By Ranada Robinson, Research Manager
Last month, I attended the ACCE Annual Convention in beautiful Savannah, GA. I had an enjoyable time with my Market Street colleagues, past and present clients, and with new friends who could trade stories of community efforts or data trends with me. My favorite part of the convention were the workshops. Here are some highlights of two of the most enlightening and engaging ones.
Promoting Business Growth with the Census Business Builder
Three U.S. Census Bureau staff members led this workshop. They walked us through how to use a couple of relatively new tools: the Small Business Edition and Regional Analyst Edition of Census Business Builder.
- Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition: This tool was designed to help small business owners access the research they need to make smart decisions when opening a new business or expanding their existing business. A user can search by county, city, ZIP code, or neighborhood (Census tract). After selecting the geography of interest, the user can select from an array of useful data indicators, including demographics of potential customers (population, age dynamics, median household income, educational attainment, etc.) and information on consumer spending (total expenditures on housing, transportation, personal care products and services, etc.). At the city and county levels, economic data (number of other establishments in the sector of interest, number of employees, annual payroll, and total revenue) is also available. The tool is very user-friendly, and is very helpful in this focused context. The fact sheet for this tool can be found here.
- Census Business Builder: Regional Analyst Edition: This tool was developed specifically with chambers of commerce, regional planners, and economic development professionals in mind. The first awesome feature of this tool is the ability to create customized regions—you may select by city, county, ZIP code, or neighborhood, but you can also build a region of multiple counties. This is particularly useful because the geographies served by some regional chambers do not always line up with the OMB metropolitan statistical area (MSA) delineations. The same data available in the Small Business Edition is available in the Regional Analyst Edition, with some additions such as number of establishments by racial and ethnic group. This tool is, of course, free and can be of great use, particularly to chambers and EDOs that do not subscribe to proprietary data sources. Like the Small Business Edition, the tool is very easy to use. The handouts for this demo can be found here and here.
Inclusive Growth: Policy, Programs, and Progress
This workshop was moderated by Market Street’s CEO J. Mac Holladay and featured two dynamic panelists: Bob Morgan, CCE, President and CEO of the Charlotte (NC) Chamber and Courtney Ross, CEDO of the Nashville (TN) Area Chamber. The workshop’s focus was on the definition of an “inclusive economy,” how chambers can respond to negative actions by elected officials or even influence the political landscape, and how to measure success. Here are a few takeaways from the workshop.
Overview by Mac Holladay: Mac shared some national headlines related to race relations in the past year, including:
- “Baton Rouge police killings stoke racial tensions.” The Week. 29 July 2016
- “At Memorial for Charleston Shooting, a Call for ‘Meaningful Action’ on Guns.” The New York Times. 17 June 2016
- “City of Cleveland issues new policy following Tamir Rice EMS bill.” Fox 8 Cleveland. 12 February 2016
More and more, cities and regions are in the headlines for not so positive occurrences, and it impacts us not just on an emotional level, but also in a community’s ability to attract and maintain its residents and workforce. Mac spoke about his work as a chamber executive in Memphis, TN when he was tasked with helping with the integration of public schools. These social issues are indeed important to economic development, even though it’s not always apparent.
Mac also discussed the changing demographics of the nation, and how important it is to actively bridge the divides between not so diverse chamber leadership and other community decision makers and the growing diversity in communities. He cited the following examples of community initiatives dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusion:
- Montgomery, AL – Diversity Summit
- St. Louis, MO - St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative
- Sioux Falls, SD - Sioux Falls Diversity Council and the Multicultural Center
- Salt Lake City, UT - New Americans Task Force
Bob Morgan: Bob spoke about the Charlotte experience, including largely how North Carolina’s controversial HB 2 has impacted the business community. HB 2 blocks cities from allowing transgender individuals to use the public restroom corresponding to their gender identity. The Chamber has done much to embrace diversity of race, gender, age, and other categories, including the following programs:
- Charlotte Chamber Diversity and Talent Development Fund, which is the Chamber’s initiative to promote diversity and inclusion and develop diverse talent in the community
- Diversity and Inclusion Annual Report, which actually tracks the changing demographic in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County
- Diversity Partners and International Chambers, which partners with many organizations in and around Charlotte to work closely together on goals for improving the community
- Diversity in Charlotte, the Chamber’s publication that features minority-owned business and supplier diversity programs
Courtney Ross: Courtney walked us through the Nashville region’s changing workforce diversity and shared that sometimes it takes a deeper dive into the data to understand the differences in trends for various groups. For instance, a community’s unemployment rate can be competitive, but if you look at unemployment by race and ethnicity, some groups may have unemployment rates that are dismal. The Nashville Chamber is engaged in promoting diversity and inclusion in many ways, including the following:
- Education – closing the skills and educational attainment gap through programs such as the Middle Tennessee Skills Panels, the Lumina Community Partnership for Attainment Grant, and the Middle Tennessee Reconnect Community Grant.
- Transit – becoming cognizant of the ability of the workforce to commute to jobs even if they don’t own a car. The region is in the process of completing its RTA and MTA Strategic Plan. They are working to identify and secure a local funding source for regional transit so that they can break ground on the first rapid transit project by 2020.
- Public Policy – engaging public officials by publishing the Legislative Scorecard, which not only tracks votes that directly impacts the economy but, most recently, also votes that affect diversity and inclusion.
It is very important for chambers, regional planning organizations, and economic development professionals to understand that talent truly is the #1 issue vital to economic development. Increasingly, talent’s desire is to be in communities that embrace all people and allow everyone who moves there the opportunity to thrive and be successful. Chambers and EDOs are absolutely organizations that can make a positive difference in a community’s promotion and acceptance of diverse populations and the celebration of those populations.