, who brought in his brother-in-law, Eliot Ness, to help on the federal side.
The “real” Secret Six (apart from their leader, who of necessity was a public figure – the president of the Chicago Association of Commerce) maintained secret identities because they didn’t want to be killed by Capone or his henchmen. But their secret identities were a part of their glamour and their idea for crime fighting was widely copied and popular in the media. Soon there was a Secret Five in Kansas City and later a Secret Seven in Cleveland, both formed by their local chambers of commerce. And, of course, speaking of media influence, the Chicago chamber’s fight with Capone inspired MGM to make “The Secret Six.”
Secret identities, which had been known before (as in “Zorro”), were extremely popular in the early 1930s thanks to people using them for real-life, high-profile, life-and-death activities. Also popular was the related idea of business vigilantes fighting the bad guys. And when Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion on Oct. 17, 1931, people could take heart that these groups were effective even against the most famous criminal of all time. This may later have been of some comfort and inspiration to Jerry Siegel, whose father died in 1932 when his store was robbed by hoodlums.
Jerry Siegel was a master chef, but he didn’t cook from scratch. He chose the ingredients available to him when he created Superman. And many of his ingredients were from the biggest crime-fighting story of his era, the catching of Al Capone, and from the movie loosely based on that story. Siegel’s genius was in taking his hero to the skies and making him human at the same time with a unique, very personalized secret identity, complete with love interests.
It is interesting how the high-profile struggle against one criminal by, of all things, a chamber of commerce, could have so many ramifications in American cultural life. Business people’s fight to take down the world’s most famous criminal (Capone) resulted, indirectly, in the birth of the world’s most famous superhero (Superman). Superman, in turn, begat Batman and a host of other comic-book heroes.
The Chicago Association of Commerce didn’t create Superman; Siegel did. But Superman couldn’t have existed without the chamber’s Secret Six and the MGM movie made about them. Without secret identities, without the concept of “good” vigilantes fighting crime, without a crusading journalist named Clark – just what would there have been left for Superman to be?
Mead is senior vice president of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives and the author of “The Magicians of Main Street: America and its Chambers of Commerce, 1768-1945.”
"Funky Lip Action" and the Chattanooga Chamber
Those of us in the industry will disagree, but to those not "in the know", Chambers can have a stodgy image. We hear of more and more events, campaigns and programs that aim to change that perception though, and this new video from the Chattanooga Chamber is up that same alley.
The chamber, along with their partners at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, has launched an off-beat new video to target high-tech individuals with a mind to starting new businesses. The video chronicles one such startup and their attempt to launch their new "kissing booth" app on the West Coast. The entrepreneur moves to Chattanooga and finds far fewer roadblocks in her path, saying the city made everything "literally perfect."
Though the colorful storytelling and off-beat tone of the video is certainly a different approach to economic development than what they've done in the past, the video helps to reach a new audience to promote both the airport and region as a place to bring new businesses.
Click here to read more.
Three health and wellness strategies your education and workforce agenda may be missing
As education and workforce development (EDWD) organizations are wrapping up annual strategic planning processes for 2016, many are still looking back on their plans wondering what is missing. Seasoned EDWD professionals know all too well that there is no silver bullet when it comes to improving education attainment and developing a talented and competitive workforce, and that various factors affect the talent pipeline; yet, the question of what will most significantly accelerate their organization’s annual goals will hover over their minds throughout the year.
So what could be missing—even from best practice models like cradle-to-career collective impact initiatives, which build cross-sectors partnerships to improve student outcomes? Chances are that what is missing is a comprehensive and well-balanced health and wellness agenda. At ACCE, we see a growing number of chambers of commerce that are championing health and wellness initiatives in their community, understanding that efforts to improve the talent pipeline work hand in hand with improving health.
What’s the connection?
You may be wondering just how critical a health and wellness action plan is to improving education attainment and workforce outcomes, and the correlation between the two is stronger than most of us realize. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that losses in productivity due to worker illness and injury costs U.S. Employers $225.8 billion annually, equal to $1,685 per employee, enough to significantly impact a business’s bottom line. One study, conducted by the nonprofit Health Enhancement Research Organization, even suggests that best-practice workplace wellness practices are linked to better corporate performance (read more at SHRM.org). These findings help us to understand how deeply health affects our workforce.
What is also interesting is that, on the flip side, EDWD significantly impacts health outcomes. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation created an excellent Better Education = Healthier Lives infographic, which demonstrates how an individual’s health is greatly shaped by their socioeconomic factors, such as education and income. It states that “Each additional year of schooling represents an 11% increase income. High earnings increase access to healthier food and safer homes, and can even lower uncertainty and stress.”
Recognizing that you cannot advance one agenda without the other, ACCE has identified the following three opportunities for chambers of commerce to incorporate health and wellness strategies into their EDWD efforts.
- Ensuring Children Are Ready to Learn: Chambers of commerce are uniquely poised to work with key education stakeholders and community service providers to ensure that young children receive the quality education and wellness care they need to be healthy and ready to learn by the time they reach kindergarten. By focusing on a community’s youngest residents, a chamber can not only ensure children are set on a positive trajectory to succeed in school and career, but also instill effective wellness habits that will shape their future health—and as an added bonus, help develop a talented and productive workforce capable of competing in the 21st century global market.
- Promoting Workplace Wellness: With direct access to the business community, chambers of commerce can provide employers with the support and guidance needed to implement innovative and effective programs and workplace policies that encourage employees to adopt healthier lifestyles. The benefits of workplace wellness programs far outweigh their cost, and more and more employers are finding that, in addition to helping employees adopt healthy work-life habits, these programs produce more productive employees, help attract and retain talent, build staff morale, combat employee absenteeism, minimize staff turnover and reduce healthcare costs for employers.
- Building a Healthy Community Culture: Chambers of commerce already champion opportunities to raise the quality of life for their residents, knowing their members will prosper as a result. These organizations—which typically represent diverse sectors of the community, including business, non-profit, education, and health and government entities—can offer opportunities for their members to participant in events and/or councils that are focused on improving community health. Strong community health can be the tipping point towards economic vitality and equitable prosperity, fulfilling a chamber’s vision for its community.
Where to start?
For ACCE members looking to develop or expand an education and workforce development agenda that is inclusive of health and wellness, ACCE’s Education Attainment Division has pulled together excellent examples of chamber-led health and wellness initiatives and created a series of communication briefs, which are available on the division’s Workforce Wellness and Community Health Chamberpedia page. The division will be also be providing on-going technical assistance throughout the year and developing additional resources with an expanded online library of health and wellness resources to come this spring, as well as in-person support and education-and-workforce-development-related sessions at ACCE’s 2016 Annual Convention August 9-12 in Savannah, GA.
To learn more about these resources or to share how your organization is championing health and wellness, please contact Analidia Blakely, Education Attainment Division Manager, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chamber Foundation QuickPoll - Results Available
The vast majority of respondents to our recent QuickPoll on Chamber Foundations either currently manage a 501(c)3 foundation or have one in the works. The results provide details on foundation missions, funding, and staffing - as well as some good advice from your chamber peers. Some highlights:
"Establish foundation governance that shows independence from your Chamber board. Establish a clear financial firewall between the Chamber and your foundation so that the IRS will not consider your foundation to be a supporting organization for your Chamber activities. Supporting organizations under 509(a) cannot receive grant funding from private foundations. Create strong contractual documents for rental of space and allocation of costs for staff time and network resources, etc. Draft your mission very broadly before submitting form 1023 to the IRS. Think big picture in allowing enough leeway to include programs or initiatives you may want to incorporate years down the road. You do not want to have to resubmit to the IRS when you expand your focus later."
"Talk with other chambers who have already gone through this process. Use the ACCE & WACE resource library. Ask everyone you know about nonprofits. We launched our foundation 3 years ago and at that time it was difficult to find chambers that had active or successful foundations. Do not give up, keep asking, and push forward."
"Be in it for the long haul."
Thanks to all who participated! For more information and resources related to Chamber Foundations, please see our Chamberpedia page on the topic.
(The full list of ACCE QuickPolls is available here.)
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