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This week, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives hosted its annual Government Relations Roundtable in Boston, MA. During this two-day meeting, I joined 20 government relations professionals representing 14 metropolitan regional chambers of commerce to discuss our legislative agendas, impacts of the midterm election and our respective efforts in political action, grassroots mobilization and community outreach.
While we represented metro areas from across the country with unique opportunities and challenges, there were quite a few similarities:
The cost and availability of housing has become a critical issue for nearly every region represented. It is a workforce issue because high housing costs make employee retention increasingly challenging. In nearly every region, there’s a sweeping need to increase supply, promote diverse housing types and price points and encourage housing near job centers. Similarly, there’s a building anti-growth sentiment that all in attendance are working hard to overcome.
►Transportation and Infrastructure Funding
Every region is feeling the traffic pinch and looking for additional revenues to improve transportation infrastructure. Every Chamber represented shared that their state’s gas tax is the primary dedicated revenue source to fund roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure needs. Chambers in states that have not adjusted their gas tax were asking for advocacy tips. Having successfully executed a multiyear, statewide coalition to address road funding in South Carolina, your Chamber was able to contribute significantly to that conversation.
Many Chambers have also successfully advocated for the implementation of Local Option Sales Taxes to fund new transportation projects. Voters in all three counties in the Charleston region have approved the levy of additional penny sales taxes to fund roads, bridges and other transportation-related projects.
Strong, productive relationships with local, state and federal elected officials is a vital component of any effective Chamber government relations program. It is equally important to have an engaged membership to call upon to help advocate for policies impacting the business community. The Charleston Metro Chamber is a practice leader among our peers in this area with our Champion Advocates initiative.
Chambers widely recognize that it’s more important than ever to support candidates for elected office who contribute to a positive business climate. About half the organizations in attendance currently have a political action committee. The other half are actively thinking about one.
The Charleston Metro Chamber Political Action Committee evaluates candidates for local office through questionnaires and interviews and supports candidates through endorsements and financial contributions. That work is imperative to ensuring the future health, prosperity and competitiveness of the region.
Any opportunity to sit down with peers is a great learning experience. Open dialogue, idea sharing and collective brainstorming were the highlights of this trip. The two days in Boston also affirmed that our Government Relations team is currently leading the pack nationally in multiple best-practices areas.
Tours of MIT Media Lab and Fenway Park were pretty cool, too!
CMCC Regional Advocacy Director