Key Economic Indicators Delivered to Your Inbox
Insperity, a provider of an array of human resources and business solutions to help improve business performance, offers economic infographics titled, The Economy at a Glance, that you can have delivered to your inbox.
Key economic indicators, including unemployment, GDP growth, consumer spending and existing home sales provide a comprehensive snapshot of the U.S. economy at large. The monthly infographic outlines the numbers that matter most to you, your business and your employees. Download the January 2014 Economy at a Glance [infographic]; click here to receive these stats via email each month.
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Go Ahead, Tell Your Story
Guest blog entry by Jackie Krawczak, Executive Director, Alpena Area (MI) Chamber of Commerce
When the Alpena Chamber of Commerce was awarded the 2009 Outstanding Chamber of the Year Award in the State of Michigan and was a runner up for the 2010 and 2012 awards, we didn’t just congratulate ourselves at a staff meeting and then hope that others happened to hear about it. Heck no. We promoted it until we were blue in the face. We sent a press release, put it on our letterhead, our Facebook page, and our website. We talked about it. We tweeted about it. We wanted anyone and everyone to know about it.
A business owner said to me the other day that one of their competitors had posted a picture of their staff giving money to a community cause. He told me they had also given money to the same cause but hadn’t thought about taking a photo and sharing the story.
I was at an organization’s board meeting last week and the directors were discussing their frustration that many people didn’t know that they had played a key role in something big that had happened recently.
So what’s this all about? I’ve noticed a trend recently. I’m not sure how to best describe the trend, other than saying that the bottom line appears to be that we seem to be much too modest. And too much modesty can be damaging.
Saying that is a bit risky, I know. Some degree of modesty is a good thing. No one likes to spend time with “that person” who seems to brag about himself every chance he gets. But never telling your story won’t do you much good either. Because if you don’t tell your own story, who else is going to? Unless it’s a completely amazing or unusual story, chances are quite slim that someone will stumble upon it and tell everyone for you.
I know telling your own story might make some of you uncomfortable. But consider the following. The person who isn’t afraid to tell his story tends to get the job over someone who isn’t comfortable or good at telling his story. The business leaders who tell their philanthropic or customer service stories tend to create a better perception of their business and attract more new customers than the ones who don’t.
The community that tells their story and talks about how great they are tends to attract visitors, businesses, and development at a greater rate than the community that sits back and hopes someone else discovers their great opportunities.
I’m not sure why this seems to be a hot topic lately. Maybe it is because we are feeling the competitiveness that comes with a tight economy. You have to find a way to stand out and telling your story is one way to do that. You can choose whether or not you want to tell your personal story. If you are a business owner you can choose whether or not you want to tell your business story. But if you want the community to have a better chance of growth, please make it a point to tell the community’s story.
I’ll let you in on a little-known piece of information. It’s not a secret. It’s just not widely known. When we were awarded the Outstanding Chamber Award, we had to nominate ourselves for the award. Any chamber that wants to be considered must self-nominate. The nominations are what the judges use to make their decision. Nominating yourself is the only way to get that recognition. And there’s nothing wrong with it. Of course nominating yourself doesn’t guarantee recognition, but guess what we get if we don’t tell our story? Absolutely nothing. No one is going to find us and tell our story. If we want others, outside the scope of those immediately involved, to know the great things we do, we must take it into our own hands. Just like if we want people to know what a great community this is, we have to do it ourselves. So let’s talk about it. Throw some of that modesty aside and start telling your story.
Greater Spokane Inc's Business AfterSchool Program Brings Companies & Students Together
Last week Greater Spokane Inc. hosted Engineering Week as part of its Business AfterSchool Program. Business AfterSchool brings area students and parents to Spokane's high-demand industry sectors and companies to teach them about different careers and the skills needed to land available jobs. The program will devote one week each to focus on these industries: health care, engineering, manufacturing and computer science.
Regional Cooperation in Waco
An historic announcement from central Texas this week…10 local and ethnic chambers of commerce across McLennan County announced the signing of an MOU to form an alliance. The McLennan County Chamber Alliance forges a closer working relationship (and cements board level cross-pollination) between the organizations on public policy, economic and community development, infrastructure and other key issues.
“We can do special things if we work together,” said Matt Meadors, Greater Waco Chamber CEO. Anyone who’s tried to build a regional coalition knows how many barriers and interests are overcome to get to this stage of cooperation. We’ll be watching as this group evolves.
Recent Poll from Achieve Tracks Voter Perceptions of New Education Standards
Achieve, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization, recently conducted a national poll to determine voter perceptions of public education and the Common Core State Standards. Here are some highlights from the survey:
- In the landscape of issues facing the country, public education was ranked on par with the economy and government spending, with 82% ranking improving the quality of public education extremely/very important compared to 88% for job creation and economic growth, and 78% for reducing the federal deficit and government spending.
- About two-thirds (67%) of voters agree that it is better for states to have the same standards in math and English rather than having different standards.
- The majority of those polled (63%) reported hearing little or nothing about Common Core State Standards. Those who were aware were split in their opinion of the standards – 37% favorable; 40% unfavorable.
- However, once the respondents were provided with an explanation of Common Core State Standards and then asked if they would favor or oppose their implementation, a solid majority 69% (36% very strongly) were in favor vs. 23% in opposition.
The poll also tested who voters trusted the most when it came to information about education reform. The most powerful messengers were – in order – teachers, principals/superintendents, educational leaders and college presidents. Local employers also carry a lot of weight, particularly among business leaders.
ACCE’s Education team is working closely with Achieve and other national education foundations to spread word about the critical importance of improving college and career readiness. There are several resources available to help your chamber communicate effectively about education reform and the Common Core State Standards. Achieve has compiled a comprehensive set of tools and resources available at www.businessandeducation.org. You can also check out a previous ACCE blog post on Business-Friendly Tools for Chambers to Support a College & Career-Ready Agenda.
If you have any education-related questions contact Jessie Azrillian at email@example.com, 703.998.3571.
Created in 1996 by a bipartisan group of governors and business leaders, Achieve is dedicated to working with states to raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability. The national poll was conducted in November of 2013.
Quickpoll Results: Common Core Standards
In reviewing the poll results, we learned that:
- My chamber has a policy platform that includes or emphasizes higher/ more rigorous K-12 academic standards and assessments as a strategic priority. 44% said "Yes" and 22% indicated "No, but would like to develop one." 31% said "No".
- 88% of responders said they are "working with the state education agency / local school districts / local teachers. 79% said they are "communicating to chamber members about the CCSS/higher standards." And 63% are "holding events focusing on CCSS/higher standards and/or inviting education leaders to speak at chamber events about CCSS/higher standards.
- Find these statistics and more in our QuickPoll on Common Core Standards.
For assistance with education programs at your chamber, please engage with ACCE's Education Attainment Division or contact Alysia Bell or Jessie Azrilian or call (213) 580-7535. You can also update your profile status online to receive Division communications.
Business Outlook Reports Offer Some Optimism, but Employers Still Fearful of Uncertainty
The recent release of several economic outlook reports offers a mixed bag of attitudes from employers. While many are optimistic the economy will pick-up in 2014, most are still expressing concerns about the ‘unknowns’ including the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the regulatory environment, immigration reform and the new call for an increase in the minimum wage. Here’s a round-up of some of the results.
- McDonald Hopkins, a business advisory and advocacy law firm, recently released its 2014 Business Outlook Survey. The headline is that ‘2014 is the great unknown.’ There is considerable caution and uncertainty as respondents expressed numerous concerns about the rising cost and complexity of healthcare and fear of additional burdensome regulations. Some highlights include:
- 67% believe the Affordable Care Act will have a negative impact on their company’s bottom line; and 46% said increasing health care costs are the greatest challenge facing their company
- They have no confidence in Congress to help improve business conditions, with just 33% saying they are cautiously optimistic
- 41% say they are likely to ‘slightly’ increase their number of employees and the same percentage – 41% say their number of employees will stay about the same
- 51% expect to make a ‘moderate’ investment in capital; 55% will dedicate more resources to domestic growth
- The National Federation of Independent Business’ latest survey indicates that only 12% of small business owners plan to add jobs in the next three months. However, NFIB’s Chief Economist Bill Dunkelburg calls the number ‘solid’ and says it is the highest job creation since September 2007. “Small businesses are telling us they would hire more workers if they could find qualified applicants,” added Dunkelburg. “Nearly half of NFIB members surveyed said they tried to hire workers, but reported few or no qualified applicants for open positions.”
- The recent Federal Reserve report indicates banks are easing lending restrictions making it easier for businesses to access new capital. According to the survey, ‘Banks eased their lending policies for commercial and industrial loans to firms of all sizes and experienced stronger demand for such loans over the past three months.” The banks cited increased competition, a more favorable economic outlook and a greater tolerance for risk for the new standards.
- Finally, economists polled in USA TODAY’s quarterly survey predict that the U.S. economy is headed for stronger growth in 2014. They also believe we will see steady improvement in the unemployment rate. Many of the 40 economists surveyed Feb 5-6 cut their first-quarter forecasts due to the January weather and an expected pull-back in business stockpiling after firms aggressively replenished shelves in the second half of 2013.
- “While growth late last year was driven largely by the stockpiling, this year's expansion will be fueled by higher consumer and business spending,” says Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist of Barclays Capital.
- "I think we will regain momentum and not fall on our face," says Diane Swonk, chief economist of Mesirow Financial, drawing a contrast with previous ups and downs in the five-year-old recovery.
In the Know: Operations Survey Tutorial
It's time to participate in ACCE's Annual Operations Survey. The Operations Survey provides chambers with information they can use to establish comparisons and benchmarks with similar chambers of commerce.
Participate in the 2013-2014 Operations Survey NOW through March 3rd.
To get started, please view our NEW TUTORIAL on completing the Operations Survey.
Ready to jump right in? Visit our Operations Survey web page complete with access links and instructions.
Here are the direct steps to complete the Survey:
- Click on this link to start the survey. You will be asked to login. If you need your ACCE username and password, request it here.
- Click on Start for your organization
- From the links at the top of the "Start" page, you can print a PDF of the survey, or you can see your survey responses from last year (if you participated)
- If you have any difficulty accessing or completing the survey, please email HERO@acce.org.
Here is a link to a list of Standard Definitions. Please review these to be sure that you are accurately reporting your data.
For any questions or assistance, please email HERO@acce.org.
What does the State of the Union Address Mean for Business?
President Obama laid out his agenda in his State of the Union address declaring 2014 would be a ‘year of action.’ Despite his promise to do whatever he needs to do to move the country forward whether Congress is willing to or not, it is unclear exactly what the administration can, or will, implement without Congressional approval. So what should businesses anticipate from the White House in the coming year?
- He assigned Joe Biden the task of a top-to-bottom review of the government’s job-training programs.
- He asked businesses to take the lead in hiring the long-term unemployed and creating more job apprenticeship programs.
- He introduced a plan to start manufacturing innovation institutes and pledged to assist manufacturers with finding skilled employees.
- He is planning a summit on family-friendly workplaces.
- He flexed his muscles on minimum wage by indicating he will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay at least $10.10 per hour and strongly encouraged the Congress and/or state and local governments to raise the minimum wage across the board.
- He offered two proposals to address what experts have called a “retirement-savings crisis” - automatic IRA’s where workers opt-out rather than opt-in; and directing the Treasury to create a new government-backed retirement plan for small-dollar savers to be offered through employers.
- He promised to ‘streamline the permitting process’ for key infrastructure projects.
- Congress – with some help from the Supreme Court – has already given the President the authority he needs to roll out aggressive regulations on coal-fired power plants. He has directed the EPA to present draft rules by June 1.
- He once again asked Congress to pass tax reform, however his proposal falls short of details and fails to address what most businesses are looking for. He says his proposal would simplify the corporate tax code and use revenue generated from the transition to a new tax system to finance infrastructure projects. He also says he would use money generated by tax reform to pay for deficit reduction. But with a lack of specificity on what ‘reform’ actually means it’s hard to understand how the new revenue would be generated.
- He once again called on Congress to pass immigration reform, although he spent very little time talking about the issue, presumably to give the House the room it needs to maneuver. However, House Speaker John Boehner has indicated the Republicans in the House are hesitant to pass any type of reforms because they ‘do not trust the administration’ to enforce border security and law enforcement.
The Push for Tax Reform Continues in Statehouses in 2014
When it comes to the scope and sheer number of tax reforms proposed and enacted in the states, 2013 was a year like none before. However, as states continue to tinker with their tax systems, most have tended to overlook the need for more fundamental tax reform to reflect structural economic changes. Tax reform, according to University of Tennessee professor William Fox, "would seem to achieve more goals than just revenue chasing. Other goals might include better revenue elasticity, improved fairness, reduced efficiency costs, and easier administration and compliance."
2014 is shaping up to be another busy year. At least four governors will push to revamp their states’ tax systems in 2014, and several more are proposing significant changes or cuts. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has created a “Quick Guide to Key Trends and States to Watch in 2014 State Tax Policy Debates.”
Few issues are as important to the business community as taxes, and as a result, staying informed about tax policy changes and their implications is a critical job for Chambers of Commerce. To help you keep up, ACCE has updated its Chamberpedia page on Taxes with several new links and resources. Click here to check it out.
ACCE will continue to closely monitor state tax policy proposals as they develop and keep you up-to-date with the latest information.
If you have any questions about Tax Reform, policy positions on Tax Reform or additional resources to add to the Chamberpedia page, please contact Carmen Hickerson at CHickerson@acce.org.