Coming Together and Coming Apart
A century and a half ago, on April 12, 1861, Confederate guns began firing on Fort Sumter. The Civil War had begun. Chambers of commerce and their members were deeply involved in that war.
To turn the clock back 150 years to see what your peers were up to then, simply click on the link below. You will reach a chapter in a forthcoming book about the history of chambers of commerce. The book is called The Magicians of Main Street. The chapter is entitled, “Coming Together and Coming Apart.” If you thought getting your chamber through the recession was tough, see how chambers handled the challenges of the nation’s bloodiest conflict.
Coming Together and Coming Apart: Chambers of Commerce in the Civil War
(excerpt from Magicians of Main Street)
Seeking to Reel in a Title
The Boca Grande (FL) Chamber of Commerce is working to make it official: it’s the best fishing town in America. The Chamber recently nominated the island - apparently the place for tarpon fishing - for the World Fishing Network's contest to find the best fishing town in the country. The prize catch, in addition to bragging rights? $25,000 for the winning town. According to Lew Hastings, executive director of the chamber, “There are lots of organizations that could benefit from that." Read more here.
Chamber looking at food truck ordinance
As communities are filling their need for increased food trucks, one chamber is looking to help clarify a local food truck ordinance that is outdated and unclear.
The Napa Chamber is looking to help rewrite a city ordinance that increases clarity for food truck operators. As it stands now, a food truck must move every 15 minutes. If a truck wants to park on private property for a longer term, they must file for a use permit. The ordinance doesn’t include any truck design, operating times or location guidelines.
This issue came to the chamber’s attention last fall after a food and beverage task force was formed. The chamber learned that the city was asking food trucks to have use permits to linger in specific areas.
The chamber is asking that a group of food truck owners, restaurant owners, residents another others write a draft ordinance for city consideration. While the draft ordinance is being written, the chamber is asking that the city postpone approving use permits until a new resolution is in place.
The chamber’s goal is not to tie up food trucks with more regulation, but to clear up misunderstandings of the current ordinance and create an even playing field for all restaurants.
To read more: Napa Valley Register – Chamber asks for tougher look at food truck ordinance
Napa Business Focus - Napa Chamber’s Letter to City of Napa
Chamber Supports Pre-K Initiative
The Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce is trying to raise public awareness about the need for pre-kindergarten education in the county.
On Monday, April 4th, The Quality Education Committee of One Voice, One Vision, One Morgan County held a press conference to unveil a checklist of skills needed for a child to have a successful start in kindergarten.
This initiative is a collaboration of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, Calhoun Community College, Community Action Partnership of North Alabama, Decatur City Schools, Decatur City Schools Foundation, Decatur Heritage Christian Academy, Decatur Public Library, Hartselle City Schools, Morgan County Schools and St. Ann Catholic School.
The Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce sites the Pew Center on the States research findings that high quality Pre-K education leads to better success in school and life. Jim Page, Vice President of Public Policy and Business Development at the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber, talked about the possibility of reducing the prison population and the dropout rate, if local children are properly educated.
Decatur and Morgan County businesses identified the need to increase the education level of the population long ago. A study showed that one in five children is reading impaired by the time that they are in the 4th grade. A contributing factor to those study findings is the lack of funding and classroom space. The Quality Education Committee plans to address these issues as well.
Decatur and Morgan County businesses and the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce are working to maximize family, business and community involvement to increase student success.
A victory for small business: 1099 provision repealed
The Senate voted 87-12 to repeal the unpopular 1099 provision of the Affordable Health Care Act, Tuesday. Small business owners have expressed their frustration at the provision, which would require them to report to the IRS all payments of more than $600 on 1099 forms. This would have significantly increased paperwork required of a small business and many don’t have the necessary time or manpower to complete the new requirements.
The House of Representatives took the first step in repealing the provision in early March. Now that the provision has been repealed in the Senate, it will move to President Obama’s desk. Shortly after the Senate vote, the White House signaled that President Obama would sign the repeal, despite opposition to the House proposed offset to pay for the repeals.
Many chambers are celebrating this victory as they have worked tirelessly with their small business members and congressional delegates to repeal the 1099 provision. A policy update from COSE recounts their work with legislators to raise awareness about the issue and demonstrate the detrimental impact the 1099 provision would have on small business. COSE is thrilled with the victory and applauds the legislators for their work and the efforts small businesses put forth to advocate against the issue as well.
On a national level, ASAE and the US Chamber also led efforts to repeal the 1099 provision and are celebrating success with their memberships.
Why state budget deficit numbers don’t match
Is the math that hard?
In a word, yes. The math is that hard. In Texas, for example, it has been reported that there is between a $15 billion and $27 billion shortfall with some claiming $15 billion and others claiming $27 billion. What accounts for these differences?
Budget shortfalls rely on two estimates, estimated state revenue and estimated state spending and this year there are large disagreements on the spending side of the equation. How much of the budget is increased for inflation? What about population growth? How much can be cut? What will be cut?
States with shortfalls are looking to bridge the gap to balance the budget and maintain the current level of services. In recent years, huge shortfall numbers have plagued troubled states.
Budget disagreements are nothing new, but budget deficit solutions (taxes and budget cuts) are unpleasant. When the budget shows a surplus, it’s rare for politicians to be upset.
Read more: Stateline – State budgets explained: Why deficit figures don’t always add up
Advocacy on Wheels
As gas prices show no signs of sliding downwards, the Conway Area (AR) Chamber of Commerce recently partnered with local car dealer Crain Buick GMC and Southwestern Energy to present an alternative to cars fueled by gasoline. Today, the Chamber is getting around in a compressed natural gas (CNG) powered 2011 GMC Yukon. CNG vehicles are an emerging clean energy product, and Arkansas, as a major producer of natural gas, directly benefits from the growth of CNG applications. "We see it primarily as a way to send a message to promote compressed natural gas as a fuel source and to demonstrate for people that it's good business for Arkansas," says Brad Lacy, president and CEO of the Conway Area Chamber. Check out the Chamber's new wheels in the photo above; Southwestern Energy provided a compressed natural gas conversion kit, while Crain donated the vehicle and custom wrapped the car with the Chamber's logo and colors. Read more about the partnership and CNG here.
Georgia Infrastructure Bank
Three years after it was created, Georgia’s infrastructure bank has received just four applications for loans from local governments. It awarded only a single loan for $1 million in 2009 and has $32 million left in the bank. The formation of an infrastructure bank was a transportation initiative of former Governor Sonny Perdue in 2008.
In an effort to attract business for the bank, Governor Nathan Deal backed changes that will now let local governments use money for repair and upkeep, not just new projects. The governor believes that the money will not be unused and thinks that this is “one of the more progressive things we’ve done to assist local governments.”
Even with low interest rates, communities are still hesitant to borrow in tight times. Communities have decided against applying for loans on their infrastructure projects because they don’t want to pay even low interest fees.
The bank also has a pool of $10 million for grants available to community improvement projects. The entire pool was awarded to eight recipients last year.
Read more: Atlantic Journal - Constitution
Check-ups and Rx for Business Health in Knoxville
The Knoxville (TN) Chamber just unveilved an innovative new product that will help it work with companies to analyze and improve the health of their businesses. Known as Chamber Member MD and resembling a personal health risk assessment, the tool consists of 89 questions that examine all aspects of a company’s operations. In the Chamber-issued press release, Knoxville Chamber president and CEO Mike Edwards said, “Many businesspeople spend their days acting like firefighters, dealing with the items that require their immediate attention. The latest sales prospect, the need to return phone calls, customer concerns, and many other things keep businesspeople from focusing on long-term issues, planning, and company policies. Chamber Member MD allows people to be fire inspectors. They can take a step back, understand why things happen, make corrections, and formulate strategies to make the business stronger and more healthy.” As the only chamber of commerce in the country providing a service like Chamber Member MD, the Chamber is in the process of reregistering the program with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Learn more about the one-of-a-kind Chamber Member MD business tool by reading this news article or the press release issued by the Chamber.
Tennessee and Alabama Lawmakers Look to Expand Rights of Taxpayers
Alabama and Tennessee lawmakers have introduced legislation to enhance taxpayer rights. Tennessee Senator Randy McNally (R) and Representative Steve McDaniel (R) introduced identical pieces of legislation as SB 637/HB 462. As introduced, these bills add certain rights regarding challenges and refunds to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and revises procedures regarding disputed taxes. Both bills have been referred to committee.
Alabama Senator Ben Brooks (R) introduced SB 232 which creates the Alabama Tax Appeals Commission (ATAC) in addition to numerous changes to the state’s taxpayer bill of rights. SB is being backed by the Council on State Taxation (COST) and the Alabama Business Associations’ Tax Coalition (BATC). Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the House this week. In a recent COST survey, Alabama ranked near the bottom, a D grade, for state tax administration systems.
COST is backing both the Tennessee and Alabama measures as positive measures for the business community. COST’s letter in favor of the Alabama legislation can be found here.