The Benefits of Benchmarking

Jen Pack on Monday, March 29, 2021 at 12:00:00 am 

ACCE members use insights from our annual Operations Survey in a variety of ways to gauge performance, benchmark against similar-sized chambers and produce compelling board presentations.

Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking collects data from hundreds of chambers and provides customizable reports that can help you identify trends and track key operations and financial metrics over time. The reports allow chamber leaders to evaluate, benchmark, and improve their organizations through data-enabled strategic planning.

What does this look like in practice? We asked three long-time participants how they use the metrics to improve their organization's competitive edge, create data-backed awareness of COVID's impact, and use benchmarking to develop strategic planning with a future focus.

Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC

Cecilia Harry, CEcD, chief economic development officer for the Coloarado Springs Chamber &, described the importance in the comparison between 2019 and 2020 data for the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC.

“We’ve already used the most recent available data and assistance from AskACCE to help our board understand our health before the pandemic and how our challenges with membership and revenue were on par with peer chambers,” Harry said. “We will use FY2020 metrics to again benchmark ourselves against other chambers and queue a comeback story as our economy strengthens and gets back on track.”

Louisiana Association of Business & Industry

The Louisiana Association of Business & Industry uses ACCE's Operations Survey to help make better human resources decisions. Wanda Allphin, chief financial officer, pulled staffing metrics to compare benefit offerings with other chambers. LABI uses the benchmarking metrics to stay competitive and reduce staff turnover. The organization’s personnel committee was so impressed with the metrics that Allphin has continued to enter data and share benchmarking reports every year.


Tulsa Regional Chamber
Allison Walden, senior vice president of resource development at Tulsa Regional Chamber, values the ability to benchmark against chambers similar to hers – organizations with similar revenue that combine chamber/EDC/tourism. She uses the charts and reports available in Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking to benchmark key performance indicators like retention rates, spending allocations, number of members per staff member, and funding and operational trends against those in her tier.

“Short-term comparison to other chambers is not the concern, rather it is winning in 2025,” Walden said. “This requires long-term benchmarking against oneself – comparing when we felt ‘normal’ in 2019 to when we project we may be stable or operating in a ‘new normal’ in 2021 and beyond.”

Participate in ACCE's Operations Survey in Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking (DCB) today to gain insights and benchmark performance and plan for your future.

Enter your data by April 5 to gain access to our new economic recovery report and customizable benchmarking reports. April 5 is also the deadline to submit your data to determine eligibility for the 2021 Chamber of the Year competition, sponsored by MemberClicks.

Learn more and enter your data today.

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Investing in Regional Partnerships

Cathy Lada on Monday, March 29, 2021 at 12:00:00 am 

New Building Enables Chamber to Scale its Impact in Workforce and Community Development

The West Alabama Workforce and Community Development Center in downtown Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is much more than just “the building that houses the chamber of commerce.” It’s a center born of “extensive due diligence, committed partnerships, and a whole lot of patience,” said Jim Page, CCE, President and CEO of The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, referencing the project’s origins in a 2018 chamber benchmarking trip to Commerce Lexington in Lexington, Kentucky.

The chamber, which recently sold its former space, now owns the more than 40,000-square-foot building, formerly the main local branch of Regions Bank. The building and its parking lots take up the better part of a city block and thanks to the chamber’s leadership, is going to be home to several of the region’s leaders in workforce and community development.

“We’re excited about the potential synergies between these partner entities working together in the building, sharing common spaces – we can’t yet imagine all that we will see,” said Page.

Page and his board knew the chamber would never need 40,000 square feet, but their vision was much larger than simply housing their organization alone. Page sees the move as more than just a great financial investment – due to their winning proposal the chamber gained immediate and significant equity in the building – he sees it as a great investment in regional partnerships.

The chamber was already a catalytic leader for workforce development in the region, serving as the State of Alabama’s coordinating entity for nine counties through its workforce arm, West Alabama Works. In addition to workforce development, the chamber engages in community development issues directly tied to growing and supporting a thriving workforce, which in turn supports healthy economic development. These issues include access to housing and education, building up the community in underserved areas, access to childcare, transportation investment and more.

The new center is coming alive with tenants representing a variety of aspects of workforce and community development in the region – some who currently partner with the chamber, and others who are new. The building represents a big leap forward in capacity for the region’s numerous partners in workforce and community development to collaborate in a big way, said Page. Tenants include Habitat for Humanity, Junior Achievement, and The Junior League, all of whom are leading successful community, education and workforce development programs. Other tenants the chamber is in discussions with include an organization that offers meaningful employment opportunities for past offenders and one that works with at-risk youth. Camgian Microsystems, an artificial intelligence and machine learning company the chamber helped recruit to Tuscaloosa, will also call the Center home as a tenant. The chamber is partnering with officials from Camgian on strategies to grow the “knowledge based” sector of the economy in a focused effort to keep educated talent from The University of Alabama, Stillman College and Shelton State Community College in the area.

Jim Page, CCE

Page says the building isn’t named for the chamber, but rather, for the broader purpose of supporting inclusive, comprehensive workforce and community development. “We want buy-in from all of our partners, we want them to feel part of the facility,” he added.

The vision for the project, though born of need for more office space due to the chamber’s growing scope of work, was incubated in leaders’ minds after an intercity benchmarking visit to Lexington, Kentucky. Page led a team in 2018 to visit with Bob Quick, CCE, President & CEO of Commerce Lexington, and his team, to get ideas for economic development and study the convention center model in Lexington. Though the goal of the trip was gathering knowledge and insights about The Lexington Center and Rupp Arena in Lexington, something else stood out as well. The Commerce Lexington building houses businesses and organizations, such as Northwestern Mutual and the UK Small Business Development Center, as well as chamber-affiliated entities for economic development, minority business development, and workforce development. Page said he and his group were inspired by seeing employees of all these groups able to collaborate so easily – sometimes over a cup of coffee in their shared break room – and knew something like that could work back home.

The chamber’s vision for the new center includes shared spaces to facilitate those types of valuable exchanges. In addition to the chamber offices, temporarily occupying space on the second floor until the building is fully renovated and open to other tenants, the building will have additional office suites as well as many shared spaces. These include a large and dynamic Boardroom and attached catering kitchen, meeting rooms, a multi-media studio, and a two-story atrium. The atrium formerly housed bank tellers but will be repurposed into a special events space where tenants can have receptions, seminars, and programs. These facilities, by design, are not just open to the building’s tenants, but to all partner agencies looking to collaborate and work on large projects. The lower level of the building houses a large break room, vending machines and a coffee station where employees can converse, eat lunch or gather.

Page’s vision is even bigger still. He and his team are evaluating the possibility of retrofitting and leasing the former bank drive through and associated space for a small deli to serve the tenants in the building as well as the surrounding downtown area. He’s quick to say that this is just an idea, so stay tuned for further updates.

All in all, Page and his team are pleased that the sound financial investment and business decisions will serve the entire Tuscaloosa and West Alabama region now and into the future. In his press release, he gave testament to the fact that these kinds of results are what intercity benchmarking trips are all about – real results that improve the community.

The Backstory

So how did Page and his leadership team leverage a straight-forward commercial property purchase into a powerhouse project to support regional workforce and community development?

In 2018, Page and Donny Jones, the chamber’s chief operating officer, had been having casual conversations about the need for more workspace for chamber staff. The board’s treasurer, Elizabeth Winter, an executive at Regions Bank, shared that her bank was looking to build a more modern, smaller facility and was selling their existing building. She connected Page to their corporate real estate officials, though he knew his chamber would never be able to secure a facility with more than 40,000 square feet of space. Regions was taking proposals, and Page determined it was infeasible to submit at that time. However, he ended up submitting a proposal at the last minute he was sure was never going to measure up financially to the other proposals the bank was sure to receive.

Elizabeth Winter

He was taken by surprise about a month later by a call from the bank’s vice president of corporate real estate, informing him that the vision outlined in the chamber proposal aligned perfectly with Regions’ community priorities. Though the financial offer was indeed not the highest, the bank highly valued the broader purpose of the chamber’s proposed use, and with the lengthy track record of the chamber’s success and with the leadership of Winter, now the chair of the chamber board, the proposal was accepted.

Page says he was shocked the proposal was accepted and knew at this point he had to take it to the full board. Up until that point, only Jones and key members of volunteer leadership had been engaged, but with the support of the full board, the chamber began its due diligence process of what this project would look like. It took about a year, and In January 2020, the chamber officially listed its existing facility, expecting it to sell quickly. Then COVID-19 hit, and no one was buying commercial property. The project was shelved for six months so the chamber could focus all its energies on helping its community through the pandemic, revisiting it in the fall of 2020. On New Year’s Day 2021, the building was shown, and an offer put in on the following Monday, which the chamber accepted.

Page says, “Their [Regions Bank] willingness to make this facility available to the Chamber at a price below market value has made this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity possible, and we are beyond grateful for their generosity and civic-minded focus. Regions shares in the chamber board of directors’ vision of creating a center for workforce and community development that will lead to unprecedented collaboration and synergies in support of job creation, under one roof.”


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Weekly Roundup - March 26, 2021

Will Burns on Friday, March 26, 2021 at 12:00:00 am 

#ChamberStrong Initiatives 

  • The San Diego Regional Chamber launched the Time To Vaccinate campaign to encouraging employers to provide time and flexibility to employees to get vaccinated 
  • The Frederick County Chamber in Maryland announced an expanded and enhanced curriculum for its Leadership Frederick County profit in partnership with Hood College’s doctoral program, embedding graduate-level leadership masterclasses into the curriculum. 
  • North Orange County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Theresa Harvey was named 65th Assembly District’s 2021 Woman of the Year by California Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton). Congratulations Theresa! 
  • The Moore County Chamber of Commerce in North Carolina recently moved into new space and took advantage of the opportunity to offer up their conference room and gathering area to the community as a collaborative workspace
  • The Alameda Chamber of Commerce in California recently launched a 501(c)(3) foundation to support the chamber's educational and charitable programs focusing on business, leadership, and community challenges/development. 
  • Jennifer Tavares, President of the Tompkins County Chamber in New York, provided an update on the organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion work during a recent episode of WHCU’s All Things Equal podcast. 
  • The brainchild of a Grand Rapids Chamber coalition effort, a new child care pilot program is being launched in Michigan to assist lower-income workers with affordable and accessible child care. 
  • The Maryland Chamber Foundation teamed up with George Mason University and Amazon to provide computer science externships to 20 teachers
  • The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and the city launched Ready.Set.Philly!, a collaborative initiative to promote a safe return to Philadelphia for work and play. 


What We’re Reading

Tags: Covid-19

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Weekly Roundup - March 12, 2021

Will Burns on Friday, March 12, 2021 at 12:00:00 am 

American Rescue Plan Act Signed Into Law

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law this week. The law makes an additional $7.25 billion available for the Paycheck Protection Program and expands eligibility to most 501(c) nonprofit organizations. It does not, however, change the program's March 31 expiration date.

The law also extended the Employee Retention Tax Credit to December 31, 2021 and continued the extra $300 in extra weekly unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021.

Other key provisions include

  • $1.25 billion for a grant program for shuttered venues.
  • $25 billion for a new restaurant revitalization program.
  • $350 billion in state and local aid.
  • $300 in extra weekly unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021.

Here is an overview of other key provisions from our friends at ASAE.

In other PPP news, the Small Business Administration released guidance to clarify the definition of "lobbying activities" as it related to PPP eligibility for 501(c)(6) organizations. Learn more here.


#ChamberStrong Initiatives and Programs

  • The Buffalo Niagara Partnership launched an online petition to urge state government leaders to include essential manufacturing sector workers in New York’s COVID-19 1b vaccination group. 
  • The Monroeville Area Chamber of Commerce in Pennsylvania teamed up with Allegheny Health Network earlier this month on an event at the Monroeville Convention Center that provided COVID-19 vaccinations to 5,100 people in one day
  • Grand Rapids Chamber’s director of inclusion Ken James earned a prestigious Executive Certification in Diversity Coaching through the Coach Diversity Institute earlier this week. Congrats, Ken! 
  • The Seymour Chamber in Indiana launched a mural project to commission an artist to paint the side of its building. The goal is to provide a colorful and eye-catching piece of public art to enhance the downtown area and elevate the experience for those visiting the recently revitalized Burkhart Plaza.
  • The Culver City Chamber in California launched earlier this month to promote tourism and commerce in Culver City during a vital time in the pandemic’s recovery phase. 
  • The La Crosse Area Chamber in Wisconsin launched a community-wide talent attraction campaign, aimed at attracting more top-quality employees to relocate, live and work in its community.
  • The city of Nixa, Missouri named Nixa Area Chamber President & CEO Chris Russell 2020 Nixa Citizen of the Year. Russell was recognized his role in helping to guide the community through the COVID pandemic. 
  • The Greater Omaha Chamber is pleased to see several projects that could provide improved transit options, connectivity and walkability for the city’s residents. “There is a growing interest and desire to focus on walkability, bikeability and public transit,” said Stephen Osberg said, director of transportation development for the chamber. 
  • The Rowan County Chamber in North Carolina will host a Salute to Agri-Business to highlight the importance of the industry to the region’s economy. 
  • The Queens Chamber in New York announced a new collaboration with the NYC Family Enterprise Center to support family-owned businesses that have been hard hit by the COVID crisis. 

What We’re Reading

  • Korn Ferry: The way organizations interact with their customers, employees, and society at large is changing at breakneck speed. Organizations must learn how to improve, build on wins to generate momentum and move into a state of continual transformation. 
  • Heartland Forward: Bright, educated millennials are heading into the heartland in search of opportunity, affordable housing and the chance to live where they feel they can make a difference. 
  • Bloomberg CityLab: Don’t flatten the curve on urban innovation. Just because an end to COVID is in sight, cities shouldn’t abandon the bold ideas and actions that made a recovery possible. 
  • MultiState: Earlier this month, Virginia became the second state in the U.S. to pass a comprehensive data privacy law. Will other states follow suit?  
  • NYT: In statehouses, stolen-election myth fuels a G.O.P. drive to rewrite rules
  • Brookings: From commitments to action - How CEOs can advance racial equity in their regional economies. 
  • The New Localism: The American Rescue Plan was signed into law and it contains substantial flexible resources for cities and counties. Bruce Katz explores the challenges of finding the most efficient and equitable way to deploy the funding
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