Menu

Blogs

Midwestern momentum

Ben Goldstein on Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 9:35:00 am 

For Matt Pivarnik, president and CEO of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, the most important part of any strategic plan is the results. So when the chamber and its community partners began crafting Momentum 2022, he opted for a five-year plan, as opposed to some of the longer-running strategic documents seen elsewhere.

“We chose a 60-month plan because we wanted to have an immediate and measurable impact,” said Pivarnik. “We didn’t call this Momentum 2035 or Momentum 2050 for a reason.”

In its early stages, the plan was guided by a 43-member steering committee that drew from the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Among the committee’s findings was a need for enhanced talent development efforts to build out a stronger workforce for the region.

“We put a very heavy focus on development of homegrown talent in Momentum 2022,” said Kayla Bitler, strategic coordinator at the Greater Topeka Chamber. “Some areas of emphasis are ensuring that all children are ready for kindergarten, and that every student has a pathway to college or a career.”

A second leg of the campaign is enhancing “quality of place” in the Topeka region, by building out amenities like pedestrian walkways, expanding access to the city’s riverfront and adding more recreational and residential offerings to the city’s downtown core—a process Pivarnik says is already underway.

“We’re seeing a real resurgence in restaurants and bars,” he said, adding, “If you want a loft in downtown, you’ll have to get in line, because right now everyone wants a loft in downtown.”

The plan calls for the consolidation of the Greater Topeka Chamber and three other economic development groups — GO Topeka, Visit Topeka and Downtown Topeka Inc. — into one umbrella organization, which will be called Greater Topeka Partnership. The organizations will retain their boards and CEOs, and will coordinate through a council including the four CEOs, their chair-elects and several at-large members.

“Bringing together these four groups will enable all of us to perform our work with a type of coordination we haven’t seen in the past,” said Curtis Sneeden, the chamber’s executive vice president. “We’ll enjoy a number of operational efficiencies just by being together under one roof.”

Pivarnik says he brought the idea for the consolidation of the four groups with him from his previous role at the Greater Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, which operates under a similar structure.

“When I was at the Tulsa Chamber, which has 15-plus organizations and brands operating under one umbrella, I didn’t understand how powerful that structure really was until I had to operate without it,” he said. “Personally, I don’t think it’s efficient for cities to have all of these separate convention and visitors bureaus and downtown organizations.”

Pivarnik says he hopes that by 2022, people from around the world will think of Topeka as a city that has undergone a rapid transformation in a short period of time.

“When people hear about Topeka, Kansas, in the future, I want them to think of it as a ‘renaissance city,’ and a magnet for entrepreneurial development and talent attraction,” he said. “We want people from around the world to know about all of the positive things happening in our region.”

Want to be featured in the #ACCESpotlight? Share your story with Ben Goldstein.

Tags: Economic Development, Strategic Plan, Talent Attraction and Retention, Topeka Chamber

Rate this Article  rating of 0 from 0 votes
Spotlight | 0 Comments | Add a Comment | Permalink |

Immigration fuels the Great Lakes region

Ben Goldstein on Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 9:00:00 am 

The Great Lakes region is an economic powerhouse, fueled by manufacturing, international trade and a combined GDP of more than $6 trillion.

One of the biggest drivers of regional growth is sometimes absent from the popular narrative—immigration. That message is on display in a new report from the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, published in partnership with New American Economy.

“We wanted to respond to the narrative that our region is isolationist and not welcoming of immigrants,” said Brandon Mendoza, manager of government affairs at the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. “We wanted to say, 'actually, immigration in this region has helped accelerate our economies away from what folks refer to as the Rust Belt and the manufacturing decline.'”

One important way that immigration fuels economic growth is by combatting population decline and out-migration. Immigrants were responsible for more than half of the region’s population growth from 2000–15. Foreign-born workers are also younger, on average, than their native-born counterparts, which helps keep the region’s workforce youthful and vital as Baby Boomers retire in large numbers.

“When you look at the top 25 metros in the Great Lakes area, immigration has been a net-positive in terms of reversing out-migration and growing their populations,” said Mendoza. “It’s a lifeblood for a lot of these cities like Pittsburgh, Rochester or Akron, where slow population growth really acts as a drag on economic growth, in general.”

But immigrants are not only filling jobs, the report found. They are also creating them, in large numbers. The study found that immigrant entrepreneurs make up 20 percent of small business owners, and have created over 226,000 jobs in the region from 2000–15.

“Immigrants, by their very nature, are risk-takers,” explained Mendoza. “They’re taking a big risk moving to a foreign country and restarting, so they’re more inclined to start new businesses.”

Mendoza stressed that immigration should be understood as a regional issue, not a national one.

“Our whole message is that we should be thinking about immigration in terms of regions,” he said. “In the Great Lakes region, we really need to make sure our immigration numbers are high and we’re supporting high-skill immigrants, as well as comprehensive legislation at some point in the future.”

Want to be featured in the #ACCESpotlight? Share your story with Ben Goldstein.

Tags: Great Lakes Chambers Coalition, Great Lakes Region, Immigration, Research, Survey

Rate this Article  rating of 0 from 0 votes
Spotlight | 0 Comments | Add a Comment | Permalink |

Energized to save

Ben Goldstein on Monday, November 13, 2017 at 8:00:00 am 

Tony Rescigno, president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, has seen a lot of things change in his 17-year career leading the organization. And even now, as he makes plans to step down from the helm, Rescigno is exploring ways to transform the chamber’s energy footprint to a more sustainable model better-suited for the 21st century.

He’s doing it through the Energize Connecticut initiative, a partnership between the state of Connecticut and its utility providers that helps businesses and residences trim energy costs. The program is funded through the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, which, in turn, is paid for through a surcharge on customer energy bills.

“A year ago we went from having a lease that didn’t include energy costs to a new lease that required us to pay, and you have a different attitude when you have to pay for it,” said Rescigno. “Through this program, we’ve estimated projected savings of over $5,000 annually, which is huge for us.”

Rescigno says the chamber has already realized substantial savings by swapping out the chamber’s old lighting for 256 LED fixtures designed to reduce costs and improve lighting quality. Next, he wants to replace the chamber’s fleet of 45 heating and air conditioning units with newer, more efficient models through the energy initiative.

“The cost of energy in the state of Connecticut is unbelievably high, and it’s one of the major deficits we face trying to attract businesses,” said Rescigno. “The fact that we’re showing other businesses how to lower those costs by investing in energy efficient alternatives is something we’re very proud of.”

Through Energize Connecticut, workers from state utility United Illuminating visited the chamber and drafted a conservation plan to help it identify opportunities for saving. The chamber’s monthly lighting bills are already one-third lower, down from $1,500 to $1,000.

“The first thing they do is send somebody to do an analysis and literally count the light fixtures,” said Rescigno. “The total investment on our part is less than $4,000, and we plan on making that all up in a year or less, so we weren’t at all worried about putting up the cash for this.”

Rescigno, who announced plans to retire earlier this year, said he’s accepted a part-time position at Southern Connecticut State University as a business executive-in-residence. One of his tasks in that job will be facilitating collaboration between the local business community and its talented student population, which includes Yale University.

“My next job will involve connecting the business school with the students with the businesses in the region,” he said. “That plays into my strengths, because I’ve been around a long time and I know a lot of these people.”

Want to be featured in the #ACCESpotlight? Share your story with Ben Goldstein.

 

Tags: Cost-Savings, Energy usage, Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, Sustainability

Rate this Article  rating of 0 from 0 votes
Spotlight | 0 Comments | Add a Comment | Permalink |

Think big, Shop Small

Ben Goldstein on Friday, November 3, 2017 at 11:00:00 am 

Small businesses are the backbone of local economies, and oftentimes are some of the most engaged members of chambers of commerce. Small Business Saturday, which falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, was launched by American Express in 2010, as a way to encourage people to patronize small businesses.

Each year, American Express invites community organizations, businesses and chambers of commerce to pledge to be Neighborhood Champions, and provides them with resources and marketing materials to promote the day.

Here are a few ways chambers are celebrating, and why they’ve made it a priority to do so.

How is the chamber celebrating Small Business Saturday?

Jessica Hart, Billings Chamber (Mont.): “For the past five years, we’ve made a Monopoly board featuring our small business members. Because it’s grown so much since then, we’ve decided to make a checkers board instead for this year. The way it works is people shop at the businesses on the board and return their game pieces to any of the participating businesses. That way they can enter to earn gift cards and prizes from our members.”

Robert Killen, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce (Ore.): “Now that Small Business Saturday is fairly-well established, we’ve decided to launch a full suite of programs throughout the month of November, which we’ve identified here as business development month, like a leadership symposium, some lunch-and-learns and a half-day business conference. We’re also creating a bingo card filled with businesses participating in our downtown region, and once somebody gets five in a row they can turn that into the stores and enter into a raffle for some gift baskets we’ll assemble, too.”

Anna Rainhouse, Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce (N.Y.): “We’re having a kick-off party where we’re giving out goody bags of promotional materials and save-the-date pamphlets for our member businesses. We’re also promoting what we call the “12 Days of Shopping Small,” where we’re using little passports, and anybody who shops locally over the next 12 days can get their passport stamped and return it for prizes and rewards.”

What is the value of celebrating the work that small businesses do?

Jessica Hart (Mont.): “I think that small business is about building your community. Spending your money locally helps your friends and neighbors build something better for your community, so we can keep these businesses open and thriving.”

Robert Killen (Ore.): “Supporting small business is support for an entire community. We know that a dollar spent in a small, locally-owned business largely stays in the community in ways that making purchases any other way simply can’t. The more dollars we retain in a community, the stronger it is for everyone.”

Anna Rainhouse (N.Y.): “The small businesses in our area are really the heart and soul of our economic system in a small town like Watkins Glen, so promoting them and supporting them in any way we can is going to be really beneficial for the whole community.”

This year, ACCE invites members to participate in a contest that highlights Small Business Saturday successes. Tell us how your chamber of commerce is encouraging the community to #ShopSmall. Learn more.

Tags: #ShopSmall

Rate this Article  rating of 0 from 0 votes
General | 0 Comments | Add a Comment | Permalink |
OFFICIAL CORPORATE SPONSORS
Accrisoft is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE American Express is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE Aventura World by Central Holidays West is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Benfits Trust is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE Citslinc is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE Insperity is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE Market Street Services is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives United Networks of America is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE The U.S. Chamber is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE
SILVER SPONSORS
Avalanche Consulting sponsors ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives CardConnect sponsors ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Compass Media sponsors ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives EventBank sponsors ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives POWER 10 sponsors ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Next Generation Consulting and Rebecca Ryan sponsor ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Resource Development Group sponsors ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives
Sponsorship and advertising opportunities Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives