Tag Archives: US Chamber

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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Chamber Blogging

Blogs used to be called newspaper columns. During the 1990s web logs, blogs, sprung up as computer networks developed, and soon anyone with a coherent thought and spell check started ‘sharing.’ So this ‘new’ concept here at the Chamber is far from new. But it is necessary.

Back in the day, Chambers of Commerce would mimeograph X number of newsletters once per month, make enough copies for each member, and dozens for the archive (for which us history lovers are most grateful); then fold and stuff into envelopes, dash off to the post office and spend incredible amounts of staff time and chamber resources to keep membership informed. It seems a bit archaic today, but it wasn’t that long ago when the printed newsletter and regular meetings were the only methods to communicate with members. That was also a time when impromptu meetings at the granary, evening meetings of the Kiwanis Club, regular Sunday dinners would augment the news and information of the day. Those were slower, simpler times for sure.

Today, we take for granted the ease and speed at which information is shared. I’ve often called my generation, the tail end of the Boomers, the ‘tech tweeners.’ We learned to type on a manual or maybe even an IBM Selectric, stepped into our first real job in the late 1980s or early 1990s only to find out we had to learn to use a computer. (I have my first computer story for another time). We taught ourselves to click, scroll, surf, download and upload. We learned to cut and paste, post, crop and photoshop. We are now able to text, tweet, bluetooth, Skype and selfie.

One of my instructors at The Institute of Organizational Management, the US Chamber of Commerce academy for nonprofit professionals, summed it up most succinctly. He said,

“Nonprofits must be there for the members…at their point of need.”

What does that mean? To me, it says that we must have choices for our Members as to when and how they receive information and interact with the Chamber. Some might not be as tech-savvy, so a Chamber mobile app wouldn’t be appropriate, but it might work for others. For some, a printed newsletter is preferred, for others it is inefficient. For other members, a twitter feed and facebook posting is all they require to stay in touch and informed. And many still appreciate the human touch, the personal visit or a chat over a cup of coffee, or a business after hours networking event. The important note here is that it’s the member who dictates the method, not the organization. We have to acknowledge that fact.

This blog is just another way to communicate with Membership of our Chamber, and it serves to augment all the other information options we offer to members. The Chamber has undergone some significant changes the past few years, but so has the City of Williston. It’s our job to keep up with those changes, and in some cases help push forward past barriers that have prevented progress.

I’m a reluctant blogger, but my staff is rejoicing as my ramblings will now take up less space in the Chamber Update weekly newsletter. Thank you to everyone who provided feedback the past eleven months on my columns. We’ll keep it tight and on target.

Have a great Chamber day.

– Sjm

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