Category Archives: Advocacy

Right direction or wrong track?

There is one question political pollsters prefer over any other when trying to gauge voters’ feelings about a candidate:

“Is the country [state, city, school district, etc] headed in the right direction or on the wrong track?”

This is in part due to the vagueness of the question, and partially because people generally pick one or the other and there isn’t a middle choiImage result for political pollsce. Using a subjective numerical scale to determine how much a voter likes a candidate, or how likely a voter may or may not cast his or her vote for a particular candidate is much tougher. “On a scale of one to ten, would you say you are VERY likely, SORT OF likely, KIND OF likely, MOST likely to vote for…? I’ll pick 4, 5, 6 almost every time. Those answers don’t do squat for statisticians and pundits.

I’m pretty good about answering any polls or surveys when asked, because I used to do political polling and phone calls back in my early political days.  Any good college political science student raises his or her hand to help on local campaigns.  “Campaign Assistant” sounds so cool on a young, hungry poli-sci resume. That is until you realize the job is making blind calls from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm  for some schmucky dog catcher candidate you will never meet. No selfies in those days. You might get a button, a signed brochure, and a free meal on election night.

So let’s bring this thought to our business community in Williston and Western North Dakota, and ask again: From a business, economic and jobs standpoint; are we headed in the right direction, or are we on the wrong track? It might depend on which level of government to which you refer.

Image result for bureaucracyI’ve written before about how our federal rulemakers (not lawmakers) have been ‘helping’ small businesses the past few years; and how they’ve unleashed a series of administrative rules which if fully implemented, will stifle growth and cost the United States thousands of jobs. The “unelected government” comprised of appointed cabinet level officials, under deputy assistants to the secretary, and a plethora of bureaucratic spinsters spew out thousands of new administrative rules and interpretations of laws that not only hinder free markets, but clamp down on the American dream.

Pro-business lawmakers can only do so much during a term before it’s time for another election. Make no mistake, if the current federal regulatory environment continues, it won’t just be the price of a barrel of oil that muffles our economic growth potential in western North Dakota. It will be our own federal government. We need to recognize that the free enterprise system might not be perfect, but that same system also has built this country into a political and economic super power.

Good thing for businesses we have some choices in 2016. Let’s make the right ones.

Sidebar: Thanks to State Senator Brad Bekkedahl, North Dakota Public Service Commission Chair Julie Fedorchak, and North Dakota Department of Commerce Commissioner Al Anderson for making our first attempt at the “Eggs & Issues” policy forums a smashing success. We’ll be planning three more in the spring so watch for them. Maybe we’ll even have some eggs.

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First impressions, second thoughts, and the third degree

As a tribute to one of my all time favorite sports writers back in Wisconsin, Andy Baggot, I offer my first impressions, second thoughts, and the third degree this week on a variety of issues.

First impressions of our first ever Eggs & Issues Policy Forum last Friday was WOW. Held at the Williston Area Recreation Center (ARC) at 7:30 a.m. following our Business After Hours the previous evening, I was a bit anxious about the turnout and response. To my delight, I counted more than 40 Chamber Members and business leaders in the room interacting with State Senator Brad Bekkedahl on a variety of state and regional issues.

We made the E&I event a ‘members only‘ exclusive for a reason. To provide increased value for your membership investment. Obviously it worked.Eggs and Issues logo Next month we’ll host North Dakota Public Service Commission Chair Julie Fedorchak on October 9. Julie has deep roots in Williston and Western North Dakota, and I’m grateful for her to take a couple of days from her work in Bismarck and be with us. Thanks to Enbridge for sponsoring last week’s E&I and to the GLEN Investment Group for stepping up and partnering with us for the Oct 9 forum. We couldn’t bring this type of program to the membership without great Chamber partners.

On second thought, maybe Williston had too many options this summer for activities and choices to spend our discretionary time and dollars. That could explain why some recent events have been thinly attended, or fallen short of expectations. I’ve was told ‘there’s nothing to do’ in Williston. From the looks of the numbers of events, concerts, free community events and variety of entertainment, business-sponsored seminars, nonprofit fun runs, educational opportunities, organizations to join, etc. there seems to be quite a few choices for residents and families to spend their time and entertainment dollars. Don’t always blame the ‘slowdown’ for lack of interest or participation at local events. It might just be that there are choices today that were absent in previous years.

I’ve learned a couple of things about Williston in eighteen months. It takes a while for a new event or concept to catch on, and secondly, the numbers of choices of events, concerts, and gatherings is a good thing. Community diversity is also part of our transition, and discretionary dollar spending will bear that out over time.

My third degree this week goes to The National Labor Relations Board and their decision to redefine the independent contractor role and the definition of employer-employee. I’ve written about this previously, but upon further review, the ruling on the Browning-Ferris case stinks even more. All businesses from builders to restaurants to franchise owners could be in for a bumpy road if this ruling doesn’t get overturned by federal legislation or in a federal court; either avenue will take years. In the meantime, the ruling is now federal law and the US Chamber of Commerce and others are scrambling to inform employers, local and state chambers and franchise owners of this onerous regulatory crap. As of this moment, two federal bills have been introduced that would reverse this ruling. But we all know how legislation moves in Washington lately, so the fight continues.

And while I don’t believe that this is necessarily the easiest task, one GOP Presidential Candidate, Scott Walker, said he would eliminate the NLRB on day one of his presidency. Again, that’s a great sound bite for those fighting against the federal government’s version of the NCAA, but there’s one tiny detail Governor Walker overlooked.

He needs to actually have a ‘day one’ of his presidency.

Today’s photos…

I ventured to Lund’s Landing over the weekend, a place like no other. A cute little hideaway on Lake Sakakawea owned by Jim and Analene Torgerson for the past 27 years. Fantastic walleye sandwich and of course, juneberry pie. Definitely worth a stop while you are out and about.

Lunds Landing Lunds Landing 1

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Regulatory handcuffs continue to stifle business growth

An oft-quoted Ronald Reagan line from an address during his second administration goes like this:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are

“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

                   — Ronald Reagan, Aug. 12, 1986

While the late President had a way with Hollywood one-liners that would garner a chuckle in a room of media types, no one laughed this time. And today, the US Chamber of Commerce and the business community in America isn’t laughing either.

Recently our federal government has been on a roll, and we all know what rolls downhill. The business sector, large and small, corporations and Mom and Pops are feeling the effects of all the “help” Uncle Sam has tried to feed us as the current Administration comes to a close. Here are just a few:

  • The Environment Protection Agency‘s proposed new ozone rules will be the most expensive in history for businesses to comply with, the cost of that compliance will no doubt be passed on to consumers.
  • The Department of Labor has proposed a new fiduciary rule that will significantly hurt the ability of many Americans to save for retirement, and potentially even completely cut them off from receiving investment advice. The proposed rule will also impose complex regulatory hurdles on financial advisors that would require significant, costly changes to their business models.
  • And just this past Thursday, the National Labor Relations Board (an unelected five person regulatory panel)  handed down one of its biggest decisions of President Obama’s tenure, ruling that companies can be held responsible for labor violations committed by their contractors. While the ruling from the independent agency specifically deals with the waste management firm Browning-Ferris, the so-called “joint employer” decision could have broad repercussions for the business world, particularly for franchise companies.
    Opponents of the action warn the ruling could hurt businesses as diverse as restaurants, retailers, manufacturers and construction firms, as well as hotels, cleaning services and staffing agencies. Restaurants could see the biggest changes. Fast food chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King will likely assert more authority over — or even cut ties altogether with — local franchise owners, business advocates say.

Let’s not forget our legislative and administrative branches that have failed to pass a long term transportation funding structure, failed to renew the Export-Import Bank, did not approve the Keystone XL pipeline project, and continues to ban the export of U.S. crude oil.Image result for regulatory handcuffs

I’m not sure how much more government help the US economy can stand! We’ve become the land of the free and the home of the regulated.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m all for adequate and reasonable regulations in our society. But when the economy continues to sputter in nearly all sectors, why does passing and enforcing more regulations count as good for business? America’s business owners, retail shops, service industries, corporations and farmers are fully capable of complying with rules, even those that may be a bit over reaching.

Now if only the federal government (state and local, too) would just stop changing the rules all the time. Regulatory reform and regulatory certainty is sorely needed in our economy as much for the consumers as the businesses themselves.

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Off season advocacy

The Greater North Dakota Chamber (state chamber of commerce) held its annual policy summit last week in Bismarck. It’s Greater North Dakota Chambervital we have a voice not only with state chamber advocacy efforts, but to demonstrate to legislative leaders our resolve to represent commerce in western North Dakota. From what I’ve been observing the past 18 months, the business community can help our elected officials in their efforts – if we step up and be counted. That’s where the Chamber can make an impact.

The event was organized into five issue panels, each one moderated by either Chris Berg, Valley News Life host, or Joel Heitkamp, KFGO “News & Views” radio host; and brother of current North Dakota US Senator, Heidi Heitkamp. The panels covered:

  • Corporate farming laws; how they affect family farms in ND;
  • Priorities of the Legacy Fund;
  • Political discussion from the Republican and Democrat viewpoints (mainly campaigns);
  • Higher education, aimed at accountability and cooperation among campuses, relationship with legislature; and
  • Taxes; focused on tax relief policies, property taxes, income taxes.

As voters across North Dakota roll their eyes facing another big election year in 2016, we in the chamber business must begin to prepare for how we will influence the process the next 18 months; in anticipation of the 2017 state legislative and congressional sessions. That behind the scenes work begins now.

Where does the Chamber play a role in this process?

While you are busy working on your business, our Government Affairs Committee is hard at work to make the Williston area relevant in our local, state and federal matters. The Chamber Eggs & Issues Policy Forums will bring state level policymakers and issues to you, the business community. Make sure you reserve a seat now.

The GAC will conduct another set of Eggs & Issues forums in the spring, and conduct the 2016 Candidate Forums in the fall of 2016. Initial planning has begun for a Washington DC fly-in in the spring, and potentially another Legislative Day in Bismarck. Believe me, it doesn’t happen by itself and not without Member input and participation.

Are you interested in making an impact with your fellow Chamber Members and the community? Step up and be an active member of the Government Affairs Committee. If you need more info, call or email the Chamber office.

2016 Business Directory Update

Draft coverThe intent with this project is to be a community resource, not just a Chamber directory. However, Chamber Members get first crack at the prime ad spots, and they are going fast. We have sought out local printers to do the job, and we’ve already had one drop out because they physically cannot print the product. Our aim is to go local on this awesome project, so we are hopeful one of the local print houses can accomplish the mission.

All Chamber members will be listed as part of their membership investment. We’re doing our best to reach non-Members to get them listed as well. Call June if you want to discuss your options to get in this great Chamber project.

2016 Annual Chamber Banquet

Image result for Roaring 20sMark your calendars for the 2016 “Roaring 20’s” Chamber Banquet for Friday, January 22, 2016. Programs and Services Committee member and KUMV-TV sales superman, Tim Pulliam is spearheading this project. We can always use some more input and hands to help, so call June here at the Chamber office to jump in on this short term project. Who knows who you will meet that will help your business?


Today’s random Chamber pic comes from Purity Oilfield Services 2nd Annual Truck Rodeo held in the heat and wind last Saturday. Truck drivers get a bad rap sometimes, but they are a very skilled and proud profession. Six teams competed in different events demonstrating just how hard it is to maneuver one of those 10 ton rigs. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Williston 4-H and the North Dakota Teen Challenge. Great Chamber Members doing great things in the community.

Truck Rodeos do not include horses

Truck Rodeos do not include horses

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With wind filling our sails, Chamber continues moving forward

Following our successful Rockin’ Ribfest community event, the Chamber has taken the past three weeks to reassess our program offerings for Members; both revenue generating events and educational programs that may or may not benefit the bottom line.

Successful event momentum is like a warm shower; it feels good for a while, but at some point you have to get dressed and get back to work. Eventually you have to decide to either cruise for a while in the humid summer breeze, or grab an oar and start rowing. For the Chamber, we’ve studied the charts and adjusted our heading a bit as we look to the last half of 2015.

Beginning in August the Chamber will begin to assemble the first ever (I’ve used that term a lot this year) Williston Area Business Directory. Using our staff, the Chamber’s position as a resource for businesses in the area, and our momentum we’ve built up the past seven months, we’ll be able to produce a community resource that’s sorely needed. While all Williston area businesses will be invited to be listed, the advertising spots and most visible placements will be offered to Chamber members first. I can’t wait to see how this turns out. Several local printers are bidding on the project, so I’m confident it will be a valuable local business guide. The goal is to expand the Chamber’s reach and visibility while providing a needed service and product for the business community in the area. Watch for more news and information about the directory in the next week.

Image result for business directory

In September, we are launching the Chamber’s Eggs & Issues policy forums. A common program offering by chambers around the country, our Chamber is just picking up the pace in the public advocacy arena. This members-only event will be held the morning after the Chamber Business After Hours – enticing some high level state officials to make a two day visit to Williston. We’ll run three of these in the fall and three next spring.

The LevelUP Leadership Series will kick off in November and feature the hottest topics from our LevelUP 2015 Business Conference last May. The three part lunch series will feature one of our presenters from the May conference, exploring in depth one of the session topics like sales and marketing, human resources issues, or personal growth and development. All of this leads up to the LevelUP 2016 Conference in May 2016, which is already shaping up nicely.

Our monthly Business After Hours events, which traditionally garner between 80-110 attendees, have continued to be quality opportunities for Chamber Members to network, learn, and market to grow their business. Many of the 2016 hosting slots are filling up already.

Please take 30 seconds to take our one minute issue survey this week. The Board of Directors and the Government Affairs Committee thanks you as we start to shape our advocacy action plan for 2016.

The 21st Century (now 15 years old) technology revolution driven by the “millennial” workforce has forced nonprofit organizations such as chambers Image result for millennials technologyof commerce, trade associations and professional societies to rethink their business model and strategic plans. No longer are they the sole source of information, networking, marketing, support and advocacy for their members. It’s crucial to review programs and services, communications and advocacy plans and to ask and listen to members’ issues and interests.

As we continue in our own ‘race for relevance’ with our Members, in the community and in our region, I marvel in the fact that it’s already (or only) been 17 months since I’ve taken the helm at the Williston Chamber. As we chart our course and continue to crew this Chamber ship through both calm and choppy waters, I hope the wind continues to fill our sails and push us forward.

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Sigh, is it really election season already?

Don’t look now, but it’s already campaign season. Remember when Labor Day weekend was the official kick off to the campaigns, during the actual election year? When did it become an 18-24 month process to campaign for office?

North Dakota voters will decide no less than eleven (11) statewide offices in 2016, and at least one statewide measure. ELEVEN!!! From President, Vice President, Governor, Lt. Governor; to US Senate, US Representative (ND has one US House seat, so by default, it’s a statewide race). Then you can vote for State Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Insurance Commissioner and Tax Commissioner. Holy hanging chads, Batman!

We’ve now seen twenty (20) declared Republican presidential candidates and six more have exploratory committees, while on the Democrat side of the aisle nine (9) candidates have declared their desire to live on Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation’s Capitol City. That means it will be virtually impossible to escape any campaign messaging, no matter how you get your news and information.

You can thank the the kajillion news channels and quadzillion internet options for candidates to get their message out – all which require billions of dollars. The media LOVES this idea of candidates spending your donations on more ‘impressions’ and ‘likes.’ For whether you actually write a check to a candidate, go online and like a MEME of Governor Chris Christie (there’s quite a few good ones btw), or buy a home, the campaigns are actually spending your money.

Let’s take a look where most Presidential campaign donations are generated. According to OpenSecrets.org, more than $1.2 billion was spent by Obama and Romney campaigns (for a job that pays $450,000). If you look closely at all of the top donors, most of them are companies, Political Action Committees, and bundlers. There were no federal dollars used in the 2012 Presidential campaign.

Here’s the bombshell: It’s all yours. All of the money used, with the exception of President Obama’s $5,000 and Mitt Romney’s $52,000 personal contributions, was yours. Did you buy a computer in 2010-2012? Microsoft contributed more than $800K to the Obama campaign. Oh what’s that you say? You didn’t vote for him? But your money did…

Do you bank at or have investments with Wells Fargo or Bank of America by chance? Combined, they wrote checks to the Romney campaign for about $1.7 million. But you voted for President Obama? Bummer, eh? Your money supported the loser.

Did you buy a new home in 2011? Did you know the realtors organizations and lobby groups gave more than $15 million to Romney and more than $7 million to Obama for the 2012 campaigns? Yikes.

My point is no matter what you buy, which organizations you belong to, or who you support; we ALL are contributors to political office candidates in one form or another. So you can’t really prevent your money from being spent on a political campaign, unless you live in a van down by the river. Here’s my suggestion for 2016: how about becoming an informed voter?

Our Chamber’s first strategic pillar states:

Strengthen the influence and reputation of the Chamber through bold and thoughtful advocacy and public policy initiatives.

Through voter education, issue identification, candidate forums, the Chamber will help our Members and the community be more informed as the election nears. So while you can’t ultimately prevent all of your disposable income from finding its way to someone’s campaign coffers, at least you can learn about the issues that matter most to you, your family, and your business.

Then make an informed decision about your vote. You only get one.

Use it wisely.

 

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Making laws is NOTHING like making sausage…maybe

We’ve heard the quote so many times, but do you know who first coined the famous political policy making phrase? And can you quote it exactly?

Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.

 – Otto von Bismarck

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1990-023-06A, Otto von Bismarck.jpgSo who was Otto von Bismarck? According to my research staff Wiki P. Edia (tongue in cheek), here’s the official entry: Prince Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg (1 April 1815 – 30 July 1898), was a German aristocrat and statesman, the Prime Minister of Prussia (1862–1890), and the first Chancellor of Germany (1871–1890). Nicknamed the Iron Chancellor he is noted for his laconic remarks.

The Iron Chancellor also has a connection to our state. In 1872, the North Dakota state capitol was named Edwinton, after Edwin Ferry Johnson engineer-in-chief for the Northern Pacific Railway.  But it wasn’t too long before some folks wised up, or in other words, sucked up. Just one year later in 1873, however, the Northern Pacific Railway itself renamed the city Bismarck, to recognize the renowned German chancellor in hopes of attracting German investment.

So it is quite apropos that it was Otto himself who has been attributed to this famous laws/sausage quote. The man after which our Capitol City is named. Especially during this highly energized legislative session.

With 141 moving parts and a couple of administration controlled handles, this legislature certainly takes on the characteristics of a sausage grinder. On Feb. 11, the Chamber chartered a bus of Willistonians (my made up word) to Bismarck to see if in fact laws are as hideous to watch being made as a Johnsonville bratwurst.

Let’s compare:

Federal sausage making is even uglier than state level sausage

Initial ingredients:
Laws=beginning ideas and first bill drafts
Sausage=raw ingredients

Mixing process:
Laws=Committee hearing process,input from public, debate, amendments
Sausage=spices, additives, fillers

Grinding process:
Laws=floor debate and action, sometimes messy process
Sausage=all final ingredients mixed together

Finished product:
Laws=something that won’t make everyone 100% satisfied (it’s called compromise)
Sausage=something that not everyone will enjoy, but will still sell

Our State Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 2103, the surge funding bill that provides immediate funding to local governments in Western North Dakota to catch up with the ‘surge’ of people moving there. The bill, seemingly supported by everyone including the Governor, was quickly passed through the Senate. However when it got to the House side,which should have been the final casing and flavoring for the bill, the law-making grinder hit a bone and got stuck.

Questions were asked of local officials, ‘do you really need the money now that oil prices have dropped?’ ‘What do you need now, that can’t wait until oil prices increase?’ ‘Every part of the state could use extra infrastructure funds.’

Other ingredients are being thrown into the mix from state agencies and other areas of the state; all looking to add that one last spice before it goes to the final grinding. Once the gear jam had been cleared, and these last few ingredients added in to the House version, the finished product rolled out of the process on Friday, and awaits the Governor’s signature as we post this. And yes, the finished product isn’t exactly how drafters first envisioned, but in a politically charged, east vs west type of debate, it was the best outcome possible.

As Otto pointed out:

Politics is the art of the next best

The merits of the legislation aside, the legislative process is not for the faint of heart, and can even frustrate a veteran participant. I suspect working in Sheboygan, Wis. making Johnsonville brats might be easier as the formula never changes, and neither does the process. In law making, the ingredients, the players, and even the process can alter the finished product.

The Chamber of Commerce is just part of the law/sausage making process, but we think the ingredients we bring to the process make everything taste just a little better.

-Sjm

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Williston Chamber goes to Bismarck

Our advocacy efforts at the Chamber took center stage on Feb. 11 when we loaded up 45 Williston leaders and made the nearly four hour bus ride to the State Capitol in Bismarck. The first “Williston Legislative Day” was designed to accomplish several key objectives of our advocacy program:

  • Demonstrate to the State Legislature and state leaders that Williston is committed to being heard on key issues
  • Solidify the Chamber’s position as the voice for Williston area business and industry interests
  • Provide attendees a first hand look at the legislative process and interact with elected officials
  • Support local officials in their lobbying efforts to secure state funding for critical infrastructure investments
  • Support the Greater North Dakota Chamber’s government relations program

We arrived in time to sit in on the House Appropriations Committee public hearing on Senate Bill 2103, commonly referred to as the surge funding bill. The legislation would return more than $1 billion to local governments in western North Dakota hit hardest by the tsunami of people, companies, development, and traffic related to the oil and gas industry the past five years. For many of our participants it was the first time they had been to the State Capitol, and maybe the first time they had thought about the legislative process since middle school social studies class.

After Capitol orientation tours, we dined in the Capitol Cafe and were met by Governor Jack Dalrymple and the First Lady, Betsy. The Governor was

State Senate welcome sign

State Senate welcome sign

gracious in his remarks and thanked us for making the effort to participate in such an important part of our democratic process. State Representatives Gary Sukut and Pat Hatelstad, along with newly elected State Senator Brad Bekkedahl also welcomed our group. Our support of not only particular legislation, but also of their session-long effort on behalf of Williston businesses and residents was noticed and appreciated.

After watching House and Senate floor sessions, we finished the day taking in the new North Dakota Heritage Center, which, I must say is quite impressive. Giant dinosaur and mammoth skeletons, oil and gas exhibits, agriculture historical displays and Native American artifacts provide visual imagery to what is written in our history books. North Dakota has a fascinating and diverse history from the prehistoric and geologic layers that dot our prairies and landscape to the tremendous contributions of individuals and organizations, to cultural heritage of the western frontier. I strongly encourage a visit next time your travels take you to Bismarck.

Each of our attendees had their own reason for surviving eight hours on a bus (a very nice one, btw) but as the instigator of the event, I have to assess it from a fairly high level. Here’s my take:

  • We set a goal of executing a legislative day trip in 2015. Check.
  • We wanted to demonstrate our resolve to support our legislators and local officials. Check.
  • We aimed to orient business and Chamber members to the state legislature and the State Capitol. Check.
  • We had a goal of keeping costs at a minimum. Attendees contributed $25 for the bus, and we had some generous sponsors who helped defray the cost of the bus. Check.
  • The Williston Herald embedded a reporter with us for the day, and Bismarck NBC station did a news piece on our trip. BONUS!

I believe the true measure of our success is yet to be realized. As part of a larger, effective advocacy program, such trips are a key component. The Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee, along with our Board of Directors, has given direction to continue to improve our government relations program as part of our strategic plans for the Chamber. What is the next step for us as we continue to “raise the bar” in 2015?

We’ll save that discussion for another time. But 2016 is an election year, isn’t it?

-Sjm

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Advocacy is priority one

An interesting article was posted recently and asked the age-old question: why do we need associations and chambers? You can read the full post here. But since we are in the business of creating value for Members, it would behoove us to communicate that value wouldn’t it? Let’s start with the top priority for most chambers of commerce including this one – advocacy.

It has been noted that most chambers of commerce and local businesses in general, prefer smaller, less intrusive government and lower taxes. However as American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) Vice President Chris Mead points out in his recent book, The Magicians of Main Street, chambers also were supportive of large government infrastructure investments over the centuries. I would imagine this was to ensure a free flowing economy continues to expand in America. So while chambers of commerce are normally considered organizational watchdogs of the local, state and federal governments; they also can be the best partners in moving public policy toward a common good.

David Kilby, President and CEO of the Western Association of Chamber Executives pointed out there are “Four P’s” needed for a successful governmental affairs program (entire article is at this link).

  • PEOPLE: Successful government affairs – just like business success – is often all about relationships. The people who are engaged in your government affairs program and their relationships with elected officials are real keys to success.It all starts with a chairman and committee members who are passionate, understand the system, and are connected.
  • POLICYDoes your chamber have policy in place and a decision-making infrastructure that allows you to take action quickly? Having statements of principles or a policy platform is a real key to success. 
  • PROCESSHow you take positions, gather information (pros & cons), and communicate the chamber’s policy positions are important. It’s essential to be known as an organization that does its homework and doesn’t just “shoot from the hip” by being a rubber stamp for the loudest segment of your members.
  • POLITICSThe fourth P stands for politics, but not necessarily political action. It actually has more to do with being politically savvy. Knowing when and how to spend your political capital is more an art than a science.

In assessing our Chamber in each of these categories honestly, I’d say we have some improvements to make in some ares, yet our progress in just one year is encouraging.

A couple of items to highlight for you this week:

  • February 11 – Williston Legislative Day in Bismarck. Some seats on the bus still open; $25 per seat for the day. Call the Chamber office to reserve a seat or learn more information.
  • February 25 – Greater North Dakota Chamber “Taste of Business” event in Bismarck.

Today’s 24 hours news cycle and electronic information age doesn’t allow us to ignore our legislative process. Real people with lives and businesses and families and hobbies can only be engaged in issues up to a point. In short, you can’t do it alone. What does make sense is to align yourself or your business with organizations and groups who advocate on your behalf.

You don’t have to be a C-SPAN charter member to have an interest in how your government works, or in some cases, doesn’t work. You have your Williston Area Chamber of Commerce.

Next week we’ll dive into programs and services aspects of chamber membership.

– Sjm

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