Degrees and Da Grease

Mick Fleming on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 

A number of questioning media stories have appeared lately focused on higher education.  Does a degree still matter?  Is college worth it?  Some high school kid highlighted in these stories might have an older brother or sister with a freshly minted degree and no job.  The kid and the story ask why he should apply to college and his parents may be asking why they should borrow the money to send him.

I can't begin to answer all of these questions, especially those related to the relative value of degrees from specific schools.  The data on the main questions, however, remains absolutely clear and compelling:  People who get a post secondary degree of some kind (graduate, bachelors, associate or certificate) do better in the short term and over a lifetime than people who don't.  Interestingly, it is not "some college" that makes the most difference; it is finishing.  To paraphrase labor economist Tony Carnevale of Georgetown, a degree is the entrance requirement, the library card, for all of the on-the-job learning you will eventually obtain in the workplace.

Yes, there are differences in the lifetime value of certain kinds of degrees  (science v. social service, etc.).  Yes, there are reasonable questions about how high is too high on college costs.  And yes, dramatic changes in the job market will impact the prospects for each of us at various times in our lives.  But the research is overwhelming and consistent.  A college degree of some kind is a major determininant of the wealth we will enjoy and produce in our lifetime.

Recent studies have concentrated on that wealth generation impact of higher education.  It's not just that degreed people are prepared to take jobs in a regional economy.  It now appears that just having such people around helps to make jobs.  More on the economic development impacts of higher education in a future installment. 

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Business gets its way in Oklahoma

Chaaron Pearson on Monday, February 27, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 

The 2010 elections gave Republicans control of state government for the first time in Oklahoma. They have quietly enacted a slate of pro-business measures, including a $350,00 cap on lawsuit damages,  the largest rewrite of the state’s workers’ compensation system and new laws making it easier for employers to test workers for illegal drugs, and imposing new limits on employment discrimination relief claims. Chad Warmington, COO of the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce, said, “we checked off major boxes in all of those areas in the first session. It was very successful.” For more information, read the full article at

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Bethlehem, PA to Foursquare: "Oh no you didn't! "

Tania Kohut on Friday, February 24, 2012 at 1:30:00 pm 

In case you haven't heard, Kelly Ripa recently announced that Bethlehem, Pa., was listed as the "2nd LEAST romantic city" in the nation by social media site Foursquare. 

As you can imagine, our friends at the Greater Lehigh Valley (PA) Chamber of Commerce said, "WHAT?!?!"  

Click on the video below released by the Downtown Bethlehem Association last week (during the WEEK OF ROMANCE, no less!) showcasing the romantic nature of Bethlehem!  

Wonder what Foursquare has to say now?









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Chamber Staffers Stage Flash Mob

Tania Kohut on Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 12:00:00 pm 

Who says North Carolina's Charlotte Chamber is a bunch of "buttoned up" and out of touch folks? Last Friday afternoon, in honor of this year's slogan - Outrageous Aspirations - staffers sought to inspire members at a networking event with a flash mob.

About 15 members of the chamber staff danced to the song 'Wobble' as a local high school band performed in the main open area at the downtown entertainment venue, EpiCentre.  Check out the video!











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Joplin Shares Disaster Preparedness Advice

Tania Kohut on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 

Last May, Joplin, Mo. was hit by a devastating tornado which left a 10-mile-long path of destruction. More than 500 businesses were destroyed or substantially damaged. In a recent interview with Southeast Missouri’s Business Today, Rob O'Brian, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, says that "most were prepared for typical Midwest storm damage, but not for a tornado of that magnitude."

Today, nine months later, with about 85 percent of Joplin’s businesses open and operating, Rob O’Brian and Nathan Brown, insurance producer at W.E. Walker-Lakenan, LLC in Jackson, Mo., spoke with Business Today and shared disaster preparedness tips for businesses. From recovery insurance advice to data back-up suggestions,the article provides good information for your members.

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Local Chambers of Commerce: Not Born for Ourselves Alone

Chris Mead on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 

Most people are more interested in organized crime than in organized business. Chambers of commerce do not often attract headlines except for the occasional, inevitable dustup with a public authority.  For that reason, this April’s 100 year anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may pass without much public attention.  This would be a shame, as groups of companies have left their fingerprints all over the American civic landscape, and were busy even at the birth of Tom Donohue’s organization in 1912.

President William Howard Taft, who called the U.S. Chamber into existence, was a frequent visitor to local chambers of commerce.  He once joked that even towns without any commerce had a chamber or a board of trade.  Indeed, during the Progressive Era these groups were proliferating wildly, and filled with excitement .

Behind much of the excitement stood a man named Ryerson Ritchie.  Starting in 1893, he turned the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce into the most dynamic civic organization in the country.  One of its hundreds of activities was to vet the charities that approached its members, a policy that eventually led to its introduction of federated giving in 1913, which in turn led to Community Chests and the United Way.

Ritchie, whose personality was as difficult as his ideas were brilliant, moved rapidly from chamber to chamber, becoming something of a Johnny Appleseed of the chamber movement.  Soon dozens of business organizations were proclaiming, Ritchie-like, that they weren’t old-fashioned boosters and “factory grabbers” any more.  Instead they were civic transformers, improving education, city government, city planning, you name it.  The Boston Chamber of Commerce even had a committee seeking a cure for the common cold.

Chambers seized the innovations of commission government (initiated in Galveston in 1901 after the disastrous hurricane) and city manager administration (first set up in Staunton, Va. in 1908), spreading them into dozens, then hundreds, of communities.  These were seen as businesslike ways to improve the efficiency of local government .

City planning was the rage, too.  The Washington Board of Trade was a prime mover in setting up a commission that, among other things, got the ugly railroad tracks removed from the Mall and helped set up the capital’s park system.  The Cleveland Chamber enlisted the eminent planner Daniel Burnham to help create the city’s Public Square.  And in Chicago, the Commercial Club and the Merchants Association united to fund and publish Burnham’s magnificent Plan of Chicago in 1909, considered by many to be the greatest achievement in this field for that era.

Business organizations in this period were remarkably optimistic about their communities and their abilities.  The president of the San Francisco Chamber wrote after the earthquake and fire of 1906, “it could have been worse.”  In nearby Santa Rosa, a group of merchants formed a chamber after the quake and used the opportunity to widen streets for the new-fangled horseless carriages.  (The same chamber, including its founder, Frank Doyle Jr., would lead the push for the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1920s.)

In the capital of commerce, the New York Merchants’ Association sprang up like a weed after Manhattan, Brooklyn, and nearby areas became an expanded New York City in 1898. The NYMA, which soon would have thousands of members, fought against everything from West Side “rowdies” to the common house fly.  It asked its members in bold print, “Are you doing your share?”   

In 1906, a much older chamber, the New York Chamber of Commerce, explored fundamental changes to the nation’s financial system.  But because a New York-led banking reform movement would be a political nonstarter, the Chicago Association of Commerce (an aggressive new chamber, founded in 1904) was asked to set up the key lobbying organization.  The effort was then folded into the new U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1912, and led to success:  the following year, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Federal Reserve Act.

Small cities were active and innovative, too.  The chamber in Binghamton, N.Y., created a new bureau in 1911 to coordinate business, academic, and federal assistance for farmers.  Its “farm bureau” concept spread to the chambers in Watertown, Cortland, and elsewhere.  This movement soon became independent, although still calling itself the Farm Bureau, and by the 1920s involved more farmers than  did any other organization in the nation.

Other chambers did much to change their communities.  With Galveston devastated by the 1900 hurricane, the Houston Chamber of Commerce redoubled its ancient efforts to beat a better path to the sea.  In order to get the needed money for its Houston Ship Channel, the chamber led one of the first major efforts to raise local matching funds to go with federal appropriations.  Meanwhile, one state away, the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce engineered a coup of its own:  getting the state to move the capital from Guthrie to Oklahoma City in 1910.

Chambers were prime movers behind the “good roads” movement of this period.  Indeed, a U.S. Chamber expert, G. Grosvenor Dawe, noted in 1912 that an explosion in the number of chambers over the past 15 years had coincided with the growth of the good roads movement.  Why?  It was simple, he reported.  Towns had to have access to the nation’s road network or they would be bypassed by the new automobiles.  Business people were among the first to see the need for connection, and they organized into chambers so as to push, sometimes desperately, for the asphalt.

Even in the do-gooder Progressive Era, the old chamber urge to promote and market the community never completely disappeared.  No one could top the Los Angeles Chamber’s Frank Wiggins, who would later be called by Life magazine “the greatest city booster who ever lived.”  It was his chamber that sent out the brochure – bragging about the community’s 350 days of sunshine per year – that caught the attention of Colonel William Selig in Chicago.  Selig in 1907 dispatched a team to Wiggins’s city that would bring a new industry to California: motion pictures.  Three years later, the Los Angeles Chamber grabbed another sun-loving field of enterprise, putting on the first major air show in the United States and thereby “virtually hijacked the newly developing aviation industry in its entirety to Southern California,” according to historian Kevin Starr.

Wiggins was a genius, but the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce knew something about promotion, too.  For example, it seized on Mark Twain’s description of the territory as “the loveliest fleet of islands anchored in any ocean.”  Moreover, it set up a display on Atlantic City’s teeming boardwalk and showed off a drink that Chamber Trustee James Dole had just figured out how to bottle:  pineapple juice.  The drink was an instant sensation.  Dole produced 2,000 test bottles in 1909 and 2 million the following year, creating an effective liquid advertisement for Twain’s paradise.

In this time of optimism, new horizons, and big dreams, one thing went terribly wrong.  On its maiden voyage, the New York-bound passenger ship Titanic struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912, sinking the next day.  One of those on the ship was Isidor Straus, a Macy’s executive and a member and former vice president of the New York Chamber.  Although offered a spot on a lifeboat, he decided to stay aboard the ship and let younger men or others live.  His wife Ida refused to leave him, and they went down together.

The Straus’s deaths were perfectly in line with the motto of the New York Chamber:  “Not born for ourselves alone.”  Hundreds of poems were written about them (and indeed the couple was depicted in James Cameron’s movie, The Titanic).  Three other members of the chamber also died in the North Atlantic, including an Astor and a Guggenheim.

One week after the Titanic sank, on April 22, 1912, 700 business people, led by Chicago banker Harry Wheeler, formed the Chamber of Commerce of the United States.  All of a sudden, the New York Chamber became the second most important business organization in the land.  It would still have great moments, such as in helping create the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, but most of its greatest deeds were behind it.  It would no longer be the place where, as admirer President Theodore Roosevelt had written in 1902, “no [other] body of men can render a greater service.”

Other local chambers, too, were giving something up. But unlike the separate states that came together to make up the United States, the local chambers did not lose any freedom of action. They did relinquish a bit of their call on the attention of the nation. From now on, for many Americans, “the chamber” meant the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

For most chambers, this was a small price to pay for having an organization with the muscle to stand up to organized labor and even, occasionally, to Uncle Sam.  And over the succeeding century, the local business groups would cooperate frequently with their national organization. The project didn’t work out too badly:  the coming 100 years would bring American industry and commerce to unprecedented, almost undreamed-of levels of wealth and power.

And what of all that ambitious, local civic spirit that animated so many people and groups and chambers of commerce in 1912?  Has it disappeared in pervasive national or international organizations and institutions and corporations?  Have we given up so much money and responsibility to governments that we are incapable of doing really ambitious things together, on a voluntary basis?

Perhaps, for the next century, the big questions will not be about institutions, but about us.  The New York Chamber first confronted such issues at its founding in 1768.  Are we, indeed, not born for ourselves alone?  And if so, what will we do for the places where we live?

Reprinted with permission from
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Friday Links

Ian Scott on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 4:45:00 pm 

Our friends and partners around the economic development world produce some great content. Here's a sampling of recent items worth reading:

The Startup Act
Policy information from the Kauffman Foundation

Last December, U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced The Startup Act, a piece of legislation born out of Kauffman Foundation research aimed at jump-starting the economy through the creation and growth of new businesses ventures. The broad ranging proposal touches on patent law, taxes, regulation and immigration.

Going Home
Blog post from Market Street Services
Rural regions have been hit hard, but some are employing sound economic development practices to rally.

Progress Report: Job Growth in U.S. Metros
Employment snapshot from Garner Economics

A majority of U.S. metro regions saw year-over-year job growth in 2011, but only 15% have exceeded pre-recession employment levels. Dig in to the numbers with this report from Garner Economics.

Entrepreneurs' Resource Center
Information collection from the Edward Lowe Foundation

This collection includes hundreds of articles and briefs on topics ranging from managing finance to defining your market. Business solutions gleaned from business owners for business owners - all available for free online.

Oklahoma MSA’s Set For Economic Success
Blog post from Resource Development Group
There is no doubt Oklahoma City has been one of the biggest economic development success stories of the past two decades. The region's recent development history is summed up succinctly in this blog post.

Tags: ec, Economic Development, Friday Links

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Signs of Growth, Really!

Bob Quick, CCE, President and CEO, Commerce Lexington, Inc. on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 3:22:00 pm 

ACCE Economic and Community Development Division, Chairman's Message from February 2011

How many times have you heard 'green shoots' mentioned relative to the US economy since 2008? Too many to count I'm sure. But many regions actually saw signs of growth in 2011. Here in Lexington, expansion and relocation projects added 1,300 new direct jobs and millions in new investment to the Bluegrass Region. A $17 million dollar global headquarters expansion by Tempur-Pedic that created 65 new jobs was a particular bright spot.

I'm cautiously optimistic about 2012, and after talking with colleagues across the country, I know many other regions are also seeing signs of growth. This good news can't come soon enough for our friends and neighbors who've lost a job during the downturn, but we know economic development is measured in years, not days. Today's investment announcement began years ago as careful planning, good strategy, and effective marketing led by a chamber or EDC. And more than ever, economic development success comes less from industrial recruitment and more from building a vibrant community with talented workers and a pro-business climate. This is work every chamber in the country can, and should, lead.

The ACCE Economic and Community Development Division's core goal is to provide chamber leaders access to the information, individuals, and ideas that will help them build more competitive, prosperous regions. The role has never been more difficult or more important. Over the coming year the Division will organize and produce webinars, convention speakers, magazine articles, a benchmarking survey, and new information office content all focused on helping you drive economic growth in your community.

Tags: chairman, Economic Development, EDC Division

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Outstanding Indiana Chamber of the Year Goes To . . .

Tania Kohut on Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 
The Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County was named Outstanding Indiana Chamber of the Year by the Indiana Chamber Executives Association (ICEA). The presentation was made during ICEA's annual winter conference in Indianapolis this week.

The award recognizes organizational excellence in chambers of commerce and is based on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s accreditation process for local chambers. It highlights accomplishments in the areas of leadership/governance, finance, advocacy and membership development.

“This recognition is further testament to the influential work of The Chamber,” said Jeff Rea, president and CEO of The Chamber. “Although we are membership-based with more than 1,100 member businesses representing 90,000 employees, our strategic vision focuses on issues and initiatives that positively impact the area economy. We represent the interests of business, providing leadership and influence to move our community forward,” said Rea. “This recognition means we are doing the right things and people are paying attention.”

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James Vaughan Announces Retirement

Tania Kohut on Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 12:00:00 pm 
James G. Vaughan Jr., President and CEO of the Greater Waco Chamber in Texas, announced on Wednesday, Feb. 8, his plans to retire on June 30, 2012 or as soon thereafter as his successor is named.

According to the press release issued by the chamber, May 1 will mark Jim's eight years serving as president and CEO of the Greater Waco Chamber and 42 years as a chamber professional and consultant to local chambers.

“The approaching reality of these milestones has led my wife, Patty, and me to reflect on my career and our future and we have decided that it is time to retire from active Chamber work,” Vaughan said.

So what's next for Jim? During his retirement he plans to work as a consultant part time in the areas of his greatest interest—strategic planning, sustainable development and fund-raising.
In his eight years with the chamber, he has made a tremendous impact and will leave behind quite a number of accomplishments. Constructing Waco’s “first green chamber building in America” has been one of the most visible accomplishments of his time at the Chamber, but he indentified many other successes by the chamber, its volunteer leadership, staff and public and private sector partners, including:

• Attracting 20 new companies and 40 expansions by existing firms; 5,314 new jobs, 3,190 jobs retained and $740 million capital invested in projects assisted by the chamber’s economic development staff;

• Developing and implementing a master plan for the Waco Industrial Foundation business parks including $6.8 million invested in new infrastructure and $6 million to acquire additional property to accommodate development.

• Making urban development a chamber and community priority; projecting a billion dollar decade downtown; defining Greater Downtown and making the case for a 40-year plan and 100,000 people living and working downtown; and advocating for smart growth and sustainable development.

• Advocating for official standing in the permitting process for coal-fired electric generating plants in Greater Waco that contributed to TXU’s decision not to build the plants.

• Establishing the Community Development division to engage members and staff in education, workforce and a range of quality of life initiatives.

• Matching 40 business mentors with 115 Waco Independent School District students during five years, and all of the seniors in this program have graduated and gone to college.

• Reviving the One Book One Waco community-wide reading program and supporting a variety of efforts to reduce poverty and hunger here.

• Growing the sports luncheon series to average 1,100 in attendance at each event; starting the TriWaco triathlon which attracted more than 900 runners in 2011; and increasing participation in the Starburst Junior Golf Classic to 1000 boys and girls annually on nine courses.

• Starting a quarterly magazine, weekly electronic newsletter, monthly television program and eight websites to promote chamber programs and to help change perceptions about Greater Waco.

• Increasing the Chamber’s annual budget from $1.5 million in 2004 to $3.3 million in 2012; enlarging the organization’s professional staff from 13 to 21; and raising $5.9 million for annual operations in seven all-volunteer Total Resource Campaigns.

The Chamber has formed a search committee to begin a nationwide search for a new president and CEO of the chamber.

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