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Most Inclusive Business Community in the Country

Ian Scott on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 3:40:00 pm 

Who has the most inclusive business community in the country?  The Charlotte Chamber wants to claim that title for the Queen City.

Last week they launched a new program called the Charlotte Minority Economic Development Initiative (CMEDI). The program pairs minority-owned business enterprises with corporate sponsors in a two-year mentorship arrangement.  Minority business owners gain exposure to the broader business community while also getting professional and technical support.  Already 13 corporations have teamed up with 18 minority businesses.  Read more here.

The program earned the Chamber some great coverage in the op-ed pages of the Charlotte Observer.   Writing about the kickoff event for CMEDI, columnist Ron Stodghill said:

“Last week's Chamber meeting at the Hilton Charlotte Center City was packed to capacity. As I stood in the back jotting a few notes, it was clear to me that Charlotte's business community is not only fully engaged, but that the city's best days may be just around the corner.

That is music to any chambers’ ears.  Read more here.

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Can't Cut This Class

Mick Fleming on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

From left, José Paulo D. Cairoli, President of CACB (Confederation of Commercial and Business Associations of Brazil); Sergio Papini, V.P., CACB, Kwanele Gumbi, V.P., Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry; ACCE President Mick Fleming; Julio Alfaro, President, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of East Timor.

Dealing with the formalities of international business has been a challenge for a guy born without diplomatic genes. My Buffalo, N.Y., roots make it tough to tolerate
for-the-record speeches, endlessly translated through earphones. Such programs are inevitable, however, in my role as vice chair of the World Chambers Federation (WCF).

My recent trip to Brazil included the dreaded for-the-record speeches in Portuguese, but there were some touching moments,such as the little ceremony shown in this picture. Following my participation in Salvador, Brazil on a panel of experts from around the world, one of my fellow presenters was overwhelmed with gratitude to have been included. Mr. Julio Alfaro of the new country of East Timor showered each of us with gifts and “hooded” us with lovely ceremonial shawls. The big old American bear on the stage felt a bit awkward, but Julio’s appreciation was so genuine and his words were so poignant, how could I not be moved?

When Julio said “It is nice to be here; it is nice to be anywhere,” he was not joking. You see, this soft-spoken, charismatic guy is running a chamber that is recovering from a decade-long revolution. Former teen (and pre-teen) conscripts in guerilla armies are now learning trades and business skills from his organization. Generations of government corruption are being overcome  through his advocacy work. And we think chamber management is tough in the US!

I sometimes tell ACCE Board members that the WCF experience is MY professional development. Thanks to all of you for letting me take this “class.”

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Chamber-EDC Merger Talk on the Rise

Ian Scott on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

Talk of mergers between chambers of commerce and economic development entities have dotted local headlines lately.

At a news conference yesterday, the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corporation confirmed they have finalized merger talks. An 11-member “unification committee” will present recommendations by Nov. 30 on how the combined organization will be funded and governed.

Also last week, The Indianapolis Business Journal reported that officials from the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and Develop Indy are discussing formal cooperation. "I wouldn't rule out the possibility they could be merged," said chamber Chairman John Neighbours, a partner at Baker & Daniels.

These announcements come just weeks after the York County (PA) Chamber and the York County Economic Development Corporation approved an MOU to become affiliate organizations under a 501(c)3 parent corporation called the York County Economic Alliance.

Follow the trail of newspaper coverage for any of these mergers and you’ll find some common themes.  Chiefly, civic leaders believe that coordination is better than fragmentation, and major corporate funders are tired of writing multiple checks. I take this as a sign that the regionalism mantra has caught on and, post-recession, businesses expect more return from their civic investment.

Are chamber-EDC mergers a trend? The past month would suggest so, and there have been other high profile chamber-EDC mergers in the past few years: the Birmingham Business Alliance, the Quad Cities Chamber and Syrcause’s CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity, for example. But there have also been some splits – Tampa and Albany, GA come to mind.

Are we destined to see more chambers and economic development entities joining forces, or is there a cyclical ebb and flow in regional civic leadership that brings players together then breaks them apart? Share your thoughts...

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LA to LA

Mick Fleming on Friday, August 19, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

From one LA to the other, by way of Salvador Brazil.  And the month is only half over.  Whether engaged in productive networking on the dance floor during the AWB show in Los Angeles, or introducing American style chamberology to Brazilians, or helping Louisiana execs maintain their passion for this crazy life . . . It is hard not to love this job. 

I know you do too, even when you hate it.  Yes, there are times when the call from the mayor's office stimulates your fight-or-flight hormones.  Other days, a big member makes you drop by to explain why she should be paying more than her peers in town.  Or maybe your chair scolds you for allowing your best team member is hired away on the same day your  treasurer tells you the measly perqs you give your staff are too generous.  Perhaps you too must deal with delayed flights and airport pretzel dinners.  If you didn't love the role you play in your community/economy, none of these things would bother you a bit.

When my knees are crushed by the reclining seat in the row ahead, I just remind myself that the reward of my travel is not frequent flyer points.  The reward is having the best hard job in the world.

Onward.

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ACCE Member Leads SBA Webinar

Brad Holt on Friday, August 12, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

ACCE member Kirstie Smith, communications director of the Joplin (MO) Area Chamber of Commerce,will be a presenter in a free U.S. Small Business Administration webinar on using social media for disaster communications.  

Business and civic leaders in Joplin had a crash course in leveraging social media for disaster-related communications following the May 22 tornado that tore through Joplin and killed 160 people and damaged or destroyed 8,000 homes and 500 businesses.

Also participating in the webinar will be Mark Kinsley, creator of the Rebuild Joplin Facebook page, and social media consultant John Orlando. The webinar is free, but space is limited.

“We're helping business owners develop a plan for using social media as a way to enhance their current marketing efforts,” said Smith. “With the results
we have from using social media for disaster communications since the May 22 tornado, we can now show businesses another invaluable resource for communicating with employees and customers in the event of a disaster.” 

The free webinar, Social Media and Disaster Recovery, including a Q&A session, will be held Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2-3 p.m. Eastern time. Register here.

 

 

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10 Takeaways from ACCE 2011 in Los Angeles

Chaaron Pearson on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

Thank you to everyone who joined ACCE in Los Angeles this past week! It was a great opportunity to network, learn, celebrate and recharge your batteries with your fellow chamber peers.

In fact, one attendee put together a "Top 10 Takeaways" list of this year's convention. Check out Adrienne Olson's blog, My New Direction. Adrienne is the Communications and Community Relations Manager at the Chamber of Commerce Fargo Moorhead West Fargo, and is also the chair of the ACCE Communications Division. After reading her entry, we think she hit the nail on the head!

If you weren't able to join us in L.A., then be sure to make plans to be with us in Louisville, KY, next year for ACCE 2012!

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A Chicken Dinner is not a Differentiator: My advice to Chambers of Commerce

Rebecca Ryan, Next Generation Consulting on Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

In this post, guest blogger Rebecca Ryan from Next Generation Consulting recaps her remarks during the Competitive Regions of the Future panel at the 2011 ACCE Convention last week in Los Angeles.

Today I’d like to share my thoughts on three things: Winter, why I’m skeptical of regionalism, and the Halo effect that all Chambers need to stay relevant. I know, these things may seem completely disconnected, but stay with me...

1. Winter

Let me try to put this current economic crap sandwich into perspective. It is Winter in America. And it was predicted.

In 1997, Strauss and Howe published The Fourth Turning. They predicted that around the year 2007, America would face a large national crisis. It could be a financial meltdown, a health pandemic, or - wait for it - a Tea Party. They weren’t sure what it would be, but they knew it was coming. How did they know?

Because it’s happened before.

Turns out, America goes through four distinct seasons. Like climactic seasons, America’s seasons are knowable and predictable. Here’s how the four seasons have shaken out most recently in America:

  • Spring started after WWII. Everyone felt terrific, the economy was booming. GIs were getting college educations. Hope was in the air. Traditionalists (b. 1925-1944) were kids or young adults, and Baby Boomers (b. 1945-1960) were just being born.
  • Summer was in full swing by the “Summer of Love.” Boomers questioned inequality and the status quo. People marched. And sat-in. And radicalized. Traditionalists - who were in charge - felt a huge “generation gap” between themselves and Boomers. Boomers were entering the workforce in full swing, and Gen Xers (b. 1961-1981) were just kids.
  • In Autumn, American society started to show signs of decay: gas lines, Watergate, the Iran-Contra Scandal, the Farm Crisis, spiking divorce rates. Traditionalists were starting to retire, Boomers were taking over, Gen Xers were joining the workforce, and Millennials (b. 1982-2001) were just being born.
  • Winter blew in with the 2008 financial crisis. Winter is expected to last for about 15 years, enough time for entire institutions to be reinvented, renewed, or retired. Boomers are entering their elderhood, Gen Xers are taking over as leaders, and Millennials are entering the workforce at full tilt.

To the untrained eye, Winter looks bleak. Things look dead, or frozen. In truth, winter is a time of great potency, when things hibernate in order to go through the necessary cycle of renewal. The grass will again push through the earth, and America will again enter spring. But not for awhile.

I believe that the communities that will come through this moment and emerge as winners in the next spring will be those that solve problems inter-generationally. It is absurd to think that Boomers - who are still mostly in charge in our communities - will be able to invent all the solutions required for their kids and grandkids to lead prosperous lives. What’s more, only 3 in 5 Boomers will be alive when Spring arrives. So the ethical thing is for Boomers, Xers and Millennials to work together to co-create the future…a future that the Millennials and the iGeneration (b. 2002-??) will inherit.

Look around your community and ask, ” Who’s at the Winter-to-Spring problem-solving table?” It should represent all generations.

2. Why I’m skeptical of regionalism

As I recently wrote for Madison Magazine, “I’m all for regionalism when it honors the unique strengths and assets of all the partners. But I choke when I see regionalism used to equalize all the partners. Like children, regional partners are not all gifted in the same way. You don’t make ALL your children take piano lessons (unless you’re the tiger mom). You assess each child’s talents and put each child in the way of further training and experiences that will help all of them become their best selves.” Read the full article here.

3. The Halo Effect

During Winter, unlikely actors emerge as leaders. We saw this happen in Birmingham, where the Birmingham Community Foundation stepped up and led the initiative for a city-wide park plan. They didn’t wait for the Mayor or the Parks Department. The community needed a plan for green space, and the Foundation stepped up and led the initiative.

I believe Chambers could step up and play a similar role in their communities. Because the truth is that our local businesses know they need to step up - and they want to step up - and they are begging for Chambers to help declare a direction. Businesses I talk with are aching for their Chamber to boldly move in a direction that will help their communities create more jobs, spark some economic energy, and be inclusive of all the economic actors. That’s what leadership is.

Can Chambers get out of their own way?

I was working with a Chamber last year. We did a competitive scan of their business environment and found that there were 14 competitors in the business networking space. There were five other organizations offering “CEO Roundtables.” And the local business journal is coming after their Business Expo.

I asked, “What’s the Chambers differentiator?”

The response: “We have the largest sit down dinner of business leaders in the five county area each fall.”

A chicken dinner is not a differentiator. It may be part of your work plan, but unless you have some kind of halo over that work - a heroic purpose to play in your community - you’re irrelevant. The barriers to entry have fallen. Now your members can link in, friend, or poke any of your members; they don’t really need your Chamber to make introductions. Now more than ever, Chambers need to have a valiant purpose underscoring their work plans. Chambers need a compelling, business-first strategy to help their communities face Winter.

Here’s one idea: stop talking about being in the ‘economic development’ business and start talking about being in the prosperity business.

We are in Winter. Regionalism is not The Only Answer. And your Chamber could be a hero in your community.

Go ahead, grab that Halo

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