Offering More Than Just a Referral
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.
Council on State Taxation releases new Business Tax Competitiveness Study
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.
Flash Mob at Schmoomzapollza
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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJnx_JTv_nM
States looking closely at for-profit colleges
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: Stateline.org: For-profit colleges face more state scrutiny
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.
State aid for community colleges shrinks as demand rises
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.
Chamber in NJ Adopts a Platoon
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 NorthJersey.com.
Government Participation in Chambers of Commerce
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.
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.