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By Jay Chesshir


By Sarah Melby

ON THE COVER 06 ACCE’s award-winning journal for and about chambers of commerce


By Avalanche Consulting, Inc.





24 28

By Ben Goldstein


By Katherine Morgan


By Katherine House


Chamber Executive

Fall 2017




We need to talk. On October 19, Little Rock sent a message to Amazon (via a fullpage ad in Washington Post) that began with those four words. Our creative and thoughtful note continued with a bit of flattery and the standard “it’s not you, it’s us” that’s ubiquitous in every good breakup.

ACCE’s award-winning journal for and about chambers of commerce

Unlike the 238 communities that responded to Amazon’s request for proposals, Little Rock made the conscious—and admittedly difficult—decision to not throw our hat in the ring. Kudos to all communities that took on the daunting task of submitting a proposal. Your creativity (and courage) is admirable.

Chairman Jay Chesshir, CCE Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce (Ark.)

So why did we opt out of an opportunity to possibly attract a $5 billion investment and 50,000 jobs? Although Amazon is a great catch, we realized that Little Rock is too. We have a booming business environment, a tech-savvy workforce, a flourishing downtown and a diverse and creative culture. But we weren’t quite the right fit nor willing to give everything to woo a single suitor, no matter how attractive that suitor might be.

Immediate Past Chair Joe Roman Greater Cleveland Partnership (Ohio)

As the deadline to submit proposals passed, we launched to focus attention on why Little Rock is the right place for so many other opportunities. Amazon has spurred conversations across North America about economic development and community readiness. Those conversations have been happening in Little Rock—and when an economic development opportunity comes up that’s a good fit for us, we’ve proven ready for the pursuit.

Vice Chairs Kit Cramer, CCE Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce (N.C.)

As you’ll read in this magazine, the Amazon RFP jolted the economic development field into the mainstream spotlight, and that momentum is just too powerful to ignore. This is a can’t miss opportunity for all of us in the chamber of commerce world to launch conversations in our communities about the important work we do—from traditional economic development and policy to workforce and placemaking. Speaking of that important work, please consider upcoming opportunities to share those experiences with your chamber peers. Beginning in early December, content proposals will be accepted from thought leaders interested in sharing experiences and expertise at the 2018 ACCE Annual Convention. I look forward to seeing many of you in Des Moines, July 17–20, for #ACCE18. After all, that’s how we learn best… from each other! I am energized by the momentum of our profession, and am honored to work alongside professionals like you who are leading communities forward. Together, we can.

Chairman Elect Joe Reagan St. Louis Regional Chamber (Mo.)

Treasurer Chip Cherry, CCE Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville-Madison County (Ala.)

Nancy Keefer, CCE Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce (Fla.) Adam Legge Calgary Chamber of Commerce (Alberta) Kelle Marsalis, IOM Dallas Regional Chamber (Texas) President & CEO Sheree Anne Kelly Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives V.P., Communications and Networks Will Burns Editor-in-Chief/Director, Communications Ben Wills Graphic Design Hannah Theiring Advertising Sales Chris Mead

Jay Chesshir, CCE President and CEO Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce


Chamber Executive

Fall 2017

Chamber Executive, ISSN 0884-8114, is published quarterly by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. Periodicals postage pending at Alexandria, VA 22314 and additional offices. Office of publication: 1330 Braddock Place, Suite 300, Alexandria VA, 22304.  POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Chamber Executive, 1330 Braddock Place, Suite 300, Alexandria VA, 22314. Visit us online at or call 800394-2223 for information about editorial, advertising or subscriptions.

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Certified Chamber Executive is an internationally-recognized designation for senior-level chamber professionals who exhibit knowledge and leadership in their careers. If you have six years of senior-level chamber management experience and have earned 175 hours of professional development, board service or other qualifying professional activities, then consider making 2018 the year that you become a Certified Chamber Executive. Review eligibility criteria and find/submit the intent to apply form at Applications are due January 8.

Nearly 400 ACCE members have pledged support for Small Business Saturday, committing to the cause by becoming a Neighborhood Champion. This year, ACCE invites members to participate in a contest that highlights Small Business Saturday successes. Tell us how your chamber is celebrating Small Business Saturday! In less than a page, explain how you’re celebrating, if you plan to celebrate again next year (and why), what makes your Small Business Saturday activities unique, what metrics you’re using to measure success (like attendance, shop owner satisfaction/participation, revenue generation, social media engagement, traditional media reach, etc.). Videos (up to 30 seconds in length) and photos are encouraged! Entries will be judged (by fellow ACCE members and others) on impact/effectiveness (50 percent), originality (30 percent) and completeness of submission (20 percent). Send entries, and questions, to Tenja Young at by Friday, December 15. Visit for more information.

#ACCE17 RECORDINGS NOW STREAMING During this summer’s convention in Nashville, ACCE captured education, best practices and tips from top chamber professionals. Recordings of select sessions, such as Rebecca Ryan’s “Chambers of the Future,” the Calgary Chamber’s “Onward from Pale, Male and Stale” and the fast-paced “60 Sponsorship Ideas in 60 Minutes” can now be yours – available anytime on your phone, tablet or desktop. Visit to purchase session recordings by track or individually, or choose the “best value” package with all six tracks, featuring 41 sessions. SALES CONTEST: SUBMIT Q2 NUMBERS Second quarter sales figures (September 1–November 30) for the Circle of Champions Sales Contest are due December 8. Quarterly numbers must be submitted through the online submission form, and you must be a member of the Circle of Champions to participate in the contest. To join the Circle of Champions and learn more about recognition programs, visit UPCOMING WEBINARS Visit for webinar details and to register. Can't make the webinar? All ACCE webinars are recorded and posted within two business days on • The U.S. Chamber’s accreditation process (December 7, 2 p.m. EST) • Renewing your leadership development program (December 14, 2 p.m. EST) COMPENSATION PUB NOW AVAILABLE ACCE’s comprehensive compensation publication is now available for purchase and download in the ACCE Store ( This resource is published with data — personnel expenses, salaries, benefits and other compensation info — gathered from Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking ( for fiscal years 2015-16. Visit to purchase the report; Horizon Investors and All ACCEss Pass members can download the publication at no charge. Survey participants can also access a customized set of reports now, at no cost, at

Chamber Executive

Fall 2017


LEARNING TO WIN TOGETHER L E S S O N S F ROM A M A ZO N By Avalanche Consulting, Inc.

Amazon sent the economic development world into a frenzy September 7 with the announcement that it was searching for its second North American headquarters location, called HQ2. Amid all the social media buzz, marketing stunts and predictions from major news outlets, a total of 238 communities submitted bids to become home to the new, massive headquarters. The company’s wish list illuminates what many companies—big and small—want in a location. HQ2 underscores why investments in talent, modern transit, housing and quality of life are critical. Regardless of whether your community submitted a bid, HQ2 has elevated both the field of economic development and the role of chambers of commerce onto a national stage. With so many people talking about Amazon, now is an ideal time to leverage your own stakeholders in conversations about community development, the site selection process and what it takes to compete. Here we examine a few requirements from the RFP and detail a few takeaways.


Labor force: The Project must be suficiently close to a significant population center, such that it can fill the 50,000 estimated jobs that will be required over multiple years. A highlyeducated labor pool is critical and a strong university system is required.

The ability to attract and retain talent has risen to the forefront of economic development and site selection conversations, and not just in relation to Amazon. In Avalanche Consulting’s 2017 annual survey of economic development professionals, 90 percent of the 150 communities that participated said having a skilled workforce and aligned training programs is their top priority. Developing a strong talent pipeline is a critical initiative for many chambers of commerce. From our perspective, it involves a three-pronged approach:


Chamber Executive

Fall 2017

Create. Creating talent that is ready to enter your workforce involves building strong education programs aligned with industry needs, including pre-K–12, higher education and alternative training programs. It is important to forge collaborative relationships with your local businesses to understand their short and long-term labor needs, create and adapt curriculum and programs and increase career awareness. Attract. Another way to build your talent

pipeline is to recruit talented individuals to live and work in your region. Attracting talent most often requires a strong internal and external marketing campaign to inform potential residents about the lifestyle and economic opportunities in your region.

Retain. Retaining a talented workforce can

take more than just great lifestyle amenities. Successful communities offer unique ways to engage their residents through mentoring, volunteerism and lifelong learning opportunities.

CONNECTING TALENT TO CAREER OPPORTUNITIES: THE TALENT DEVELOPMENT NETWORK & MIAMI-DADE’S ACADEMIC LEADERS COUNCIL The Academic Leaders Council (ALC) was created by Miami-Dade County to develop solutions related to creating and retaining a skilled workforce. The ALC addresses skills gaps in target industries by aligning curriculum with industry needs, advancing internship programs that retain college graduates in Miami-Dade County and collaborating on universal educational issues. Participants in the ALC include the presidents of all six local colleges and universities, as well as the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The Talent Development Network (TDN) – an outcome of ALC’s work – is an internship program that provides undergraduate and graduate students practical experience with industry partners that are aligned with Miami-Dade County’s target industries. The Talent Development Network also serves as the single internship hub for all MiamiDade students and companies. TDN’s goal for the first two years is to create at least 200 new paid industry-specific internships.


Cultural community fit: The Project requires a compatible cultural and community environment for its long-term success… A stable and consistent business climate is important to Amazon. Please demonstrate characteristics of this in your response. We encourage testimonials from other large companies.

Fifty-thousand jobs and $5 billion in investment may sound like too good of an opportunity to pass up, but consider how a project of this scale could affect your region. Could it disrupt established industries that serve as your current economic powerhouses? Projects like HQ2 could have major impacts on workforce availability. Existing businesses will also be keenly aware of the size of the incentives package, the strain on infrastructure and the pressure a new major employer can place on housing affordability and availability. HQ2 gives chambers an opportunity to engage local employers in conversations about their needs and community vision. How can your community provide an even more stable and consistent business climate to encourage their growth? What


Logistics: Personnel travel and logistics needs, both from population centers to the Project site, as well as between company facilities, are critically important. As such, travel time to a major highway corridor and arterial roadway capacity potential are key factors. The highway corridors must provide direct access to significant population centers with eligible employment pools.

The ability to move people and products quickly and efficiently is of obvious importance to Amazon, and ease of movement will continue to be a concern for any new, expanding or relocating company. A project of this scale emphasizes the importance of having an efficient, multi-modal transit system and locating job centers near population hubs. Whether your community is preparing for a 50,000-employee HQ2 or a smaller cluster of businesses, access to transit will continue to be a site selection factor. In terms of infrastructure, is your community prepared for future economic growth? As a chamber, partner with others in your community to study how well your existing infrastructure meets Amazon’s criteria and the needs of target industries. Determine how mass transit investments, such as bus rapid transit or light rail, could better connect residents with jobs.

challenges and opportunities would surface for them if your community landed a large project? Responses to questions like this could warrant strengthening business retention and expansion programs, advocating for a better business climate or intensifying talent development initiatives. TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS: GREATER RICHMOND PARTNERSHIP BUSINESS FIRST The Greater Richmond Partnership knows that the best way to promote a stable business climate is by supporting the existing businesses that are already an established part of the economy. Business First is a collaborative initiative between the Greater Richmond Partnership (Va.) and local governments. It includes dedicated professional staff that meet with local companies and provide training to business retention & expansion staff members at the local level. The initiative embraces a customer-service focus in which businesses share their opportunities and concerns through a formal, survey questionnaire utilized by all regional partners. The information is then shared in a process that alerts organizations in the region (e.g., utilities, developers, educators, public office holders) when a company has a need that could jeopardize its presence in the region. The greater Richmond area is one of the few in the country with a regional, coordinated approach to supporting businesses that drive their economy.

Consider, too, future transit options, such as autonomous vehicle technologies. Investing in connected regional transit networks will increase your region’s competitiveness and support continued economic growth.

FAST-MOVING SOLUTIONS: DENVER FASTRACKS In 2000, 2.5 million people lived in the Denver region. Faced with forecasts that called for another million residents by 2025, elected officials and business leaders were concerned about added traffic congestion impacting quality of life. The Metro Mayors Caucus – a collaborative working group of 31 Denver area mayors – unanimously supported the Regional Transportation District's (RTD's) FasTracks program and used their networks and united stance to get the Denver region behind it. The FasTracks tagline is “One region. One Mission.” This summarizes the Caucus’ approach to educating on and gathering support for the initiative. They engaged CEOs, political party leaders, union leaders, environmental activists and the community in a non-partisan effort to get a $4.2 billion transportation initiative passed. According to a FasTracks 2014 update, $5.3 billion has been invested or committed to date across the region. Every $1 invested in transit infrastructure translates into a $4 investment into the local economy over 20 years. Since 2005, FasTracks has created more than 13,200 direct, full-time jobs.

Chamber Executive

Fall 2017



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Chamber Executive

Fall 2017




Community/quality of life: The Project requires a significant number of employees. We want to invest in a community where our employees will enjoy living, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities, and an overall high quality of life. Tell us what is unique about your community.

High on Amazon’s wish list, and the wish list of skilled talent, is quality of life. Young, educated workers have been flocking to major metros to be near high-paying jobs and plentiful recreation options. Reexamine the quality of life offerings in your region and determine what investments would enhance livability. Even a single community project, such as building a new trail system or entertainment venue, can become an advantage that helps your community vie for businesses and talent. Amazon’s RFP shows that quality of life matters to businesses. As a chamber, refer to the HQ2 RFP to convince local stakeholders that investing in cultural, recreation and education amenities directly contributes to economic competitiveness.


Amazon is performing a competitive site selection process is considering metro regions in North America for its second porate headquarters. We encourage states, provinces and ro areas to coordinate with relevant jurisdictions to submit RFP for your MSA.

and cormetone

In the past month, Avalanche Consulting has spoken with more than a dozen communities competing for HQ2. One theme resonated across all conversations: assembling the HQ2 proposal required regional cooperation at an unprecedented level. Strong bonds were formed among project team members by rolling up shirtsleeves and working side-by-side on the bid. As one chamber board member told us, “Whether we win HQ2 or not, we’ve already won because we now have a model for acting regionally.” As a chamber, what can you do to ensure that those bonds stay strong after Amazon? Pull together your project team soon to discuss lessons learned. Talk about how the community’s response to an opportunity like this can improve in the future. Also discuss how you can use your strengthened partnership to improve your community and help existing businesses. Even though your community may be served by a single economic development team, that does not mean they alone are

Roanoke is rich with outdoor assets, from access to the Appalachian Trail to Smith Mountain Lake. In 2015, the Roanoke Regional Partnership created a strategy to leverage its many outdoor recreation assets to drive economic development. These amenities are not taken for granted; in fact, thoughtful outdoor infrastructure investments continue to be made with community support. One recent example—a kayak launch site—opened on the Roanoke River near downtown in October 2016. The $80,000 investment was privately funded by a community crowdfunding campaign. Additional financial support and in-kind services came from dozens of local businesses. The campaign to develop the kayak launch was spearheaded by the Roanoke Outside Foundation, which is a nonprofit arm of the regional economic development entity, Roanoke Regional Partnership. Roanoke City Parks and Recreation and the City’s storm water division now manage the site, which can be used by community members at no cost. The kayak launch, along with dozens of other investments and a related marketing campaign (, are paying off for the region. Drawn to the outdoor lifestyle, the region now has a large cluster of craft breweries, including recent investments by Deschutes Brewery and Ballast Point. The Roanoke region is a prime example that quality of life translates directly into economic opportunities.

responsible for energizing your region’s economy. There is strength in numbers. Join forces with strategic partners and stakeholders to work together to assess regional assets, address challenges, and develop solutions. Unify your stakeholders behind a single economic vision that aims to elevate the entire region. REGIONALISM AT ITS BEST: CHARLESTON’S ONE REGION GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS STRATEGY Vision: To act as a unified region to be a globally competitive place where people and businesses flourish. Charleston’s One Region strategy ( unifies economic development partners, chambers and other local stakeholders behind a singular vision to advance the three-county region’s economy. One Region is founded on an inclusive, holistic approach to economic development. The strategy embraces a shared community value: true prosperity is accomplished when all residents can participate in the economy. Economic development should not leave people behind. One Region influenced the Charleston region’s decision to not pursue HQ2, but instead to refer to Amazon’s site criteria – talent, modern infrastructure, quality of life and culture & diversity – to reinforce the importance of making community investments that will sustain the South Carolina region’s long-term economic competitiveness.

Amazon’s HQ2 is the largest single economic development project in recent history, and communities have gone to unprecedented lengths to offer competitive bids. Whether your community chose to bid or not, there are important lessons to be learned from HQ2. Amazon’s wish list offered key insights into what metros will need to be competitive in the future. Use the buzz surrounding the Amazon project to generate important conversations with key stakeholders in your region. That way, your region will be better positioned to attract economic development projects of any size.

Chamber Executive

Fall 2017





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Chamber Executive

Fall 2017


Nationwide, states are reworking the approach they take to criminal justice in effort to curb costs, address prison overpopulation and reduce high rates of recidivism. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts’ public safety performance project, more than 30 states have adopted policies to reverse course on corrections system growth since 2007. Driving reform is the growing body of evidence-based research on effective prison alternatives, corrections practices and improved reentry and treatment services to reduce recidivism. Employment is one of the most effective methods for decreasing recidivism; however, a criminal record often creates barriers for people attempting to find a job after incarceration. Approximately 75 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals are unemployed a year after release. Partnering with unlikely allies, chambers of commerce are working to combat workforce shortages by reducing obstacles people face as they seek employment after incarceration. This approach to improving public safety relies on the business community, which can provide meaningful employment and the opportunity for economic mobility. And chambers of commerce are playing a critical role, by helping businesses navigate the potentially unfamiliar topic. SOUTH CAROLINA In South Carolina, a coalition of chambers has led the push for new legislation that would expand expungement of nonviolent offenses for people with criminal records. The bill’s goal is twofold: to reduce recidivism by helping people get back on their feet, and to help South Carolina businesses combat a critical labor shortage. “You have South Carolinians who have some minor offenses on their records from a long time ago, and they’ve since turned their lives around,” said Ted Pitts, president and CEO of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. “This effort is to remove those hurdles and help them become productive, taxpaying citizens.” For employers, it was the strong business case, backed by hard-to-ignore numbers, that proved most persuasive.

The unemployment rate in South Carolina was 3.9 percent as of September 2017, down from a high of 11.6 percent at the peak of the recession in 2010. With the state’s economy considered to be at full employment, the biggest problem facing employers is locating workers to fill open jobs. “If you travel around South Carolina and ask CEOs what keeps them up at night, they’ll tell you that workforce is the thing that most concerns them,” said Pitts. “It’s an issue that is always front-and-center for employers. Upstate South Carolina, home to more than 1.3 million people, has approximately 28,000 unfilled jobs, according to Jason Zacher, vice president of business advocacy at Greenville Chamber. There are an estimated 15,000 unemployed workingage adults in the area. Zacher estimates that about half of the open jobs probably would not attract out-of-state applicants—a finding that led the Greenville Chamber and its members to consider new ways to grow the local candidate pool. And not only are there people who can’t find work because of a criminal record, others who are already employed may be barred from career advancement altogether. “Some people with jobs are afraid to go after that promotion, because they don’t want their employers to re-open their records and learn of a decades-old felony,” said Zacher. Major employers in the region support expanding expungement of nonviolent crimes, according to results of a survey distributed by an alliance of 11 chambers of commerce. Zacher is executive director of the Greenville Chamber-led group, called Upstate Chamber Coalition. The alliance produces a common state and federal agenda, in addition to supporting other shared interests. 3.9%


unemployment rate in South Carolina as of September 2017

approximate number of jobs available in upstate South Carolina

1.3 million+


approximate population of upstate South Carolina

estimated number of unemployed working-age adults in the same area

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Chamber Executive

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Opponents of the policy argue that it would reduce an employer’s ability to effectively screen applicants. “You have a lot of HR managers who don’t like this idea, because they want to know if they’re hiring someone who has been convicted or incarcerated,” explained Zacher. Still, others are eager to press ahead with reform. In Zacher’s region of South Carolina, some major employers have eliminated background checks and some have experimented with hiring people with criminal records. “The anecdotal reports we’ve received have said ‘these people are great workers, they’re fantastic people and they realize this is a second chance,’” said Zacher. KENTUCKY Much of the inspiration for legislation in South Carolina comes from Kentucky, where Gov. Matt Bevin signed HB 40 into law in 2016. The Kentucky law allows the expungement of certain nonviolent felony convictions from criminal records.

“The purpose of criminal justice is to rehabilitate and re-assimilate people, not simply to remove them.” – Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin

“In Kentucky, we have a major workforce problem,” said Ashli Watts, senior vice president of public affairs at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. “We want to fill vacancies in our workforce by removing barriers to finding a job.” The law has been met with overwhelming support from businesses and the public. “We’ve heard really positive stories of people who have turned their lives around and used that second chance to gain employment because of this law,” said Watts. Additional barriers to reintegration were removed in April 2017, when Gov. Bevin signed new legislation that provides resources to help people lead healthy and productive lives after serving time behind bars. “This is about how we can ensure that we actually assimilate people back into the workforce,” Gov. Bevin said at a press conference last February. “The purpose of criminal justice is to rehabilitate and re-assimilate people, not simply to remove them.” One of the law’s major provisions is licensing reform. In Kentucky, about one-in-four occupations require a state-issued certification or license. These jobs include haircutting, landscaping, bus-driving and many more. Until now, certification and licensing agencies would automatically deny licenses to anyone with a felony on their record. To deny a license now, the authority must show that the felony charge will impair the applicant’s ability to perform the job.

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Chamber Executive

Fall 2017




Chamber Executive

Fall 2017

An appeals process provides due process to applicants, in the event of rejection. “If someone had a class D felony and 20 years later wanted to become a cosmetologist, they would be unable to do so,” explained Watts. “We want to remove barriers to employment, and this was a huge barrier for many people.” Another provision in the law is the creation of the Private Industries Enhancement certification program, which allows private companies to employ people to produce goods while incarcerated. Twenty percent of an incarcerated worker’s wages are deducted and deposited into the Victim’s Compensation Fund. Other deductions include taxes, child support and room and board. “If people can learn a skill or trade while incarcerated, it helps businesses build a workforce,” said Watts. “And if they can earn some money to repay debts while incarcerated, then it’s a win-win for all parties.” JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA Not all chamber-led criminal justice reform work advocates for action on the policy front. The chamber of commerce in Jacksonville has spearheaded a drive to persuade employers to voluntarily “ban the box.” “We’re in a market with very low unemployment, so companies need to take a serious look at alternative workforce populations to be successful,” said Tina Wirth, vice president of workforce development at JAX Chamber. “We’re hoping employers will decide not to ask right up front about someone’s background, and will instead opt to take a more open-door approach.” The goal of the program, called Project Open Door, is to delay questions about criminal records until the interview round Pictured above: Business and community leaders gather for a Project Open Door press conference hosted by JAX Chamber.

"If people can learn a skill or trade while incarcerated, it helps businesses build a workforce, and if they can earn some money to repay debts while incarcerated, then it’s a win-win for all parties.” – Ashli Watts, senior vice president of public affairs, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

of the hiring process. By doing so, job seekers are afforded an opportunity to explain circumstances surrounding a conviction in person. “All we ask for is that [employers] don’t ask up front,” said Wirth. “If you’re a human resources clerk pulling a criminal record, the chance for the applicant to tell their story never happens.” To illustrate her point, Wirth shared a story from a large employer in Jacksonville. A job applicant had, what might be considered by many to be, an off-putting charge on his record. But given the opportunity, the applicant shared his story with the employer, and even produced a statement from a judge attesting to his outstanding character. The applicant landed the job. “A more common example is people who may have had a drug or alcohol problem years ago, and have since gotten clean and now want to be an accountant or a sales rep,” Wirth said. “Years later, the relevance is questionable, especially if the job does not involve driving a vehicle.” JAX Chamber targeted the region’s largest firms first, knowing they employ more people and often serve as examples for small- and mid-sized firms to follow. Dozens of companies have signaled support so far, including large employers like Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the Jacksonville Jaguars professional football team.

Chamber Executive

Fall 2017


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Chamber Executive

Fall 2017

"The goal of [Project Open Door] is to delay questions about criminal records until the interview portion of the application, which affords job seekers an opportunity to explain circumstances in person." “When we publicly announced the launch, we had about 40 companies on board and they were all standing shoulder-toshoulder,” Wirth said. “It was a great opportunity for somebody with a shop of five people to stand beside somebody with a shop of 5,000 people in a real display of unity.” The chamber has made clear it has no immediate plans to advocate these policies at the state and local government levels, fearing such an approach could backfire by hampering business with restrictive regulations. “We think that the best outcome will happen if this is driven by the business community, rather than being mandated through legislation,” said Wirth. “We were very intentional about making this a voluntary effort.”

LOOKING AHEAD Ashli Watts from the Kentucky Chamber is hopeful that criminal justice reform will catch on nationwide, once other states observe how reworked laws can expand the workforce and reduce recidivism. “We hope it takes off in other states, because these laws save money and help people get jobs,” she said. “We’ve learned that tough-on-crime laws from years past simply do not work.” At the South Carolina Chamber, Ted Pitts agrees that criminal justice reform will have a positive effect on his state’s economy, and predicts that many more communities will follow the lead. “Communities everywhere want to see this issue addressed,” added Pitts. “In South Carolina, we’re all about South Carolinians coming together to solve our state’s problems. This is a great example of that.”

Ben Goldstein is communications coordinator at ACCE. Connect with Ben at

HOW CHAMBERS CAN HELP More than 25 states and 150 cities and counties have adopted policies that regulate how and when employers can consider a job applicant’s criminal background in the hiring process. Chambers of commerce can provide support to businesses that provide a second chance to formerly incarcerated people. Here are a few ways chambers can help:

• Facilitate dialogue, with and between members, about fair chance hiring.

• Host employer forums, one-on-one meetings and trainings/seminars on hiring practices

• Launch a local campaign to remove criminal record-related questions from job applications

• Connect members with American Job Centers and/or community-based organizations that serve people with criminal histories • Encourage members to support vendors/suppliers who hire people with barriers to employment, such as criminal records, homelessness or disabilities For more information and best practice samples, visit

Chamber Executive

Fall 2017



About Personnel

MANUALS By Sarah Melby, MLIS


Question: W  e are rewriting our personnel manual. What should we cover? Answer: First, a little background. Whether it’s called a personnel manual or employee handbook, it’s an essential component for a chamber’s operations and employee success. The manual or handbook, “is like having a rulebook for sports,” says Insperity in a blog post titled 3 Reasons Why You Need to Update Your Employee Handbook ( Insperity says a handbook defines an organization’s “boundaries, gives ground rules and explains what is and is not considered acceptable behavior. It can detail anything from your payroll schedule and vacation policies to the federal, state and industry regulations with which you are mandated to comply.” Whether your chamber is creating a new manual or making updates, consider it an opportunity to define organizational culture and expectations.


Welcome message. Explain the purpose of the handbook. Include an equal opportunity statement and any necessary contractual disclaimers and at-will policies. Use this introduction to briefly tell your chamber’s story (history, mission, vision, values, etc.). It’s important to talk about organizational culture, too.

Policies and procedures. Be sure to cover the Americans with Disabilities Act. Cover workplace policies relating to sexual harassment, drug and alcohol abuse, violence and weapons. Employee-focused policies — such as attendance, hours of work, breaks, overtime, timekeeping, recordkeeping, pay schedule and deduction information, performance review expectations, promotions and termination — should be covered, too. We suggest including guidelines related to phone, email, internet, data privacy and social media usage in this section or elsewhere in the handbook. In this section, cover onboarding procedures, standards of conduct, disciplinary action and the exit process.

Benefits. Explain paid (and unpaid) time off, like holidays, vacation and sick leave. In this section, define disability coverage, family and medical leave, as well as bereavement, jury duty and military leave. Also cover health insurance options, information about retirement plan benefits, workers' compensation and unemployment insurance. If your chamber provides training and education/professional development opportunities, include information in this section or elsewhere in the personnel manual.

Summary and acknowledgment of receipt. Restate the purpose and importance of the handbook’s policies and procedures. When drafting this section, consider opportunities to foster employee engagement and raison d'être of the workplace, members served and the organization’s purpose. Include a disclaimer that the employer has the right to change the handbook and rules “without notice, the fact that employment is at will and the note that handbook does not create a contract.” Have employees sign and date their copy of the manual.

SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management), the source of inspiration for these components, provides a free employee handbook template, available for download at

IMPORTANT! Distribute your new or updated personnel manual to all team members and be sure to include an overview in the onboarding process. Have a human resources expert and/or legal counsel review the employee manual, too.

Consider This... When creating or updating the employee handbook for your chamber of commerce, you might give thought to holistic policies—ones that embrace your organization’s culture, or the culture you’re working to build. These policies could relate to code of conduct, ethics, attire, personal hygiene, communications policy, LGBTQ protections and nondiscrimination practices. Along with federal regulations, know human resources-related laws for your specific state (for example, minimum wage). The personnel manual should address smoking, drug and alcohol use. If applicable, address marijuana consumption policies in your handbook, especially in areas where laws have recently changed. It’s important to consider, too, that members of your staff might regularly attend events where alcohol is served. Your manual should address appropriate consumption and repercussions if rules are not followed. Although a chamber of commerce might not seem like a hazardous place to work, accidents can and do happen everywhere. Include guidelines on emergency or medical procedures, and OSHA requirements (safety rules, reporting accidents, etc.). Safety is everyone’s responsibility!

More resources For more information on the topic, check out the post titled 8 Things to Consider When Updating Employee Handbooks for 2017 from SHRM, available at Looking for employee handbook samples to use as inspiration or as a template to get you started? Samples, gathered from peers and other organizations, can be found by visiting The Personnel Policies Chamberpedia page ( includes QuickPolls on human resources, links to valuable samples and sources on workplace safety, social media policies, teleworking guidelines and much more.

Sarah Melby is ACCE’s director of information and research. Email Sarah at or call 703-998-3524. HERO (Help. Expertise. Resources. Online.) is ACCE’s information repository and reference desk. Live help is available every business day. earn more at Ask your question at

Can’t find what you need? Or would you like to learn more about custom research and services? Email Chamber Executive

Spring 2017


Two Q2030 implementation teams are focused on the new I-74 Bridge, which is expected to be transformational for the Quad Cities region.

Strategically located along the Mississippi River, the Quad Cities

"Market Street Services came to the Quad Cities with the

region has evolved throughout the years from a collection of

necessary expertise and open mind. They embraced our

river ports, commercial hubs, and production centers into a

passion for change and worked shoulder to shoulder with

diverse two-state region well-positioned to leverage its historic

our community to develop a clear, comprehensive, action-

and modern advantages for an even more dynamic future.

oriented plan that leverages our region’s extraordinary

To seize this opportunity and address challenges that might

opportunities to grow jobs, talent and the economy. They

prevent its attainment, the Quad Cities developed a regional

became a vital and trusted partner who gave us an inspiring

vision strategy to guide its activities in the coming years and

and aspirational vision to transform our Quad Cities and


the guidance to make it a reality."

Since 2014, Market Street has been a proud partner of the Quad Cities Chamber, helping make their vision a reality with measurable results, by providing the necessary tools to engage, inspire and

- Rene Gellerman Senior Vice President, Quad Cities Chamber Loaned Executive, Q2030 Regional Action Plan

positively impact their growing community of over 400,000 citizens.

How we can help transform your community? 730 Peachtree Street NE | Suite 540 | Atlanta, GA 30308 Phone: 404-880-7242

MEET SHEREE ANNE KELLY Sheree Anne Kelly, ACCE’s president and CEO, sat down with Ben Wills, Chamber Executive editor-in-chief, to chat about her first few weeks on the job, opportunities ahead and past experiences. Welcome to the team! You joined us September 6— how are things going so far? Thank you. The word that keeps coming to mind is honor. I’m honored to have been chosen for this role. ACCE is an institution with a rich history and a strong and vibrant future. I have enjoyed every moment of my first few weeks here. An early priority of mine has been to get to know our diverse membership, so I’ve embarked on a listening tour. In my first two months, I’ve spoken with or met more than 50 chamber executives from a variety of geographies. Our conversations have centered on regional and local priorities, opportunities and challenges. The chamber of commerce community is full of thoughtful, engaged, forward-thinking professionals. At the same time, I’m getting to know the tremendous staff at ACCE. The team is member-centric and dedicated. In addition to showing me the ropes and spelling out countless acronyms, I’ve enjoyed seeing first-hand how everyone solves problems, proactively addresses challenges and connects chamber professionals with peers. Starting a new position during unprecedented natural disasters gave me a clear snapshot of the character of this community. We received countless inquiries on how to help chambers impacted by recent hurricanes. Seeing everyone come together to help one another showed me, in my first week, how special and tight-knit this community is.

What excites you most about being a part of this community? My first job in Washington was at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. I did a lot of interesting things there (and my fair share of

grunt work as a newbie), but the part of the job I loved most was when state and local chambers came to our nation’s capital for briefings. Hearing their stories, and the role they played in their communities, inspired me. I understood early on how chambers, together with their members, are critical to community success. That job started my career-long commitment to supporting and advancing the business community in any way that I can. ACCE has a great reputation, so this role is a chance to build on existing success. Between the mission of ACCE and affiliated entities, like Community Growth Education Fund (CGEF), we’re working on priorities and projects that I believe in. This is a strong community made up of exceptional people, doing remarkable things. How could you not want to be part of a force of nature like this?

Have there been any big surprises so far? Luckily, none of the scary variety. My biggest surprise has been the breadth and depth of activities that chambers of commerce engage in. Innovative workforce development initiatives, cutting-edge public-private partnerships, disaster recovery efforts, convening community conversations around pressing issues ranging from public policy priorities to inequality… I knew chambers were warriors, but the interactions I have had so far show me that chambers have an even greater role and impact on their communities.

"We received countless inquiries on how to help chambers impacted by recent hurricanes. Seeing everyone come together to help one another showed me, in my first week, how special and tight-knit this community is."

ISO: BIG IDEAS POWERED BY YOU. FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE. Help shape the future of our community by sharing your story at #ACCE18. Proposals for workshops and presentations that spark ideas, strengthen community and propel the profession forward will be accepted through January 12. See what we’re looking for and submit your proposal at


Life before ACCE—tell us about it? I spent the last 16 years at Public Affairs Council, which is an association for public affairs professionals. Public affairs is broadly defined, and includes government relations, communications, corporate social responsibility and stakeholder engagement. Public Affairs Council focuses on best practices and trends. Similar to ACCE, it offers professional development, expertise, certification, research, networks, peer-to-peer learning, benchmarking and sample resources. I wore many hats there, including serving as executive director of the Foundation for Public Affairs. My role involved member relations, thought leadership development, speech delivery and leading major consulting projects. Internally, I worked on governance and budgeting, and I led strategic planning. One of the highlights from my time there was taking PAC international by opening our first branch office in Brussels. Prior to Public Affairs Council, I spent a couple of years in government affairs at the National Association of Home Builders. My interest in service and community building has been a great fit for the association world.

Looking ahead, what are some opportunities for ACCE?

"We’re not shy about sharing successes within our community, but I see an opportunity to share successes in a broad and more public way."

to share successes in a broad and more public way. There’s misconception about our profession, and many don’t understand the important role and impact that chambers of commerce, and their members, have on communities everywhere. ACCE is in a unique position to serve as a megaphone and platform, both within the U.S. and internationally, for elevating awareness of chamber work. We have a role to play in building the chamber of commerce brand and mitigating those misunderstandings.

Any final thoughts? Please reach out to me! I would love to connect, hear more about your work and how ACCE can provide the highest level of service to you and your colleagues. If my phone isn’t ringing, I feel like I’m doing something wrong. I’m thrilled to be a part of this community and the ACCE team; and I’m looking forward to working with everyone collaboratively, as ACCE embarks on its next century.

There seems to be an unending list of opportunities, which is truly the ideal situation. While I’m still actively listening, one area that immediately stands out is the opportunity for ACCE to showcase the great work chambers are doing. We’re not shy about sharing successes within our community, but I see an opportunity

Three little letters.

ONE BIG DISTINCTION. CCE is the highly recognized certification for high-achieving chamber professionals.

Learn more about becoming a Certified Chamber Executive by visiting

Christy Gillenwater, CCE President & CEO Southwest Indiana Chamber Became a Certified Chamber Executive in 2012


We are the unifying force dedicated to community vitality and economic prosperity.


Chamber Executive

Fall 2017


ith this bold, new vision, the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce embarked on an ambitious journey to become a modern, progressive and communitycentric organization. It started in 2014, at a time when we had 425 members, employed three people and carried a burdensome debt. Staff and board members alike knew the organization needed more than just a new vision statement to propel us forward; we needed the kind of strategic plan that would drive change and facilitate success. What we desired was a plan that would pave the way for the next chapter in our chamber’s story. Not only did we want to build relevance and credibility for our brand, we also wanted to assemble an organization that could meet the needs of our growing community. I joined the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce team in September 2014. During my interview, I pitched a concept for the Spokane Valley Chamber that first caught my attention while living and working in Kansas City. It was the Big 5 initiative that helped me land the job. Jim Heeter and Greg Graves — Greater Kansas City Chamber’s CEO and board chair, respectively, at the time — and Scott Hall, senior vice president of civic and community initiatives at the chamber, launched KC’s Big 5 in 2011 to identify and

communicate top regional priorities. The work began with a simple question: What would you do if you were CEO of regional Kansas City? The chamber invited people from the community to attend a series of town hall-style meetings, where attendees were asked to share what they would do if they were the region’s CEO. Many meetings and listening sessions later, the chamber took the 182 responses it received and began to whittle down many suggestions into five big priorities. The Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce jumped on the Big 5 concept, investing the resources required to replicate Kansas City’s success in our community. But how could a chamber of commerce like ours — one with fewer members, a smaller staff and that weighty debt — attempt such a seemingly monumental task and achieve similar success? Following the “think small, stay small” mantra, we set out to achieve big results by reaching for big dreams. With the support of the three Big 5 architects from Kansas City, we saw no harm in giving it giving it a try. And while our two chambers look nothing alike in many ways, we share the same commitment to improving our communities. To identify our own Big 5, we followed a simple three-step process to engage the entire Greater Spokane Valley community.

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Fall 2017


FEDERATION PARTNERSHIP Stand Out for Your Small Businesses

“As one of the first to participate, our chamber continues to enjoy the benefits of the Federation Partnership Program. Two memberships for the price of one add value and strengthen the local voice of business in Washington. All in all, the Federation Partnership personifies the Free Enterprise spirit our chamber pursues year-round.” Gary M. Mabrey, IOM, CCE

President and CEO Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee

Looking for ways to enhance the value of your membership? U.S. Chamber members may participate in the Federation Partnership Program, which offers complimentary U.S. Chamber membership to your small businesses at no cost to you or to them.

How do you benefit? • Enhance your membership portfolio with the addition of U.S. Chamber member benefits and resources. • Increase membership retention through the promotion of two memberships for the price of one. • Strengthen your grassroots and advocacy efforts through U.S. Chamber Small Business Nation to receive tailored communications and online access. • Gain a competitive advantage in your overall membership recruitment.

How do your small businesses benefit? • • • • • •

A voice in Washington representing their interests. Complimentary Rocket Lawyer membership and access to 500 legal documents and templates. Product and service discounts to affinity partners such as FedEx. The U.S. Chamber’s online commentary and analysis at and Above the Fold. Legislative policy issue alerts and invites to exclusive networking and policy events and conference calls. Access to thousands of pages of small business how-to toolkits through Small Business Nation.

Stand out in your community and demonstrate that your small businesses are your priority by becoming a Federation Partner. Join the U.S. Chamber at and learn more about the Federation Partnership by visiting

Political Affairs and Federation Relations 26

Chamber Executive

Fall 2017

1615 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20062 Email:

IT ALL STARTED WITH A SIMPLE QUESTION: WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE CEO OF YOUR REGION? First, residents were invited to join the discussion by using an anonymous online platform called Thoughtexchange. By using this tool, participants were encouraged to evaluate ideas on based on their own merits. We asked three questions to get started: • What are some things you appreciate about living and working in the Greater Spokane Valley? • What are some of your concerns about living and working in the Greater Spokane Valley? • What are some things you think the Greater Spokane Valley should be nationally recognized for? After receiving the answers, we asked community members to rank responses gathered in the first step of the process. Finally, key stakeholders gathered to identify common themes that emerged from the ranked responses. After careful deliberation, we were then able to define the Big 5 priorities for Greater Spokane Valley. The five ideas that emerged from these deliberations implored the chamber to advance efforts toward promoting high-tech manufacturing (“Greater Goods”), expanding medical research (“Greater Cures”), protecting the health of the environment (“Greater Outdoors”), building an enterprising identity (“Greater Vision”) and integrating business and education to forge the workforce of the future (“Greater Learning”).

Together, these five big ideas helped to shape the chamber’s strategy as we set out to build the vibrant community we all desired. GETTING RESULTS Focused on achieving community vitality and economic prosperity, Big 5 has become our beacon and compass as we continue pushing the region forward. Our Big 5 has already produced big results for the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce. In the short time since we set out on our journey, our staff size has grown to one part-time and four full-time employees. Membership has increased nearly 70 percent, with a retention rate approaching 90 percent. And for the first time in a decade, we are debt-free with money in the bank. It’s easy to find reasons why your chamber of commerce is “too small” to accomplish something big. With support from chamber peers a few states away, we borrowed a big idea from a larger chamber and scaled it to fit our community. Your chamber is neither too small, nor too large, to be inspired by the success of others in our profession. Just take a big idea and scale it to fit.


715 Total Greater Spokane Valley Chamber members today

70% increase in membership since launching Big 5

1081 ideas shared during Spokane Valley's Big 5 listening sessions

272 participants in Spokane Valley's listening sessions

Katherine Morgan is president and CEO of the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Your chamber is neither too small, nor too large, to be inspired by the success of others in our profession. Just take a big idea and scale it to fit.

Chamber Executive

Fall 2017




Chamber Executive

Fall 2017

Wondering how diversity and inclusion apply to chambers? Visit the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and you’ll meet James Kelly, a part-time receptionist who has a disability. Or watch the welcome video shown at the 2017 Annual Dinner that was close-captioned for the deaf and hard of hearing. Or participate in the employee book group where topics such as gay marriage and racial inequities have taken center stage. A casual observer may chalk up these occurrences to coincidence, but chamber employees and members of the business community know better. They all happened because the Cincinnati chamber is intentional about incorporating inclusion in all aspects of its operations. To be sure, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber is one of many with diversity and inclusion initiatives that are making a difference in their communities. But thanks to a bold vision and formal inclusion plan, the Cincinnati chamber has set out to model inclusion not only for its members, but also for its peers in the chamber of commerce world. A LITTLE HISTORY For nearly 15 years, the regional chamber of commerce in Cincinnati has been hailed as a leader in diversity initiatives, starting with the establishment of a minority business accelerator in 2003. The MBA’s success has spawned similar efforts at other chambers and helped raise awareness about how diversity initiatives can make a difference—and the vital role chambers can play in facilitating those efforts.

Starting in 2010, the chamber produced Regional Indicators Reports benchmarking its region against 11 others, including Denver and Pittsburgh. A 2012 report’s focus on diversity “really got people’s attention,” says Mary Stagaman, senior inclusion advisor at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. That’s because the region ranked second to last in several key categories used to measure diversity and inclusion, including racial and ethnic diversity and the number of female-owned businesses. The data was supplemented with input from chief diversity officers and focus groups and results of an online survey. The report, “Diverse by Design: Meeting the Talent Challenge in a Global Economy,” was unveiled at an annual Diversity Leadership Symposium, a partnership between the regional chamber and Fifth Third Bank. The report, says Stagaman, helped galvanize community leaders around the idea that to be competitive, the region would need to grow its population strategically so it could paint a new picture. “It would not happen organically,” she says, noting that Cincinnati shares that challenge with many Midwestern cities. “We needed to be intentional about change.” Diverse by Design became a call to action. “We often say ‘It’s the smart thing to do,’” she says, “but we acknowledge that it’s also the right thing to do.”

The chamber's directive reads, “we will model inclusion in everything we do,” with inclusion defined as “an intentional process through which differences are harnessed to create value.”





Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber's diversity benchmarking report, first produced in 2012, helped community leaders understand that to be a competitive city, they would need to work strategically to grow their population, and today helps them continue on a path of diversity and inclusion. Download the Diverse by Design report at

The chamber positioned itself as a convener, working with more than 100 organizations, numerous volunteers, and work groups to address the opportunities and challenges identified. “We fundamentally believe that our long-term competitiveness and sustainability will be built on our ability to attract, develop and retain a workforce that looks like where the country is going, not where it’s been,” Stagaman says. One of the outgrowths of these efforts was CONNECT ERG, an initiative that connects members of employee resource groups throughout the region. For example, a supermarket chain's chief diversity officer mentored an insurance company in the initial stages of starting affinity groups. The chamber organizes annual meetings to discuss best practices for ERGs, and, in 2017, launched an ERG Regionial Leaders Council.

Chamber Executive

Fall 2017



1997 UNSIGHTLY SIGNAGE (Happy Merchants)

2007 SIGNAGE REMOVED (Unhappy Merchants)

2017 BRANDED OPEN FLAGS (Happy Merchants)

A downtown with coordinated, custom branded OPEN flags at every shop, café, and restaurant. It’s a show of unity and community pride all in a neat little package: A Susan Clickner* OPEN flag created just for your Main Street.

What do Chamber Executives and Members say? “Our merchants love these flags because it makes Main Street look alive and increases business. After 10 years they still put them out every morning”

“The flag substantially increases our business. That’s why we have put them up every day for the past 10 years!”

Julie Van Ness

Al Garrison

Executive Director WELLSBORO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE Wellsboro, PA

Owner GARRISON CLOTHING SHOP Main Street Wellsboro, PA

This is a simple Affinity program that costs the Chamber $300 for the first custom “Open flag” and then their members pay $125 for additional flags and the Chamber receives 10% of sales. Details at * Susan is a successful commercial artist with 30 years’ experience. Her artwork is on notable brands of rugs, drapes and housewares and sold at big box stores like Walmart and Target. Her art attracts customers that buy products! 30

Chamber Executive

Fall 2017

CINCINNATI USA REGIONAL CHAMBER AT A GLANCE YEAR FOUNDED 1839 ANNUAL BUDGET Nearly $12.5 million NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES 51 James Kelly is a welcoming face at the chamber, where he works to integrate people with disabilities. Jill Meyer, who was hired in 2015 as president and CEO for the Chamber has a keen awareness of the opportunity she has to help businesses practice both inclusivity and diversity.

UNVEILING AN INCLUSION PLAN Despite the chamber’s emphasis on helping members understand how the region — and individual companies — could benefit from diversity initiatives, the chamber had “not really turned a spotlight on itself,” says Stagaman. “Were we walking the walk?” That changed after Jill Meyer was hired as president and CEO in 2015. An attorney and member of the chamber’s board, Meyer says she was keenly aware of the need to focus on gap areas for businesses and one of those was “talent, talent, talent.” With encouragement from the board and business leaders, Meyer realized that there was a “big opportunity” in helping companies “navigate the transition” from having a diversity program to learning how to be inclusive. As a result, when the chamber rolled out its 2016 strategic plan, an inclusion plan was its foundation. Its directive reads, “We will model inclusion in everything we do,” with inclusion defined as “an intentional process through which differences are harnessed to create value.” The goal was to “exemplify inclusion through people, programs, practices, policy and partnerships.” A succinct statement to be sure, but how to accomplish it? Part of the learning curve involved understanding that inclusivity was part of everyone’s job. “People would ask, ‘Who’s on Mary’s team?’” recalls Meyer, referring to Mary Stagaman. “I said, ‘We’re all on her team. It’s not her job to do this. It’s your job.’” To that end, every chamber employee was required to set a performance goal in 2017 related to the inclusion plan. That goal had to be achievable within the year and measurable.

NUMBER OF MEMBERS 3,800+ MANAGEMENT TEAM Jill Meyer, president and CEO; and Brendon Cull, senior VP SIGNATURE EVENTS Oktoberfest Zinzinnati (2017 attendance of approximately 675,000 visitors); Taste of Cincinnati; and new in 2017, BLINK, where one million people viewed the largest immersive light show in the US INTERESTING FACT Cincinnati was the site of the first ACCE national convention in 1914, as well as ACCE’s 100th annual convention in 2014 WHAT STAFFERS ARE READING Brendon Cull leads the employee book group. Described as a bibliophile by Mary Stagaman, senior inclusion advisor, Cull is a member of several book groups outside of work. The books selected for discussion so far: • Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality by Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell

Obergefell, an Ohioan, was the named plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case for marriage equality, Obergefell v. Hodges.

• The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A critically acclaimed novel about the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer.

Chamber Executive

Fall 2017


"We want to model the picture of the community we want to create, not simply just reflect where we are today.”

Mary Stagaman, senior inclusion advisor at the Cincinnati Chamber, has personally met with each of the chamber's employees to assist them in setting measurable performance goals for inclusion.

Midyear, Stagaman met with each employee individually to measure progress on their goals. Those goals are making an impact. The marketing team set out to increase minority spend by a certain amount. And they did. Another employee was charged with attaining a 28 percent multicultural participation rate in the chamber’s flagship leadership development program. (She did.) Someone else developed a tool to help the selection committee review demographic data of those accepted into the program. And the talent team is focused on recruiting a more diverse workforce. “We want to model the picture of the community we want to create,” says Stagaman, “not simply just reflect where we are today.” In addition to individual goals, every employee must complete three inclusion learning opportunities. This could be the book club, Coffee and Conversation (one featured a leader of the local Black Lives Matter movement) or the Diversity Leadership Symposium. Employees can even get credit for watching the film “Hidden Figures.” Stagaman admits that the cultural shift is “harder for some people than others.” At the same time, she says, “I am seeing incredible growth, understanding and movement toward why it matters.” “People can bring their whole selves to work.” After the discussion about Black Lives Matter, one employee divulged that they had never worked somewhere where they felt comfortable discussing what was weighing on their mind, much less process it. That’s important, says Meyer, because it lets people “sit down and do their jobs instead of stewing.” She says she is seeing strong bonds form between employees. “You get to know people on a different level if you are willing to put your vulnerabilities out there,” she says.

Programming for members has expanded as well. Inspired by the multicultural receptions offered by the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the chamber launched its own version, known as Stir! To attract a wider cross-section of the community, it partnered with six other chambers, including the Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Another important new program is called “Building Cultural Competence.” Meyer was one of 27 participants in the first prototype, with another scheduled for spring 2018. Could chambers in more conservative areas of the country model diversity and inclusion? Sure, says Meyer. “Inclusion is not about advocating one point of view,” she says. “It’s about opening up to understanding different points of view. You don’t even have to understand, but you have to accept, in a productive way, that people will always have different viewpoints.” And to skeptics who wonder whether chambers should take the lead on this issue, Meyer cites demographic data that says the country is moving toward a majority-minority. “This is what the world will look like,” she says. “If you haven’t figured out how to think inclusively and act inclusively, you are not going to be relevant to helping businesses thrive and grow.”

Katherine House is an award-winning business writer who lives in Iowa City, Iowa. She has contributed several articles to Chamber Executive, including those about disaster recovery, the Santa Train in Appalachia, tiered dues structures and a charter school in Louisiana. She can be reached by email at



Chamber Executive

Fall 2017







Q&A WITH DARRIN REDUS Meet Darrin Redus, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s vice president in charge of the Minority Business Accelerator.

WHAT IS THE GOAL OF THE ACCELERATOR? Our specific focus is on the African-American and Hispanic business communities. This focus is driven by data showing that those populations remain the two most economically disadvantaged populations when looking at businesses of scale, wealth gaps and economic disparity data. We help to bring parity to those two populations through entrepreneurship. WHEN WAS THE ACCELERATOR FOUNDED? It was founded in 2003 to assist African-American businesses and was one of the country’s first minority business accelerators. It was born from civil unrest following the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer. It was very specifically intended to be housed within the chamber. Typically, accelerators have been stand-alone nonprofit organizations. HOW CAN BUSINESS ACCELERATORS HELP THE OVERALL BUSINESS CLIMATE IN AN AREA? Job creation is one of the primary drivers. It’s well-documented that minority firms tend to hire more minorities. National data shows that, on average, at minority companies, three or four out of every six workers are minorities versus one out of six for non-minority firms. The challenge is that the great majority of minority firms are skewed on a smaller scale. But if you could take that same three to four out of six workers to firms with $10, $20 or $50 million in revenue, think of the impact on job creation. WHAT CRITERIA ARE NEEDED FOR A BUSINESS TO BECOME PART OF THE ACCELERATOR AS A PORTFOLIO COMPANY? A business has to have a B2B platform with minimum annual sustainable revenue of $1 million or greater, and the entrepreneur or business owner needs to be interested in accelerated growth. [Businesses must also have their headquarters or a “significant presence” in the Cincinnati USA region and be certified as a minority business enterprise by a third-party agency.] HOW CAN AN ACCELERATOR FACILITATE GROWTH FOR PORTFOLIO COMPANIES?

the things I am most proud of is that the portfolio companies have $1 billion in aggregate annual sales and 3,500 jobs. We want to double those numbers in five years. While aggressive, it’s doable because our companies are now of a certain size and scale that it’s now possible to attract equity capital. [The scale] allows for product expansion and growth through acquisition, which weren’t options years ago. Most historically minority business efforts have been over-dependent on debt capital, but equity capital is a different animal.

••• "Our specific focus is on the African-American and Hispanic business communities ... we help to bring parity to those two populations through entrepreneurship.” HOW IS THE MBA FUNDED? In addition to the support provided by the chamber, a significant portion of funding comes from corporate donations and sponsorships, as well as programmatic funding. We also receive grants from foundations—both regional and national. We are in the throes of rolling out a new model. If a portfolio company is looking to secure funding, and we assist them in preparation and readiness and facilitate introductions to capital providers, up to 3 percent [of the funded amount] will come back to us.

Darrin Redus joined the chamber in January 2016 from MainStreet Inclusion Advisors, a consulting firm he founded specializing in preparing and connecting ethnically diverse entrepreneurs with capital sources. In May 2017, Redus provided testimony to the U.S. House Small Business Committee on the role of MBAs.

A very key component is supply-chain related—getting corporations to buy products and services from local minority firms. But we are also assisting firms in doing business in broader geographies, whether that’s across state lines or via exporting WHAT IMPACT HAS THE ACCELERATOR HAD? We have a portfolio where average annual sales are $30 million. That’s just not the norm for minority businesses. One of

Chamber Executive

Fall 2017


FACES AND PLACES The Central Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce has named Tea Jay Aikey has its next president and CEO. Aikey previously served as the organization’s finance and membership director and assumes the position following the passing of the chamber’s former president and CEO, Bruce T. Smith Jr. Latonya Brock has been promoted to executive director of the Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce in Illinois. Brock previously served as the chamber’s membership manager. Brent Cooper has been named president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. Cooper is a familiar face at the chamber, having previously served as board chair, and twice as its interim president. Brent has also served in leadership roles on various chamber committees over the years. Prior to leading the chamber, Cooper was founder of C-Forward Information Technologies, a company he founded in 1999 when he was 29 years old. The Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce (Tenn.) has named Christy Gillenwater, CCE, IOM, as its next president and CEO. Gillenwater, who has been president and CEO of Southwest Indiana Chamber since 2013, serves on the ACCE board of directors and was named Chamber Executive of the Year by Indiana Chamber Executives Association in June. The Flagler County Chamber of Commerce (Fla.) has selected Jorge Gutierrez as its new president and CEO. Most recently, Gutierrez was the regional vice president of operations for Concorde Career Colleges, where he responsible for overseeing four colleges in the Allied Health Industry. The Griffin/Spalding Chamber of Commerce in Georgia has named Cindy Jones as its new executive director, following the retirement of Bonnie Pfrogner. Jones has worked at the chamber for 23 years in a variety of capacities, including membership, accounts payable/


Chamber Executive

Fall 2017

receivable, marketing, human resources, events, leadership development and fundraising.











Dan Koenig has been named president and CEO of the Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce (Iowa). Koenig fills a role vacated by Bob Mundt, CCE, CEcD, who now leads the Fox Cities Regional Chamber of Commerce in Wisconsin. Before being named president and CEO, Koenig worked at the Council Bluffs Chamber as executive vice president from 1989 to 1993. Koenig has led chambers in Overland Park, Kansas; Bellevue, Nebraska and San Angelo, Texas. The Harris County Chamber of Commerce (Ga.) has named Colin Martin as its next president and CEO. Martin previously served as a governmental affairs consultant for Columbus Regional Health and was a field representative for former U.S. Congressman Lynn Westmoreland. Martin brings chamber experience to his new position, having worked for the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce and the Valley Partnership Joint Development Authority. Scott Martin has been named president and CEO of the Norman Chamber of Commerce in Oklahoma. Previously, Martin represented the 46th District in the Oklahoma House of Representatives since 2006, winning his latest reelection in 2016. He served as chairman of the Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education. Martin has been named as one of OKC Business Journal's 40 Under Forty and has received the State Chamber of Commerce's Defender of Free Enterprise Award. The Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce (Wis.) recently hired Deidre Martinez as its new executive director. Martinez succeeds Betsy Alles, who will be retiring after leading the chamber since 2010. Most recently Martinez was membership development manager for the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce in Illinois.

The Metro North Chamber of Commerce (Colo.) has named Gregg Moss as president and CEO. Moss has worked as a television anchor/reporter, associate publisher at Denver Business Journal and has held several leadership positions at nonprofits in the greater Denver area.

Shawnee Economic Development Council in Kansas. Smith Tate was previously the economic development director for the city of Independence, Missouri and previously worked as the director of business programs for the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce (Kan.).

The Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce (N.C.) has selected Mark E. Owens, CCE, as its incoming president and CEO. Owens has served as president and CEO of the Greater Greer Chamber of Commerce (S.C.) since 2014, and is currently president of the Carolinas Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. ygmfalladv2.pdf 1 been 9/19/16 8:39 AM Ann Smith Tate has named president and CEO of the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the


Smith Tate



Gary Troutman has been named the president and CEO of the Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Hot Springs Metro Partnership (Ark.). Troutman succeeds Jim Fram, CCE, CEcD, who has worked for the past 35 years at chambers of commerce and economic development organizations in Arkansas, Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. Fram plans to help with the transition through the end of the year.

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Chamber Executive

Fall 2017



Chamber Executive

Fall 2017


Who uses Futures Lab and Rebecca Ryan?

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Chamber Executive: Fall 2017