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This holiday season, "Take It Easy"

Mick Fleming on Monday, December 26, 2016 at 9:00:00 am 

I used to say that the biggest fictions in "Chamberworld" were a staffer’s job description and a CEO’s calendar, but here’s an even bigger myth: a chamber professional’s holiday.

I know you’re probably taking some days off at this time of year, BUT you event planners and communicators will keep on worrying about deadlines. Chamber public affairs pros will scan state news websites and bosses will worry about everything, including 100 problems facing your members, the economy and the mayor.

BUT, in the immortal words of Glenn Frey and his neighbor Jackson Browne: “Don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy.” Your set of wheels is the drive to deliver, know, anticipate, assist, sell, please, build, articulate and show up. They hum and occasionally thump under you, even when you’re standing on a corner in Winslow, or next to an electrified tree resting in a bowl of water on your living room floor.

Just for a couple of days, "Take It Easy." I don’t want you crazy in 2017! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah! Onward to an exciting New Year!

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Chamber Public Policy Leaders Meet in Cleveland

Will Burns on Friday, December 9, 2016 at 12:00:00 am 

Senior government relations leaders from 21 metro regional chambers recently met to discuss priority issues, political activity, and advocacy best practices. The meeting was hosted by the Greater Cleveland Partnership, who also provided an update on how hosting the 2016 Republican National Convention impacted the city’s ongoing growth.

Highlights of the discussion include:

Transportation: Chambers across the country supported regional ballot measures to increase funding for critical transportation and transit projects. Nationwide, voters approved referendum that raised more than $200 billion in revenue, including chamber-backed initiatives Atlanta, Ga.; Austin, Texas; Charleston, S.C.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Los Angeles Calif.; Raleigh, N.C.; San Francisco, Calif.; and Spokane Wash.

Education & Workforce: Improving education at all levels to address workforce needs is crucial to economic vitality. Participants discussed chamber efforts all along the cradle-to-career spectrum, including an early childhood education funding ballot initiative in Cincinnati, K-12 reform in Milwaukee, apprenticeship programs in Denver and Charleston, scholarship programs in Detroit, efforts to upskill workers in Grand Rapids, and efforts to align talent supply with employer demand in Atlanta.

Political Action: Chambers are relying more on Super PACs, organized as 527 or 501(c)4 organizations, to promote key issues and influence elections. Participants also expressed an interest in increasing the scope and effectiveness of candidate development activities. From candidate identification and recruitment to policy education and campaign consulting support, ACCE will develop resources over the coming months to share best practices from around the country. 

Advocacy Communications: Email newsletters remain the primary form of communicating policy priorities to members, but policy blogs, video updates and social media are more important than ever. The frequent updates help to raise awareness of chamber priorities and drive additional traffic to chamber websites. In fact, some policy blogs receive more web traffic than the main chamber websites. Examples discussed during the meeting include the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Policy Blog, Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Insights video series and the Indy Chamber’s Team 317 social media ambassadors program.

Special thanks to the Greater Cleveland Partnership President and CEO Joe Roman and Senior Vice President Marty McGann for hosting the event. Additional thanks to the Metro Atlanta Chamber for sponsoring the meeting and MAC’s Chief Policy Officer Katie Kirkpatrick for facilitating the discussion.

For more information about how you can get involved in ACCE’s Government Affairs Division, contact Will Burns at wburns@acce.org.

 

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Close Finish for Orlando’s WCF Bid

Mick Fleming on Thursday, December 8, 2016 at 12:00:00 am 

Orlando, Inc. (Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce) put together a powerful bid to host the 2019 World Chambers Congress, but in the end, voters from around the world gave a slight edge to Rio de Janeiro. Executive Director Jim Thomas, who crafted and presented the bid on behalf of the Orlando, Inc., the Central Florida Partnership and Visit Orlando expressed both pride in the team’s work and disappointment. Mick Fleming, who serves as vice chairman of World Chambers Federation was also saddened by the news, in part because the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives planned to combine its annual convention with the World Chamber Congress, producing the largest chamber gathering in the history of the world. In the end, issues like U.S. visa access provided a slim measure of victory for Brazil.

The World Chambers Federation Congress in 2017 will be in Sydney, Australia in September. ACCE will provide registration “scholarships” (rebates) for the first ten North American chambers that enroll in the Sydney Congress. Two different airlines have agreed to reduce fares 40 percent.

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Hewlett Foundation Grant to Boost ACCE Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Work

Will Burns on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 12:00:00 am 

Increasing diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the chamber movement is a major priority for the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE). We believe that communities with a local chamber fully committed to diversity and economic inclusion are better equipped to improve community, civic, and economic vitality.

ACCE’s diversity and inclusion efforts received a boost earlier this year when the Community Growth Education Foundation was selected to participate in a William and Flora Hewlett Foundation pilot project. The Hewlett Foundation selected 10 of its deeper learning grantees to receive a planning grant to help build capacity and strengthen organizational effectiveness in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion.

As part of the project, ACCE will better articulate the business case for chamber-led efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in communities across the country. We will also arm chamber leaders with the resources they need to make the case to their boards of directors, business members, and other community stakeholders.

One element of our efforts over the next year will be to develop a chamber-specific business case for economic inclusion. We have commissioned professors Chris Benner Ph.D., of the University of California, Santa Cruz and Manual Pastor, Ph.D., of the University of Southern California to lead the research effort. The goal for the publication is to spark a dialogue around economic inclusion and diversity issues throughout the chamber industry.

ACCE’s focus on D&I began with the 2011 launch of the Diversity & Inclusion Division to provide chamber professionals a forum to discuss workforce, workplace and marketplace diversity and inclusion initiatives. Through D&I Division programming and peer sharing, ACCE advances equity issues throughout the chamber profession and encourages chamber leaders to pursue efforts to build more economically and socially inclusive regions.

You can learn more about ACCE’s D&I Division online here.

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Smoky Mountains communities unite to support area tourism

Courtesy of Brenda McCroskey, CEO, Sevierville Chamber of Commerce (Tenn.) on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 12:00:00 am 

As the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee begin the recovery process following the Nov. 28 wildfires, Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevier County (Tennessee) tourism officials have united to reinforce a strong message delivered by Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner.

"If you really want to do something for Gatlinburg, come back and visit us,” Werner said in a Nov. 30 press conference, encouraging visitation as a show of support to the popular vacation destination located next door to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the nation’s most visited. Werner lost his home and business in the fire.

The area has received an overwhelming outpouring of donations, phone calls and support from community members. First responders from across the country helped battle the blaze.

“The generosity and concern shown to our community is a blessing beyond words,” said Mark Adams, Chief Executive Officer of the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “But it has also reinforced to us that our community is not just here at home. Our community is all the folks who have visited with us through the years, who feel a very special connection to our cities and these mountains. They continue to ask us how they can best help us because they, too, want to see this area rebuild.”  

According to Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Council Director Mary Hope Maples, tourism is the county’s largest industry. “Tourism is the lifeblood of Sevier County and its three gateway cities—Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Our tourism officials have an obligation to our residents to sustain our tourism industry to ensure that employees have jobs to support themselves and their families.”

A Community Resource Center opened on Dec. 1 to assist residents with insurance claims, unemployment filings, building permits for both residential and commercial structures, driver’s license replacement and other processes necessary during the rebuilding process. In addition, several employment agencies are on site to help displaced workers find jobs.

Sevier County tourism officials are reinforcing the message that the vacation destination’s many attractions, theatres, restaurants and lodging properties are operating as usual after recent wildfires in the area. In Gatlinburg, the area surrounding downtown Gatlinburg experienced significant losses this week; however, the heart of the city’s town is intact. The structures along Gatlinburg’s main strip still stand, including Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, Ole Smoky Distillery, the Gatlinburg Space Needle, and the Convention Center.

Businesses in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville suffered no damages, and are operating as usual. Dollywood, the state’s most-visited ticketed attraction is open. Also, Smoky Mountain Winterfest festival, which spans all three cities, continues through Feb. 28. Restaurants and lodging properties in Pigeon Forge are operating on normal schedules.

“Many people have asked us how to help. One of the best ways to help the Smoky Mountains recover from the wildfire’s impact is to come visit us and help keep our community strong and working,” said Brenda McCroskey, Chief Executive Officer of the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce.

“We are happy to report that businesses along the Parkway in Sevierville, including Tanger Outlets and Apple Barn and Cider Mill, are open as usual and ready to help you enjoy your Smoky Mountain vacation,” McCroskey added.

“As we strive to keep our folks working so that they can support themselves and their families, our greater community can help us in several ways,” said Leon Downey, Executive Director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “If you have reservations, don’t cancel; come and see us during Winterfest. Consider us as you make your plans for spring break and next summer’s vacation. This will help us sustain our businesses and jobs.”

For more information about Smoky Mountain Winterfest as well as other information about visiting Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevier County, please visit www.SmokiesFun.com.

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How can I not love this job!?

Mick Fleming on Monday, December 5, 2016 at 12:00:00 am 

In late November, I had the pleasure of visiting three very different communities: Greenville, S.C.; Carmel, Ind.; and Madrid, Spain.

The first features a stunningly beautiful downtown in a region that has attracted major international manufacturers. The second embodies the best of suburban/exurban living, with prosperous neighborhoods, vibrant retail, abundant high quality health care and vibrant small employers. And Madrid is a major world capital struggling successfully to recover from a deep, long recession.

In these places, I met with chamber board members determined to drive their organizations and regions to new heights, largely through bolstering private business success. The Greenville Chamber is a mature, well-resourced operation, led by a new CEO—a proven professional with the skills and wisdom to kick things up several notches. OneZone—in Hamilton County, Ind.—is a recently merged entity serving multiple communities, with daring volunteer and staff leaders. Everyone involved is determined to plan the future they want, rather than stumbling forward on hopes alone. And the Madrid and Spanish chambers are navigating the transition from a government funded, public-law chamber into a privately funded, service focused advocacy organization.

If we can help these organizations—and we do; if we can learn lessons from them to share with others—and we can; if we can be inspired by their energy—and we are, ACCE and the chamber movement will be vibrant for years to come.

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