Politics of State Spending Cuts

Ian Scott on Monday, November 29, 2010 at 11:01:45 am 

Last week the Wall Street Journal ran an interesting profile of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour focused on the state budget.  During his two terms in office, Barbour has earned track record of cutting spending across the board.  He has made cuts six times since 2009.  At a Republican Governors Association meeting earlier this month he said, "Anyone who says there isn't a part of state government that can't save money doesn't know what he's talking about."

Barbour enjoys high approval ratings in Mississippi but as the term-limited governor weighs a potential presidential bid a question looms – will his reputation for trimming the fat out of state spending be an asset or liability?

Read more: State Tests Limits of Spending Cuts

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Networks Drive Innovation

Ian Scott on Monday, November 29, 2010 at 10:11:22 am 

Practically every region in the world wants to build a research park attached to a university and capture a slice of the high tech, innovation economy.  Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization would argue that innovation doesn’t happen that way.  It is networks and risk-takers that drive innovation and entrepreneurship, not real estate development.

In a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wadhwa argues that, “To boost entrepreneurship, they (regions) need to focus their energy not on infrastructure, but on people.”  Here is his shortlist of suggestions to spawn innovation:

  • Remove the stigma of failure
  • Teach entrepreneurship to students and skilled workers
  • Promote immigration
  • Deepen networks, locally and globally
  • Invest in education

Chambers can play a big part in all of these areas, whether or not they are paid to do economic development.

Read more - A Better Formula for Economic Growth: Connecting Smart Risk Takers

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Mick Fleming on Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 11:02:51 pm 

Thanksgiving messages are often hard to write.  In a year like 2010 it should have been a bear, right?  Nah!  It was easy because . . . well, because I’ve got all of you doing the hard stuff.

Preventing epidemics of fear, seizing opportunities, articulating our shared mission, demonstrating stewardship of your orgs and towns, nurturing talent, handling the loneliness of leadership and, importantly, investing in each other.  Thank you for all of it.

Finding things to be grateful for gets especially easy when I see my healthy daughter cuddling my grandchild, who arrived a bit undercooked eight weeks ago.  I am eternally grateful for your prayers, which helped get them through the ordeal.  Baby Lilah’s fine . . . thanks for asking. Hope those you care most about are fine too.  Happy Thanksgiving.


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Emotional Attraction = Economic Growth

Ian Scott on Friday, November 19, 2010 at 6:12:24 pm 

According to findings from a 3 year study by Gallup, cities that elicit the strongest emotional attachment for residents also had the highest rates of GDP growth.  Three relatively subjective qualities – social offerings, openness and beauty – were determined to be the leading drivers of emotional attachment.  Here’s how Jon Clifton, deputy director of the Gallup World Poll analyzed the results:

“Our theory is that when a community’s residents are highly attached, they will spend more time there, spend more money, they’re more productive and tend to be more entrepreneurial.”

26 communities with Knight owned newspapers, including Charlotte, Detroit, Lexington, Miami and Wichita, were surveyed for this study.

Find out more at:

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Yup, the Culpeper (VA) Chamber Has an App for That

Tania Kohut on Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 10:45:49 pm 

The Culpeper (VA) Chamber of Commerce has become one of the first chambers in the nation to offer the MyChamber application, developed by ChamberMaster. The app can be downloaded, at no charge, from the home page of the chamber’s website.  Users can access 16 categories, from dining to shopping to entertainment, and learn about services and destinations in Culpeper.  According to the Chamber's Executive Director, Jim Charapich, “It’s basically your chamber in your hand; it’s an easy access way of finding local information." Another bonus to the app, in the opinion of the Chamber's Operations Manager, Debbie Stohlman? “It’s unique in that our members have direct access to it and they don’t have to call us to make changes on their sites. It also allows us to see how active our members are and where their interests are,” says Stohlman.  Read more about the app and how the Chamber uses it by clicking here:

The use of smartphone applications by chambers has recently been a popular discussion topic for ACCE's Communications and Marketing Group on LinkedIn. Read what your peers are saying and join in on the discussion here (accessible to members of the Group only):

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Utah Compact on Immigration

Ian Scott on Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 5:52:49 pm 

Debate is raging over the Utah Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act (UT-IIEA), a proposal that mirrors the controversial immigration bill that passed in Arizona last year.  Highway patrolmen had to break up clashing protestors from both sides of the issue at the state capitol yesterday.

To weigh in on the debate, the Salt Lake Chamber joined forces with other community, political and religious leaders to release the Utah Compact. The Utah Compact is a set of five core principles that supporters believe should guide immigration reform.  The five principles are:

  • Federal Solution - Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries—not Utah and other countries.
  • Law Enforcement  - Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code
  • Families - We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families
  • Economy - Utah is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers.
  • Free Society - Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors.

At a public announcement of the Utah Compact last week, Salt Lake Chamber president and CEO Lane Beattie said:

“There is no simple solution with an issue like immigration.  Any immigration legislation will have a ripple effect that touches the economy, families and the perception of our state across the world. Crafting a solution that adheres to these five principles will ensure those consequences are considered and that changes to immigration law reflect the values of our state.”

You have to applaud the Salt Lake Chamber’s proactive, public work on this highly charged issue. Read more about the Utah Compact at:

For more about the Arizona immigration bill that inspired UT-IIEA, check out my interview with Tucson Chamber CEO Jack Camper from May 2010.

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Business Growth Challenge in South Dakota

Ian Scott on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 11:15:49 am 

The Rapid City (SD) Area Chamber of Commerce posed a challenge to its members – grow! 

The challenge is part of new board chair Lia Green’s “Power of One” campaign that encourages each chamber member to create at least one new job during the coming year.  If successful, the effort will yield at least 1,150 new jobs for the region.

The chamber has joined forces with the local economic development partnership and small business development center to provide information and access to business and employment growth services.  They will also track progress and highlight growing businesses in their monthly print newsletter.  

They’re off to a great start with 56 new jobs already.  Read more about the program on page 4 of the Rapid City (SD) Area Chamber’s November Investment Report.

This program is a great example of the role all chambers can play in economic development. 

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Victories to Celebrate

Ian Scott on Monday, November 15, 2010 at 5:43:22 pm 

Many chambers were happy when results from ballot measures came in on Nov 3.  Here are few reasons for state and local chambers to celebrate:

  • Chambers across Florida celebrated when Amendment 4 (Hometown Democracy) failed at the polls.  The measure would have mandated voter approval to change city, town and county comprehensive land-use plans, effectively halting growth by bogging down all zoning changes.  Read more here.
  • In Oklahoma, the chamber community notched a victory when a school funding initiative, referred to as Question 744, was rejected by 80% of voters.  The measure would have mandated that the state fund public education to at least the per-pupil average of their six neighboring states.  Read more here.
  • The Seattle Chamber and other business organizations in the Evergreen State applauded as Initiative 1098, the state’s first income tax measure, was defeated.  Read more here.
  • Charleston, SC voters joined the chamber in supporting a six year 1 cent sales tax to rebuild and repair public school buildings.  Thanks to the chamber’s campaign, the measure passed by a comfortable 64%.  Read more here.
  • Charlotte, NC voters also voted with the chamber to support three bonds totaling $204 million for transportation, neighborhood improvements and affordable housing.  Read more here.

Is your chamber still celebrating a victory at the polls?  Leave a comment and tell your peers about it.

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Chamber Executives Receive High Honors

Tania Kohut on Friday, November 12, 2010 at 2:21:31 pm 

Mike Neal, CCE, president and CEO of the Tulsa Metro Chamber, was selected as the 2010 Executive of the Year by the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce Executives (OCCE) Association.  The award, presented Thursday at the OCCE annual conference in Oklahoma City, is the highest professional honor given by the association.  Read more from this Tulsa World article at

The New England Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (NEACCE) at its 97th Annual Meeting held recently selected Christopher Cooney, CCE, president and CEO of the Metro South Chamber of Commerce in Brockton, MA as the Chamber Executive of the Year. Cooney was selected by a committee of his peers for his outstanding commitment to the profession and the success he has fostered in the communities and people he has worked with. Read more from a press release issued by the Chamber. 

Rob O’Brian, Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce president, received the Chamber of Commerce Executives of Missouri Top Level Award on October 7th at Tan-Tara-A Resort and Conference Center at the Lake of the Ozarks. The Chamber of Commerce Executives of Missouri Top Level Award is presented to an individual who has made a strong contribution to the chamber of commerce profession and to the economy of the state to merit special recognition by CCEM. Read more from a press release issued by the Chamber. 


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Is Municipal Debt the Next Housing Crisis?

Ian Scott on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 4:15:32 pm 

An article today’s Wall Street Journal highlights growing concern among investors about the creditworthiness of local governments.  As examples of municipalities that are failing to make payments on debt, the article cites the relatively small communities of Menasha, WI, Buena Vista, VA and Cicero, NY.

Here’s an excerpt:

For more than a year, Menasha, Wis., hasn't paid back about $23 million in principal for short-term notes tied to a failed steam plant, even though the deal's offering documents include a statement that the city would use tax revenue to cover any debt payments, if needed.

But that statement "was no guarantee" to repay the debt, says Edward Fuhr, a lawyer for Menasha, a small industrial city that has spent an average of $80,000 a month to fight investor lawsuits in three courts over the notes, which matured in September 2009.

The tangle underscores concern in the municipal-debt world about the longstanding assumption that local governments will do whatever it takes to repay their debts—including raising taxes—because failing to do so would make it more expensive or even impossible to turn to investors for future financing.

 While the article notes that "greatest default risk is in small municipalities with overleveraged projects," this trend should be a concern for all cities.

Read more at - New Risks Emerge in Munis

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