Volume IV Issue IV
Fourth Quarter 2013
It’s hard to believe that the final quarter of 2013 has arrived and that this is my last Chairman’s letter in the CLIMATE.
Message from the Chairman
Over the last year I have had the opportunity to work closely with people I know and admire, all while making many new connections that I deeply value. While it has truly been a pleasure to lead and serve our Chamber, I certainly haven’t done it alone. I would like to recognize and applaud the efforts and accomplishments of my fellow board members, community stakeholders, committee Sherri Chinski members, and the Chamber staff that have worked hand 2013 Chairman of the Board in hand to create a positive impact on our business communities. In the past year we have relocated to a new facility, hired and trained additional staff, worked collaboratively in several public-private partnerships and successfully hosted numerous networking and professional development events throughout McLean County. As strategy and budgets are being prepared for 2014, I would like to encourage every member to continue or increase their involvement with our Chamber. Be engaged! While time isn’t always easy to come by, there’s so much more that your membership allows that doesn’t required “time”. Being engaged can be easy and the potential for long-term gains are great! The Chamber is only as strong as its members, and your participation allows the Chamber to continue its mission to promote local commerce, advocate business perspectives, create relevant programs and establish relationships, all for YOUR business success! I have taken great pride in serving as the Chamber’s Chairman of the Board this last year. It is with sincere gratitude that I say “thank you” for allowing me the opportunity.
Ag Exchange Program Showcases the Power of Agriculture in McLean County’s Economy With the diverse array of businesses throughout McLean County, we sometimes forget that our number one industry is agriculture. It’s ironic that the county’s top industry is often the least understood. The reason is not a lack of interest, but the simple fact that we have moved from an agrarian to urban society.
what actually goes on under the hood of a half a million dollar combine. This program has confirmed my inclinitions that farmers, their families and the related industries are some of the hardest working people in America.”
For many residents of McLean County outside of the viewing of corn and soybean fields from our cars, or the farm implements on the road, our experience and understanding of this vital industry segment is limited. “When I first heard of the Ag Exchange program I was so excited because I felt it would give me, the city girl from Bloomington, the opportunity to actually experience some of the farming community that I grew up in the midst of, but never really knew much about,” said Fox N Hounds Salon and Day Spa Owner Vicki Tilton. “I have now driven a quarter of a million dollar tractor and seen
the process,” claimed Brad Briney, Vice President & Area Manager for JPMorgan Chase Bank. “The experience has certainly furthered my understanding of agriculture and agribusiness and provided a deeper appreciation of the economy of Mclean County.”
Ag Exchange links our community and corporate leaders to the people, businesses and organizations that are a part of To bridge the gap between the business and agribusiness com- the ag industry that creates thousands of jobs, millions of dolmunity the McLean County Chamber of Commerce launched lars in revenue, as well as associated products right here in a pilot program called Ag Exchange. The innaugural class of McLean County. nine participants have been given the opportunity to meet “It has been especially helpwith farmers and those involved with agribusiness on-site to ful to see how producers, gauge a better understanding of what it takes to produce, har- implementers, buyers, and vest and process the grains that we often take for granted. end users interact throughout
Fox N Hounds Owner Vicki Tilton takes her turn behind the wheel of a farm tractor.
Charlie Moore, President & CEO of the McLean County Chamber of Commerce addresses members of the media.
CASI Holds Press Conference to Return Funds to Both Public and Private Investors 100 percent of CASI’s public sector investment as well as returning 100 percent of the private sector investment earmarked for the Frontier CASI is an economic development and air transportation iniagreement. tiative for Central Illinois, its mission is to assist with the attraction of new air service to the Central Illinois Regional Airport “Without our investors we by administering a community air-based service incentive wouldn’t be here today,” said program. The formation of CASI was a direct result of the loss McLean County Chamber of of Air Tran Airways, which had been a 16-year partner in air Commerce President & CEO Charlie Moore. “Frontier Airtravel at the Central Illinois Regional Airport. lines service to Denver and At the conclusion of the first year of service between Central Orlando would not be here. Illinois Regional Airport, and just over a year after the formaOur investors are one of the tion of CASI, the group announced that they will be refunding primary reasons we are able CIRA Executive Director, Carl Olson to continue to offer low cost delivers his thanks to the CASI investors. quality service from the Central Illinois Regional Airport, and for that we are sincerely grateful!” The McLean County Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the Community Air Service Initiative (CASI) announced the results of a one-year public-private partnership investment agreement between CASI and Frontier Airlines.
Following Moore’s remarks, checks in the amount of $100,000 were presented to Mayor Tari Renner from the City of Bloomington, Mayor Chris Koos from the Town of Normal, and to Matt Sorenson, Chairman of the McLean County Board.
Mayor Tari Renner from the City of Bloomington, Matt Sorenson, Chairman of the McLean County Board, and Mayor Chris Koos from the Town of Normal check out the new Make Your Money Mean More sign in baggage claim after the event!
“Any airport that receives funds for improvements has strict requirements on how airport funds can be spent, and giving money to an airline is strictly prohibited, “said Central Illinois Regional Airport Executive Director Carl Olson. “Having the opportunity to work with CASI, which is a program of the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, provided us an opportunity that isn’t typically open to the airport authority. It’s a compliment to all the things that we do, and had it not been for the Chamber it wouldn’t have been possible.”
Can Sales Tax Fill the Gaps Left by State and Federal Governments? tax providing 10% of the town’s revenue. “Sales tax is the largest source of revenue for the City’s General Fund,” explains Justine Robinson, Economic Development Coordinator for the City of Bloomington. “Many people think that real estate or property taxes are where most of our funding comes from, but it is sales tax, which is the largest and most important source of revenue that we have. It funds a variety of local government activities, including police and fire proOn a macro level our community is seeing a continued detection, parks and recreation, planning and economic decline in state and federal contributions to local projects. In a velopment, general administration of the City and any other time when Illinois has the lowest credit rating in the state’s activity for which a special fund has not been created.” history and boasts the lowest credit rating of any state in the union, the dollars that used to be hard to get are now becom- In comparison to surrounding communities of similar size Bloomington and Normal share one of the lowest sales tax ing impossible to find. rates in Central Illinois. But with a number of options availOf course these issues are not specific to just McLean County. able and several interested parties investigating the possibilCommunities throughout the state of Illinois and across the ity, it appears that the conversation surrounding sales tax is nation have been looking to sales tax increases to help fill only going to get hotter. In the coming months local municithe gaps that state and federal funding have left behind. Voter palities and residents will most likely face several tough deciindications from California to Florida show that the American sions as to the extent of any public wants to see less government spending which means possible sales tax increases, the projects that depend heavily on government subsidy are decisions that will have left with an ultimatum to innovate and find new sources of both immediate and long revenue or cease to exist. term effects on the busiCurrently there are several groups investigating the option of ness community of McLean requesting a local sales tax increase to help fund projects. County. At the time of this publication’s printing no official proposals The McLean County Chamhave been made to either the Bloomington or Normal counber of Commerce supports cils and Normal City Manager Mark Peterson says it is not a competitive and fair tax uncommon to have multiple groups looking for a sales tax climate that promotes and increase to help fund local projects. “The moral of the story fosters economic growth is that there may be some capacity to increase, and even that while maintaining our comis a matter of opinion. But we can’t do it all. So the question munity’s competitive adbecomes who gets the benefit.” Peterson was also quick to vantage for continued busipoint out that the popularity of requesting a sales tax increase ness success. The Chamber is enticing to organizations because they can request a relawill continue to follow the tively low percentage, but even a fraction of a percent can sales tax conversations as add up. “Sales tax is one of those taxes that can generate a lot they progress. For more of money very quickly,” continued Peterson. “Just a quarter information regarding the of a percent increase will, over seven to eight years, generate Chamber’s stance on taxes more than $30million.” and fees please contact The City of Bloomington 2012 calendar year local sales tax Government and Public Afcollections represented $29,547,929 making up 16% of the fairs Manager Todd Lowery city’s revenue. In Normal, $8,759,152 was collected in sales at 309-829-6344. As municipalities, school districts and community organizations continue to feel the financial pinch of state and federal budget cuts they have been forced to look elsewhere to find the necessary funds to maintain and improve the services many have come to depend on. As of late, one of the most common discussions to help find the dollars needed has been through the increase of local sales tax.
Making Pizza Delivery Economic and Eco-friendly
Becoming a Certified WorkReady Community McLean County already boasts an educated, skilled workforce, but a new initiative underway through the McLean County COMPACT could make that workforce stand out even more by becoming an ACT Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC).
At the crux of the ACT CWRC program, the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) is a portable, nationallyrecognized credential that clearly identifies an individual’s skills through assessments called WorkKeys, which measure individual skills in key areas: reading for information, applied Tobin’s Pizza has completely revamped their pizza delivery fleet opting for 12 new math and locating information--soft skills required for 85 perMitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicles. cent of all jobs. Individuals take the assessments and receive the National Career Readiness Certificate based upon their Business fleets are increasingly considering the switch to electric vehicles. Reduced operational costs, an eco-friendly scores. Businesses use the assessments to determine if a job persona and newer vehicles featuring longer ranges between applicant has the soft skills necessary to perform a specific job. ACT, a not-for-profit public trust headquartered in Iowa charges have all helped to increase their appeal. With the creation and implementation of EV Town, citizens of McLean City, Iowa, has developed a database of profiled jobs and assessments for those jobs, which businesses can utilize as part County are used to seeing electric vehicles zip around the of their hiring process. twin cities, and now they are showing up in driveways with pizza. “What makes this certificate different from others you may have seen is that it is nationally recognized,” says Paige VanTobin’s Pizza, located at 1513 N. Main St. in Bloomington, derhyden, Director of Workforce Development at Joliet Juhas made a few changes to their delivery fleet in the past nior College a WorkKeys Solutions Provider. “There are many seven months, all in the name of saving money. With their gas vehicles, Tobin’s was spending upwards of $3.60 per de- states throughout the nation that are implementing this program state wide. So if you are an employer and you see somelivery, which in the pizza industry equates to roughly three one’s NCRC certificate it doesn’t matter what state they took deliveries per gallon. The restaurant was one of the first in it in, it’s the same.” Bloomington-Normal to charge a delivery fee to customers and although this was not a welcomed change initially, it did help them cover their gasoline expense while other restaurants had to close their doors due to rocketing fuel prices.
The certification program offers opportunities to improve workforce readiness, prepare workers of all ages and stages for the jobs that will bring them long-term success, and proNow Tobin’s is stocked with 12 all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV vide employers with assurance that McLean County will be able to supply the well-trained workers they need now and vehicles, cutting their monthly gas bill by nearly two-thirds. in the future. With 60 percent of business coming from their delivery service, this is a significant cost savings. “As a business owner you want people to come in your door Each day, Tobin’s uses 8 to 10 of their 12 electric cars to de- and you want them to succeed,” says Paul Calvagna, Human liver pizza to customers. Each vehicle can go 75 to 90 miles Resource Director at Berner Food and Beverage in Dakota, before it needs to be recharged, more than enough miles for Illinois. Berner Foods has been implementing the NCRC certification in their human resources department since 2009 and an average night of pizza deliveries. However, the true test Calvagna has seen nothing but success with the program. “In will come this winter when the vehicles will use up more 2009 we were doing almost $80million in sales. In 2013 we’re energy and will need to be charged every 45 to 50 miles. projected to be over $115million in sales. Can I draw a direct State and Federal incentives paired with the lowering of line to WorkKeys and putting the right person in the right job vehicle maintenance and fuel expense made the decision the first time? I definitely can.” easy for Tobin’s who worked closely with Mitsubishi on this The McLean County Chamber of Commerce in collaboration endeavor, knowing that their investment is supporting the with several other community partners are working with the local economy. McLean County COMPACT to help develop this new opporFor more information on incentives currently offered with tunity. For more information about the National Work Ready the purchase of electric vehicles, visit www.evtown.org. Communities program or the National Career Readiness Certificate please visit www.act.org or contact the Chamber office at 309-829-6344.
Chamber Welcomes Leadership New Staff McLean County The McLean County Chamber of Commerce welcomes the addition of Todd Lowery and Jessica Mann to the Chamber staff. Formerly the midmorning host for local radio station WJBC, Lowery is filling the role of Government and Public Affairs Manager, a Todd Lowery position focused on advocating business perspectives at all levels of government. A graduate from Illinois State University (’92) Lowery first cut his teeth in politics working with former Congressman Tom Ewing. Mann joins the Chamber as the Membership Development Manager after previously working at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Illinois Chapter in Chicago, Illinois. Jessica Mann A native of Daytona Beach, Florida, Mann brings more than ten years of marketing and fundraising experience to the Chamber.
Announces Class of 2014 The McLean County Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce the 32 exceptional professionals who have been accepted in to the 2014 class of Leadership McLean County. Leadership McLean County celebrates its 21st class in the 2013- 2014 program year. With over 600 alumni in its history, Leadership McLean County has worked to build our community into a stronger place to live and work. For a complete list of our 2014 Leadership McLean County Participants please visit www.mcleancochamber.org.
Save the Date for Gala 2014 Mark your calendars and make plans to join the McLean County Chamber of Commerce as we host our 2014 Annual Gala. The black-tie optional event will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and Conference Center on Saturday, February 1 at 5pm. The McLean County Chamber of Commerce Annual Gala celebrates the spirit and creativity of our local visionaries and pays tribute to their accomplishments with the presentation of the 5th Annual Business Excellence Awards. Stay tuned to future Chamber communication regarding registration details for this memorable evening affair.
The 2014 Class of Leadership McLean County takes a moment for a group photo during their opening retreat at Timber Pointe Outdoor Center in Hudson.
Health Care Reform Update Employers are always trying to do what’s best for their businesses. Whether its managing expenses, investing in new marketing initiatives or improving employee work conditions, employers make decisions with the success of their business in mind. The same principle holds true as employers look at the future of health insurance and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. For some, the Affordable Care Act will require dramatic changes like providing coverage to employees or making it possible for employees to purchase it on their own. For others, the changes won’t be as significant.
While there are many major changes taking place in 2014, traditional insurance plans are still available until the end of 2013, allowing businesses to lock in current rates through the 2014 calendar year.
The exchanges allow consumers to apply for insurance effective on or after January 1, 2014, with a group of newly trained assistors available to help consumers with questions as they attempt to navigate the online marketplace. Licensed agents and brokers are also qualified to provide the same help. Since insurance will cost the same whether it is purchased on the Many small businesses already provide insurance for their Marketplace or through an agent, ECHI recommends busiemployees. For most, keeping their current plan for as long as nesses seek consultation or direction from an experienced possible will provide security against the unknown, especially broker when making changes to health insurance plans. if they are happy with their coverage. “Business owners and For more information regarding health insurance or the tranhealth care decision makers should work with their broker sition and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, busiand accountant to explore the options of renewing their cur- nesses or individuals should contact ECHI at 309-829-1185. rent policy, before it is too late” says ECHI Relationship Manager, Brian Thede.
The Chateau Hotel & Conference Center
Economic Development Council
Fleet Feet Sports
Bloomington Primary Care
Representative Dan Brady and Congressman Rodney Davis
Ginger Bread House
W.M. Putnam Company
Fox N Hounds Shoe Shine Uptown Station
Vitesse Cycle & Often Running
Donations Sought for Community Kids Christmas Party This year marks the 31st year of the McLean County Chamber of Commerce & Trades and Labor Unions joining forces to serve local children with parents that are unemployed or under-employed. All of the kids who attend the Community Kids Christmas Party are referred by social service agencies, school counselors, and teachers as children who are truly in need. Can you help us create an amazing Christmas experience for these kids with a financial contribution that would be used to buy toys, books, scarves, hats and gloves? All donations can be sent directly to the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, 2203 East Empire, Bloomington, 61704 with checks made payable to the Childrenâ€™s Christmas Fund. Should you have any questions, please contact the Chamber office at 309-829-6344.
2203 E Empire Street Bloomington, IL 61704 www.mcleancochamber.org
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