|Thursday, March 29, 2012|
|Reform Will Move Ahead, With or Without “Obamacare”|
Whether the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (aka “Obamacare”) stands or is declared unconstitutional in part or in whole, the healthcare sector will continue to undergo significant changes in the years ahead. That’s a key message shared during the Chamber’s Health Care in Your Future Summit yesterday at the Embassy Suites.
|Wednesday, March 21, 2012|
|Chambers Have Helped Shape America|
Did you know that United Way got its start through chambers of commerce? Did you know that the city manager-council form of local governments was championed by chambers? Did you know the Farm Bureau started as an initiative of a local chamber of commerce? Did you know that the biggest advocate for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge was a local chamber?
Chambers of commerce have a long history in America as a place where businesspeople could shape the direction of their communities. In fact, there were chambers of commerce in the Thirteen Colonies. In other words, we had chambers before we even had a country.
The foremost expert on the history of chambers of commerce in America is Chris Mead who is a senior vice president of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives. You might enjoy a recent article he wrote titled “Not Born for Ourselves Alone: A Snapshot of the Chamber World in the Early 20th Century.”
The role, growth and cost of government and who pays combined is the biggest issue of our times. These issues play themselves out in the daily headlines regarding tax increases on the wealthy, budget cuts, corporate tax cuts, Medicare and Social Security reform, the new health care law, the debt ceiling, etc.
Because the dollars involved are huge and the impacts are profound, the major political parties in an election year are intent on lobbing bombs back and forth rather finding common ground. Consequently, sorting out the dueling ‘facts’ can be difficult for we mere civilians.
Here’s a three-part post that reviews the impacts of President Obama’s budget and that of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. The economist – Keith Hennessey – does a good job of letting the numbers speak for themselves without wading into the partisan political swamp.
|Tuesday, March 20, 2012|
|The Changing World of Healthcare (and Why You Should Care)|
Why are hospitals merging? Why are hospitals opening clinics and buying doctors groups? Why is Kaiser Permanente coming into the Northern Colorado market? Why has the Poudre Valley Health System decided to offer its own insurance product? What is happening to healthcare in this country? What will happen in the Supreme Court with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ‘Obamacare’)?
Is all of this change in the healthcare sector good or bad for the economy of Northern Colorado?
What does all of this mean to me personally and to my family and employees?
These and other questions will be answered at a Chamber event on Wednesday March 28 at 7:30 a.m. called “Health Care in Your Future.” It will be at the Embassy Suites, 4705 Clydesdale Parkway in Loveland.
|Monday, March 19, 2012|
|State Governments Keep Cutting|
State and local governments across America continue to cut their workforces and budgets in the face of constricted revenue, according to a story in the March 12 issue of the Wall Street Journal. State governments are facing $47 billion of shortfalls, but that is down from $191 billion three years ago. Combined, local and state governments have cut 647,000 jobs since mid-2008. Over the next several years all of this will continue to play out in legislatures in the form of debates about tax and fee increases, eliminating or restricting tax credits, and pay and benefits for public employee union members. In Colorado it has appeared in form of a big bump a couple of years ago in the taxpayer contributions to PERA (the public employee retirement fund), discussions about enterprise zones and the idea of 'privatizing' Pinnacol, among other issues.
|Friday, March 16, 2012|
|7 Steps to Improve U.S. Competitiveness|
On the Harvard Business Review blog Harold Sirkin and Richard Lesser argue that America is “poised for a manufacturing renaissance” and offer seven recommendations to improve U.S. competitiveness including:
1. Political leaders from both parties should use the bully pulpit to educate the business community and the public on the new math of global manufacturing.
2. The government needs to reform the U.S. tax system, then leave it alone for a while. The U.S. tax code currently is a deterrent to business…
3. Washington needs to get serious about leveling the playing field. While there's always risk of a trade war, all countries need to play by the same rules — and government's job is to enforce those rules.
4. The government needs to rethink regulations… The speed of our regulatory processes must also be addressed; excessive delays encourage shifting investments to other locales.
5. The government needs to focus on talent development to ensure that Americans are prepared for the 21st century workplace. This is an area where we need to think strategically.
6. Washington needs to focus on infrastructure. Every infrastructure problem — decaying bridges, congested highways and ports, overcrowded airports and outdated air traffic control systems, weaknesses in the electric grid, and inadequate broadband spectrum — costs us dearly.
7. Washington should encourage foreign companies to manufacture in the United States. TheUnited States offers the lowest-cost manufacturing platform in the developed world today.
Their full post can be found here.
|Pinnacol Privatization Still a Bad Idea|
Early in the 2012 session of the Colorado Legislature, Governor John Hickenlooper and the board of Pinnacol made a major push to privatize the ‘insurer of last resort’ for workers compensation. Pinnacol as now structured is a quasi-public state-charted organization with the state conferring special tax breaks. It was set up many years ago after the State of Colorado basically ran the program into the ground.
Since then, Pinnacol has provided stability to the workers compensation program. Private sector employers pay reasonable rates and injured workers are assured of having access to money in the event they need it. However, money hungry pols have been eying the Pinnacol surpluses and trying to figure out how to get their hands on them for things completely unrelated to workers compensation. They are proposing that to allow Pinnacol to go private, the state would take a 40 percent stake in the company.
The idea met stiff resistance from the business community and appeared to be tabled. But the Governor is once again trolling for support. The result as explained in this story in the Denver Business Journal: still stiff resistance from the business community.
The normally business-aware governor is out of step on this issue. It’s coming off as a money-grab that does not reflect well on him. One of the businesspeople in the article referred to it as a hidden tax increase.
The Chamber’s natural reflex is to support privatization based on the general belief that markets work better than government in the efficient delivery of most services. This proposal, however, is hardly privatization in the common sense of the word. It starts out with a 40 percent boat anchor tied to it then proceeds to annually give money to the state government for pet projects. In essence, insurance premiums paid by Colorado businesses would be used for something other than their intended purpose. Furthermore, having the state government as a strong minority partner gives Pinnacol a huge competitive advantage. It’s hard to see how that will translate into a competitive environment that will keep workers comp premiums in check.
At a base level you can see how this type of arrangement benefits the Pinnacol board of directors and state politicians. What is really, really hard to see is how this benefits the people paying the bill:Colorado businesses.
|Small Biz Confidence Edges Up Slightly|
According to the latest Small-Business Optimism Index of the National Federation of Independence Business, small companies are slowing getting more confident about the economy. You can find their report here.
|Thursday, March 15, 2012|
|Fort Collins Chamber Best in the West|
Brag alert: this post is pure self-celebration, something I rarely do on this blog. The Western Association of Chamber Executives (www.waceonline.com) honored the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce with three communications awards at its annual convention in February. WACE has member chambers in 15 western states and British Columbia. The Chamber won the Outstanding Communications Achievement Award (first place) and two Merit Awards (second place) for our website (www.fortcollinschamber.com) and our weekly electronic e-newsletter Chamber SmartBrief Weekly.
The Chamber has been working on its communications and branding over the past two years, so it was nice to get the external recognition that we're making progress. We're just getting started and have a lot more to do, but so far so good. All of the staff has been involved but particular thanks to Kim Medina, Ann Hutchison and Jamie Grim. Thanks to the Board for pushing us and providing the financial resources this has required. Finally, thanks to our partners Toolbox Creative (www.toolboxcreative.com) and Old Town Media (www.oldtownmediainc.com).
Here's the story in Western Association of Chamber Executives Insider.
|Tuesday, March 13, 2012|
|CSU in NCAA Tournament|
Colorado State University’s men’s basketball team is in the NCAA Tournament! It’s only the second time in the past 22 years. Congratulations to Head Coach Tim Miles and his team. They’ve put ‘fun’ back in Moby Arena in recent years. Under Coach Miles the team has made strong and steady progress over the past 5 years. And, he’s doing it right by recruiting good players who are also good young men.
First up on Thursday is Murray State, 30-1, champions of the Ohio Valley Conference.
One and done or more NCAA Tournament fun? We’ll know soon enough. In the meantime, enjoy the buzz. It’s one of the great things about being a college town – hope springs eternal, the future is bright.
|Monday, March 5, 2012|
|Colorado is Slimmest State|
Once again Colorado is the skinniest state in the nation. That’s according to a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being poll. In Colorado, 18.5% of residents are obese compared to a national average of 26.1%. The chubbiest state is West Virginia at 35.3% followed by Delaware, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. You can find the poll results here.
|Workers in Demand, Skills in Short Supply|
Lots of people are out of work or under-employed, yet, companies are having trouble hiring people. How can that be? The short answer is that the country is part way through a gradual realignment of labor in response to waves of technological innovations. Said another way, technology is outpacing the current skills of many people to do the work employers need done. I hear this frequently from area employers and it's a national problem as shown in this story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
In time this situation will correct itself. Employers will pay for the skilled employees they need and education institutions and workers will respond to the demand. In the meantime, we'll continue to see stories like this one.
|Friday, March 2, 2012|
|Why Not Fort Collins|
A reporter called recently and said, “We know why companies locate in Fort Collins/Larimer County, but we don’t know why some companies consider us but locate elsewhere.” Her question: Why would a company hesitate to come here?
There it was: out in the open. It’s something we chamber types and businesspeople talk about, but among ourselves. Yes, we also discuss it with public officials but with mixed results.
Basically my answer came down to two things:
- The government decision processes can be too slow and too uncertain. This is an unacceptable risk that companies will not accept when they have other viable options.
- City policy pushes too many costs and requirements onto business. Whether actual or perceived, the impression of some employers is that they are not a priority of local government.
If you’re so inclined, here’s the Coloradoan story. Also, the Chamber produced a ‘Jobs Agenda’ which is referenced in the story.
|Innovation Alive and Well in Fort Collins|
Colorado State University Ventures held its annual Technology Transfer Awards Ceremony & Reception on Wednesday evening. To show my geek-envy, I refer to it as a ‘nerdapalooza.”
The evening was filled with remarkably brainy people being handed their patent plaques for technology they had developed and gotten patented.
Everybody loves the idea of ‘growing our own companies’ and is charmed by ‘technology transfer.’ They’re nice concepts but moving research from someone’s computer or lab bench into a commercially viable venture requires a lot of work and know-how. That’s where CSU Ventures comes in. They are a wholly owned subsidiary of the Colorado State University Research Foundation (CSURF). CSU Ventures’ job is to manage the technology transfer activities of CSU.
The awards event was very well done and a great reminder that we have a first-rate research university with first-rate researchers doing amazing things.
To get your geek on, you can go here to read more about this year’s honorees.