Hoboken is Hob"open"

Tania Kohut on Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 

Local businesses in Hoboken, N.J., many of which were affected by Hurricane Sandy, are getting some attention and support from their local chamber of commerce. Earlier this month the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce launched a campaign, “Heart Hoboken? Let's Keep the Charm,” promoting the city as a place to eat, drink and shop.

According to an article on, Greg DellAquilla, president of the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce, says that since Hurricane Sandy, “many business owners are reporting business has been down roughly 30 to 70 percent, depending on where they are located.” But, he noted, “We are open for business. The hurricane left out-of-towners unaware that we are open, or hesitant to come here thinking that there is a lot of damage. And there was...but there are perhaps 20 stores that are still closed while hundreds and hundreds are open.”

Read more about the chamber’s campaign here.

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ACCE Alleviates Pain From ABC Demise

Mick Fleming on Friday, December 21, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 

It was impossible to address the declaration of bankruptcy by one of ACCE’s travel sponsors, ABC Destinations, without encountering problems and friction for members and hundreds of travelers.  When ACCE senior staff received the news from the company’s president in early October of the impending financial meltdown at ABC, they took deliberate steps to alert members and craft workable options for the 18 chambers that had reservations pending for more than 600 travelers.

The stakes were high, with $2+ million in payments made by travelers and chambers in jeopardy.  One chamber alone had nearly 100 paid reservations at roughly $2,500 per ticket.  It wasn’t just the money; many travelers had made plans with friends and families to extend their travels, based on the “core” itineraries of the ABC trips. Some of the departure dates for ABC’s fall schedule were less than three weeks after the company’s demise.  The avenues to pursue were limited, given that the entire ABC staff had been terminated.  Phones and computers were “locked” on advice of legal counsel.

ACCE’s Senior Vice President Chris Mead went to work immediately, serving as a one-man information clearinghouse for affected organizations.  He arranged conference calls, sought answers from legal counsel and consulted with travel experts.  He tirelessly sought ways to ease the pain for chambers that were first exposed to ABC through ACCE marketing channels.  He tried to find alternatives to massive cancellations, traveler outrage and financial liability for chambers.  The most important lifeline he grasped during this period was extended by former ABC employee Carl Monticelli.  Despite losing his job, Carl wanted to help the chambers that he had introduced to ABC.  He was answering chambers’ questions on his cell phone from home, without any expectation of compensation for his efforts.

Through Carl’s behind-the-scenes efforts, Chris was introduced to the Sakkara Group, an Egyptian-based travel conglomerate that had recently entered the North American market through acquisition.  As chambers attempted to communicate worst-case scenarios and faint rays of hope to hundreds of hundreds of travelers, Chris Mead and Carl Monticelli brought the principals from Sakkara and Central Holidays (US subsidiary) to the ACCE offices.  They hashed out a go-forward solution that ensured viable options for all 18 chambers and almost every traveler.

Central Holidays/Sakkara agreed to run every trip as close to identical to the originally booked tours – on the same timelines – as those originally booked through ABC Destinations.  There would be almost no additional costs for either the chambers or the travelers.  They didn’t have to do any of this.  They were not connected to ABC and certainly had no responsibility or financial obligation.  Central Holidays wants to establish itself as a group travel company that is committed to the chamber community.  Through their exceptionally generous support and skill they demonstrated during the post-ABC crisis, they’ve done just that.

Were the solutions perfect for all parties?  Given the timing and scale of the challenges, no plan could have been.  Even given problems with re-booking hundreds of flights, lining up new guides and securing accommodations in Italy, Israel and other countries, the dreaded no-trip/no-refund outcome was avoided for almost every traveler.  The chambers involved worked hard and successfully to make necessary adjustments in order to keep their travelers on the promised trips.

ACCE thanks Central Holidays/Sakkara for its wonderful work and hefty investment on behalf of our members.  Virtually all of the revised arrangements were made under intense calendar and communications pressure.  Many of the arrangements were carried out and adapted as the firm’s headquarters building in New Jersey was swamped by Sandy.  Carl Monticelli’s personal commitment was unprecedented.  ACCE is proud to welcome Central Holidays/Sakkara as a Corporate Sponsor and preferred provider of the Association.

This experience provided a powerful reminder to Fleming’s first rule of business:  We can’t always control what happens, but we can control how we deal with what happens.  


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Frank Ryll, Jr. Honored in Miami

Tania Kohut on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 

Last week, ACCE Life Member and former Board Chair, Frank Ryll, Jr. was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. Ryll was recognized during the sixth annual International Business Leadership Awards at Miami’s Jungle Island. The awards program recognizes business leadership in international activities that significantly impact the economy of South Florida.  

Ryll began his business career at the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, moved to the Greater Greenville, S.C. Chamber, and joined the Florida Chamber in January 1980 as senior V.P. for economic development. It wasn’t long before he was promoted to president. Since then both the foundation and the chamber have grown to be the premier voice for Florida’s businesses, and a benchmark for chambers across the country. In his current role as director of global outreach, he is helping secure Florida’s future by leading the Florida Chamber’s efforts to double Florida-origin exports by 2015 and make the state a hub for international trade and logistics.

Frank Ryll (center) accepting his award with Commissioner Willie Gort of CAMOCOL and Olga Ramudo, Owner of Express Travel. Photo Source:

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Post-Sandy Support: You can still help

Tania Kohut on Monday, December 3, 2012 at 7:00:00 am 

A month has passed since Hurricane Sandy’s wrath and many of our friends and colleagues are still cleaning up the damage in areas hardest hit by the storm.  As we enter the season of giving, consider supporting communities and businesses affected by Sandy.  Below is a message Jack Friedman, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, wrote in response to a fellow ACCE member’s request on how her members can help. 

“As I am quickly learning, the needs after a disaster like this change daily. While clean-up efforts continue, we have been inundated with supplies like clothing and water. Now that power has been re-stored to most, our early needs of flashlights, batteries and generators has waned. There is still a need for winter coats, hats and blankets and personal health items like toothbrushes, soap and cleaning supplies. What is needed most however is financial support. Many organizations have been set-up to receive support. However, those contributions do not always wind up going to the intended communities. Our Chamber of Commerce (as well as the Chambers in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Manhattan) have all set-up relief funds as part of our 501 C-3 Chamber Foundations. In each case, 100% of the money received will go directly to businesses in the impacted areas.”

Queens Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Attn: Sandy Relief Fund
75-20 Astoria Blvd.
Jackson Heights, NY 11370
For more information, click here (and scroll to beneath the homepage welcome graphic). 

Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Foundation: 2012 MCC Small Business Recovery Fund
The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Foundation is working with business partners to raise funds for small businesses throughout the city affected by Hurricane Sandy. The Foundation is accepting donations and small grants will be given to businesses to help with rent, payroll, clean up, etc. To learn more and to donate, click here.

Staten Island Chamber of Commerce
After contacting the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, ACCE learned that the chamber does not have a fund for Sandy relief and is instead recommending that donations be made to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. To make a donation, visit: According to the Foundation's website, "All donations will benefit those that have been adversely impacted by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy on the New York City and New Jersey coastlines."

Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, together with the Brooklyn Community Foundation and the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, established the Brooklyn Recovery Fund. This pooled fund is providing support to Brooklyn’s nonprofit organizations working with the communities and individuals most affected by Hurricane Sandy. To learn more and to donate, click here.



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Oslo Business for Peace Award: Submit Nominees

Tania Kohut on Monday, November 26, 2012 at 2:00:00 pm 

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Oslo-based Business for Peace Foundation are seeking nominees for the 2013 Oslo Business for Peace Award, a global honor recognizing inspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs who combine ethical responsibility with business success. Submit a nomination for the award by Feb. 1, 2013.

“The Oslo Business for Peace Award aims to create a better union between business and society, where each contributes to the other," said Per L. Saxegaard, chairman of the Business for Peace Foundation. "Our goal is to inspire business leaders to be business-worthy, to have them apply their business energy with the purpose of creating economic value that also creates value for society. The honorees who have been selected by our independent committee of Nobel Prize recipients are all strong exemplars of the merit of this idea.”

The 2012 award attracted more than 90 nominees from 60 nations.

“We are delighted to be a partner of the Business for Peace Awards, encouraging businesspeople to foster peace and stability to the benefit of humanity,” said ICC Secretary General Jean-Guy Carrier. “As the world business organization, ICC is proud to show how ethical business conduct is not only good for business but good for global living standards and good for peace.” For more information please email WCF or visit ICC Business for Peace and the Business for Peace Foundation.


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Onward With Gratitude

Mick Fleming on Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 10:30:00 am 

So, there I was, hunched over my keyboard on the day following our fall Board meeting. I was making lists of new assignments we had accumulated during the two-day gathering. "Sooo much to do sooo busy yadda yadda." I was spared from the pitiful abyss when someone in the hall casually mentioned their Thanksgiving plans. Thanksgiving?!?!

I can't say that I dropped my moaning then and there, but I was at least aware that I should. After all, why should I fret over an aspirational to-do list? Don't I want one? Worries and pains in the butt? Of course, but in comparison to my old friends and members in Sandy's path, or neighbors whose kids are eating Turkey under a tent in the desert, what am I moaning about?

Only one thing for me to do: Click a favorite YouTube of an old Highwaymen concert. A young(er) Kristofferson growls: "Why Me Lord? What have I ever done, to deserve even one, of the pleasures I've known?"

Hope you notice your pleasures and blessings this Thanksgiving, including the privilege to make a difference in the lives of people and communities. If you can't be with the people who care about you, reach out to them this weekend.

Onward with gratitude.

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Just Ask the Chamber

Tania Kohut on Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 

It’s good if your community thinks you have all the answers. And, if you work in a chamber, you know that you get a lot of calls on a lot of subjects, from the logical to the absurd. The Boise (ID) Metro Chamber’s Board Chairman, Randy Hill, illustrated this phenomenon during the chamber’s annual dinner last month.  He was the hit of the night when he shared the most unusual questions the chamber had received, and then added his own comedic touch when he provided answers. Check it out here.

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Infrastructure Part 3: Durham

Chaaron Pearson on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 10:00:00 am 

Guest Post - John White, Director of Public Policy, Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce

Earlier this year, I was asked to take part in a webinar to discuss our involvement and the passage of a ½ cent sales tax for transit.  While awaiting my turn to present on the issue, I listened to others familiar with the topic as they advised on how to best prepare for a ballot issue campaign. One person recommended having no less than $100K to fund campaign efforts, while another referenced needing at least a year to prepare, plan and educate the public on your issue.  As I listened to these two individuals talk, I thought to myself this ought to be interesting…. 

In 2008, the North Carolina General Assembly passed enabling legislation allowing 94 counties the opportunity to charge & use a ¼ cent sales tax. The legislation also provided Durham, Orange and Wake County’s, also known as the Triangle, the opportunity to charge & use a ½ cent sales tax, for transit enhancements, with voter approval.  Since 2009, the Durham Chamber and surrounding chambers have been at the table discussing this issue with the NC Dept. of Transportation as well as our elected officials at the state and local level.  Unlike the other chambers, the Durham Chamber of Commerce is the only Chamber in the Triangle that has a dedicated committee to the topic of Transportation.  In the summer of 2011, the Durham Board of County Commissioners decided to put this issue on the November 2011 ballot for voters to decide on.  Given the Chambers role and attention to transit issues, the Durham Chamber stepped up and took the lead in organizing a campaign committee.  I staffed the Durham Transit Campaign Committee and organized efforts of which led to the passage of the transit referendum.  Having received 60.1% support for this ballot measure, to date, Durham is the only county that has successfully passed the ½ cent sales tax for transit within the Triangle region and the second in the State of N.C. (Mecklenburg County, 2007).

At last it was my turn to speak to Durham’s success during the webinar.  After providing an abbreviated timeline of events, I informed the audience that the Durham Transit Campaign Committee, led by the Durham Chamber of Commerce, had roughly four months to organize.  We did not raise over $50K.

Every community is different and while we can use lessons learned in other areas, it doesn’t mean that information is translatable to every community.  Chambers are institutions that by design are forced to know business interest, community interest as well as who the players are within our respective communities.  I’m glad to say that the Durham Chamber of Commerce understands how important this is and has been able to benefit from extending ourselves outside of the traditional box of business.  Why should this example matter to business community?  Since our success with this campaign, our creditability as an organization has risen along with the communities desire to work with the business community.  Sure, people still come to us to sponsor most of everything.  Nonetheless, we take this as part of the territory, knowing that in the end we’ve made more people aware of what we are capable of doing and the continual impact and reach chambers of commerce have!       


Tags: Infrastructure, infrastructure infrastructure transportation transportation funding, infrastructure transportation

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Star Power

Tania Kohut on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 

On days when you think your job is hard or you’re just plain annoyed with people, think about Ana Martinez at the Hollywood (CA) Chamber of Commerce. When Ana picks up the phone or opens an email, she never knows if the person on the other end is going to scream at her or kill her with kindness in a premeditated agenda to win her over.

Ana, who has worked for the chamber for 25 years, is the one who decides where stars are placed on the famous Walk of Fame. According to Martinez, who was recently interviewed by The New York Times, “I’m the one publicists and agents are either very nice to or very upset with,” she said. “And I’ve been called every name in the book. People can get pretty threatening when they don’t get their way.”

As the chamber and the Hollywood Historic Trust undertake a $4 million restoration project of the Walk of Fame, Martinez’s days are now also busy raising money for the project through the Friends of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Learn more about Martinez’s job, how she decides which stars will go where, and other insider stories about the Walk of Fame when you read this entertaining article.

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Infrastructure Part 2: Stamford

Chaaron Pearson on Monday, November 19, 2012 at 10:00:00 am 

Stamford, Conn.: Banking on Infrastructure
Transportation issues are becoming critical for Connecticut. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, nearly a third of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient, 45 percent of its major roads are in mediocre or poor condition, and 58 percent of its urban highways are congested.

Following a comprehensive study of infrastructure issues in 2010, the Business Council of Fairfield County (BCFC) in Stamford issued a statement noting that:

·         Infrastructure is critical to economic competitiveness.

·         The U.S. and Connecticut have fallen behind most of the world’s developed nations in infrastructure quality and capacity.

·         The balance sheets and budget deficits of our national and state governments do not allow enough investment to maintain our current position, let alone close the gap with our major competitors.

·         Increased infrastructure investment can’t wait until public sector fiscal health returns.

BCFC then created a stakeholder group, the Infrastructure Investment Task Force, consisting of utilities, consulting firms, academics, economists and other companies that had a strong infrastructure focus. This group was able to develop an understanding of the county’s infrastructure issues, put them into context and assess state level opportunities. It was determined that Connecticut’s need is $85 billion over 20 years to maintain, repair and enhance existing systems, add capacity and expand services, and transform the key systems of transportation, energy and broadband.

The challenge is that they won’t be able to raise more than half of those funds through state funding and anticipated federal appropriations. To fill the gap, Connecticut will actively support all existing funding sources for infrastructure, support a national infrastructure bank, and explore state-level mechanisms to leverage public-private partnerships and improve how projects are selected.

Chris Bruhl, BCFC’s president and CEO, says BCFC’s relationship with author and New York University Senior Fellow Michael Likosky has helped with the council’s involvement in federal funding discussions. Likosky is an expert on public-private partnerships, has served on the BCFC stakeholder group, advised a number of states, elected officials and organizations, and is the author of Obama’s Bank: Financing a Durable New Deal, among other titles. Because of Likosky’s role with BCFC and other organizations, BCFC has been invited to participate in a national infrastructure bank think tank. BCFC also has found that this new area of policy involvement has generated a new membership stream for the chamber: companies that have interest or experience with infrastructure issues.

BCFC has been supportive of Connecticut’s Green Bank to leverage private sector investment in clean energy. The group also has a good relationship with the governor that has led to a senior staffer being appointed co-chair of the governor’s panel to deal with response to the tropical storm and snow storm that hit Connecticut with disastrous result in 2011. Gov. Dannel Malloy has been receptive to the council’s suggestions, and the council has been encouraged by his willingness to try new things. While it doesn’t necessarily mean that all plans will come to fruition, they are encouraged that Connecticut is becoming competitive.

Private money will be raised and invested, and if we didn’t act now, Connecticut could be left out. – Chris Bruhl, BCFC President & CEO

Tags: infrastructure infrastructure transportation transportation funding

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