Statement: Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey has impacted many communities, leaving behind devastating floods and catastrophic damage. While the magnitude of the storm is unfathomable for most and the full scope of damage is unknown, ACCE members are eager to help.
ACCE has received many inquiries from chambers of commerce around the world asking what can be done now to assist peers in affected areas. We are monitoring the situation closely; our Urgent Response Task Force has been activated and is in contact with chamber leaders in communities that have been impacted. Until immediate humanitarian needs have been addressed and water begins the recede, we won’t know how to safely and most effectively help.
At this time, ACCE asks members to stand by and consider specific ways to assist with recovery efforts. We are exploring opportunities to provide direct aid to chambers of commerce and will share more information as it becomes available.
Recovery will take time, and work cannot begin until rain subsides and water recedes. The safety and welfare of Texans and Louisianans is the highest and most immediate priority.
In the near future, ACCE will ask members for assistance. In the meantime, please consider ways your chamber can assist when the appeal is made.
A few ways you can help now:
- Donate to the Texas Association of Business (TAB) Foundation's Chamber Relief Fund, which will exclusively support Texas chambers that have been most impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Checks, made payable to TAB Foundation, can be sent to: TAB Foundation Chamber Relief Fund, Attn: Aaron Cox, TAB/TCCE, 1209 Nueces St., Austin, TX 78701. TAB Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) and contributions are 100% tax deductible.
- Participate in the “Adopt A Chamber/Community” initiative led by a partnership of the Texas Chamber of Commerce Executives and the Texas Association of Business
- Donate to American Red Cross or Salvation Army, for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts
- Send notes to people you know in Texas and Louisiana, letting them know that they are on your mind and that you’re ready to help when the time is right
- Put money aside, so that you can contribute directly to or join chambers of commerce that have been most severely impacted
Please consider that our friends (your chamber peers) are working to address immediate needs, both personally and professionally. Many homes, offices and communities have sustained serious damage and total devastation.
The chamber of commerce community is strong, and we’ll work together to help our friends with recovery at the appropriate time.
(For information and resources on disaster recovery, visit this page.)
From the winner's circle: Chattanooga 2.0
In 2008, as the world wrestled with the fallout from the global financial crisis, growth in Chattanooga, Tennessee barely skipped a beat. Now, the city is showing signs of growing pains, with its workforce lacking the education attainment levels needed to fill the high-paying jobs arriving every day in Hamilton County.
To correct this misalignment, the Chattanooga Chamber and its community partners introduced Chattanooga 2.0, an initiative designed to increase the portion of Hamilton County adults with a college degree or technical training certificate from 38 percent to 75 percent by 2025. The chamber estimates that 80 percent of the 15,000 new jobs expected over the next several years will require a post-secondary degree.
“There’s not only an economic imperative, but also a moral imperative,” said David Steele, vice president of policy and education at the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce. “A lot of what makes Chattanooga such an awesome place to live and work was not awesomeness that was being enjoyed by everyone in the community.”
The initiative has already begun reshaping education in Chattanooga. The coalition has launched a new polytechnic academy housed in a local community college, which welcomes students from each of the eight city high schools and trains them in four localized career clusters. A partnership with Volkswagen AG provides industry credentials that often lead to high-paying jobs at its local plant.
“We are distributing certificate programs that lead to other degrees and credentials earlier in the pipeline, when the kids are juniors and seniors in high school,” explained Steele. “The goal is not simply degrees and credentials, but degrees and credentials that have a value within the context of our economy.”
The chamber solicited feedback from stakeholders over an 18-month period to identify obstacles to accessing college, successful programs for replication and strategies for bridging the gaps in available opportunities. At the same time, it kept the community updated through weekly print and online newspaper columns, letters to the editor, op-eds and email newsletters.
“We had school board members host town hall meetings, and we made presentations to every level of government,” recounted Steele. “The 2.0 program schedules two to three meetings a week, so an awful lot of communication takes place in conference rooms and around board tables. It’s become a really dominant factor here in our community.”
Although 2025 still looms far off, there are signs that the initiative is on the right track. Chamber publications predict that 20 percent of the graduating class of 2018 will have been involved in an industry credential program during their junior and senior years. The chamber's communications also speak volumes, with the coalition's website earning 3,600 average monthly visits and 1,500 subscribers to its weekly newsletter.
The coalition’s success was further validated when the Chattanooga Chamber was named Chamber of the Year by ACCE in July. The award recognized the chamber for its success with Chattanooga 2.0, as well as Thrive 2055, a regional growth campaign that complemented the 2.0 movement.
“The award has been a tremendous source of pride for our entire staff and the membership,” said Steele, adding that the chamber has taken the trophy on a tour of its regional councils. “It’s something the entire community has taken ownership of, and that’s been very exciting for us.”
But, even with the chamber still reeling from its big award wins at the ACCE convention, Steele insists the best is yet to come for the chamber and the Chattanooga community.
“It’s very gratifying to have received the recognition we have, but if you were to talk to our staff, the sense you’d get is that none of us feel like we’ve peaked,” he said. “We’re very focused as individuals and teams on building on the success we saw last year, and maintaining the momentum as we continue to enhance our organizational infrastructure.”
Want to see your story featured in the #ACCESpotlight? Share it with Ben Goldstein.
Montana on the mind
At 3,000 feet above sea level, tucked away between Big Mountain and Glacier National Park to the North and Blacktail Mountain and Flathead Lake—America’s largest— to the south, Kalispell, Montana, isn’t the first place you think of when you think winter getaway.
So, when United Airlines announced it was launching a two-month trial series of direct flights from San Francisco to Glacier Park International Airport in December 2016, the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitor Bureau (KCVB) knew it had to find a way to capitalize on the opportunity to attract tourists and increase regional awareness.
“The main driving factor was filling the seats on those flights,” said Kate Lufkin, marketing and communications specialist at the KCVB. “With a trial flight like that, the better it performed, the more likely the airline is to expand service, so we really wanted to fill those seats.”
The KCVB teamed up with a public relations firm based in Missoula, Montana, to brainstorm a marketing and advertising campaign to promote the region as a wintertime tourist destination in the San Francisco Bay Area market. The intended target audience was young, active adults who are passionate about outdoors adventure and skiing.
“A lot of people don’t think of us as a travel destination in the winter, but this area doesn’t shut down by any means,” said Lufkin. “We wanted to promote our skiing, snowmobiling and other winter activities, and San Francisco was a fantastic addition, because of the likeminded folks there that are drawn to the outdoors.”
The PR firm created native content for the Weekend Sherpa, a popular northern California-based e-magazine geared toward outdoors adventuring, which was promoted through social media, email newsletter blasts and as a feature on the online magazine’s homepage.
The series of sponsored stories, dubbed “Montana on the Mind,” featured rousing images of northwest Montana’s rugged, snow-covered landscapes, and generated hundreds of thousands of impressions on social media.
The KCVB also targeted outdoor enthusiasts in the San Francisco Bay Area through Facebook advertising, including carousel ads on both mobile and desktop newsfeeds. These digital efforts garnered over one million total impressions and generated nearly 3,000 link clicks to the campaign’s website.
The biggest development, however, occurred just after the campaign’s conclusion in February 2017, when United Airlines and Glacier Park International Airport announced expanded daily commercial air service to and from San Francisco for July through September 2017. The KCVB credits the success of the campaign in-part for the decision by United to expand its flight offerings to the area.
“I think it’s a huge testament to see the confidence United had to expand the flight beyond the two-month trial period,” said Lufkin. “We hope to see it continue to grow, and maybe even become a new year-round direct service.”
Another rewarding moment for the KCVB came when it learned it won a Communications Excellence Best in Show award from the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives at the group’s annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee in July 2017.
“As a smaller chamber in a smaller market, we were thrilled to be recognized, even just as one of the finalists,” said Diane Medler, director of the chamber’s convention and visitor bureau. “When we found out we won Best in Show, we were just over the moon.”
Medler says the KCVB has continued to build on the winter campaign’s success with a spring and summer campaign. She says the key to launching a successful destination campaign as a smaller-sized chamber is to “be targeted and strategic” in your communications.
“You can’t be everything to everyone, and you have to decide who your audience is and what results you hope to achieve,” said Medler. “If you’re more targeted, then you’re ultimately going to be more successful, because your message will amplify and resonate within that group.”
Want to see your story featured in the #ACCESpotlight? Share your story with Ben Goldstein.
The origin of certificates of origin
For almost a century, governments around the world have relied on chambers of commerce to verify the origins of overseas exports. And, while the issuance of certificates of origin—first assigned to chambers through the Geneva Convention in 1923—is an essential function of the chamber world, it is also one of the least understood.
What is a certificate of origin?
A certificate of origin is a stamped document that verifies where goods are manufactured, so governments can assess tariff rates and enforce embargoes on imports. They are required for all international trade, unless exempted by parties to a trade deal like the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The origin of the goods refers to the location the final product was assembled, not its parts. For goods that were manufactured in multiple countries, the country that bore more than 50 percent of the costs of assembly is considered the country of origin. All valid certificates must be signed by the exporter and then verified and stamped by a local chamber of commerce.
Advice from the pros
At the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Executive Assistant to the President Kristin Gochenour uses eCertify, an electronic certification software, to issue certificates digitally. The chamber charges exporters $20 per certificate, $5 of which is paid to eCertify, meaning it profits $15 per certificate, not counting the $1000 annual fee for the software. For exporters that hit 100 certificates within a calendar year, the cost is reduced to $10 per certificate, while nonmembers pay up to $75 each.
Asked if it would make sense for a smaller-sized chamber to issue certificates of origin, Gochenour said it “all depends on their volume,” adding, “They’d have to do at least 200 certificates a year just to recoup the eCertify cost for the fee, not even counting the $5 charge per certificate. It’s a substantial number.”
At the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, Vice President and Chief of Staff Justin Simmons swears by eCertify as the most efficient way to issue certificates of origin.
“The old, paperbound process required a courier or staff time for the company, and you’d have to actually sit down and manually stamp and sign,” said Simmons. “The efficiency gained for the exporter enables them to do it from their desk, with a much shorter turnaround than what it would take to drive them across town.”
Rife with fraud
Because of the decentralized nature of the certificate of origin process in the U.S., American exports have attracted scrutiny from foreign officials who have been tipped off about fraudulent behavior in the issuance process. Examples include documents signed by fictitious employees and chambers lending out their seals for companies to stamp themselves.
“The basic problem is lack of oversight,” said Chris Mead, senior vice president at the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. “It’s been compared to a Wild West-type situation. Foreign countries are more on their toes now, so chambers should be careful that they’re issuing these certificates the right way.”
Scrutiny of fraudulent certificates of origin increased in 2011, after the Egyptian Consulate in Houston launched an investigation into improperly labeled food shipments. After determining that the goods were actually of Latin American origin, the consulate restricted certificates of origin for all but two chambers in a host of states.
“They did a test and quite a few of these certificates were not legit,” said Mead. “Egypt doesn’t have a strong food inspection system, so this potentially endangered the people living there.”
When deciding whether to issue certificates of origin, chambers should ask whether it will be a profitable enough activity for them to commit the resources needed to do the job right. And those who opt to issue should always act with integrity.
“Don’t lend out your stamp,” said Mead. “It’s like lending out your checkbook or the plaque you got for graduation. You just don’t do it.”
Want to learn more? Check out our Chamberpedia page on certificates of origin.
Congratulations, Best in Show winners!
ACCE’s Awards for Communications Excellence celebrate top-notch marketing work that effectively communicates policy work, the accomplishments of the chamber of commerce, community advancement and economic development initiatives, membership attraction and retention, events and more.
The top three entries — one from each size category — are presented the Best in Show award.
At the #ACCEAwards Show in Nashville, Tennessee on July 18, three organizations — Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and Portland Business Alliance — were recognized as this year’s Best in Show winners.
Judges of this year’s Communications Excellence awards selected one entry — submitted by the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce — to receive a specially-created recognition called the “Literally Perfect” award. Honored for creative execution and attention-grabbing results, Chattanooga’s Literally Perfect series is, well, literally perfect.
In addition to celebrating winners of the Best in Show and Literally Perfect awards, Grand Award winners took to the stage and Awards of Excellence winners were recognized. (Check out this blog post, where we announced Grand Award and Award of Excellence winners.)
Chamber leaders accepted to Fellowship
Leaders from 21 chambers of commerce, representing communities throughout the United States, have been selected to participate in ACCE’s Fellowship for Education Attainment.
The Fellowship is an immersive executive development program that provides chamber of commerce professionals with education and tools to improve the birth-to-career education pipeline in the communities they serve.
Throughout the year-long experience, Fellows work to develop a regional action plan that focuses on addressing specific education attainment or workforce development issues in their communities.
Congratulations to this year’s Fellows!
Director, Workforce Development & Education
Little Rock Regional Chamber
Little Rock, Arkansas
Manager of Public Affairs
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
Cathy Burwell, IOM
President & CEO
Helena Area Chamber of Commerce
Director, Education Policy
Metro Atlanta Chamber
Senior Vice President for Education and Workforce
Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce
Christopher Cooney, IOM, CCE
President & CEO
Metro South Chamber of Commerce
Director of Workforce Initiatives
Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce
Manager, Education Attainment
Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation
Dexter Freeman, II
Director of Intelligence, Innovation, & Education
Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce
Christy Gillenwater, IOM, CCE
President & CEO
Southwest Indiana Chamber
Director of Community & Government Relations
North Orange County Chamber
Angelle Laborde, CCE
President & CEO
Greenwood Area Chamber of Commerce
Greenwood, South Carolina
Government Affairs Manager
North Carolina Chamber
Raleigh, North Carolina
Manager, Government Affairs
The Business Council of New York State
Albany, New York
Dr. Gilda Ramirez
Vice President, Small Business & Education
United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce
Corpus Christi, Texas
Chris Romer, IOM
President & CEO
Vail Valley Partnership
JoAnn Sasse Givens
Director of Workforce Development
Effingham County Chamber of Commerce
Mary Anne Sheahan
Executive Director of Leadership & Workforce Development
Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce
Vice President of Workforce & Education
President & CEO
Mason Deerfield Chamber
Vice President, Foundation Supports & Grant Management
Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
Brooklyn, New York
Find more information about ACCE’s Fellowship for Education Attainment here, or contact Molly Blankenship, community advancement coordinator, by email or phone at 703-998-3530. ACCE will begin accepting applications for the next Fellowship cohort in May, 2018.