|Friday, August 21, 2009|
|Legislative Wrap-Up, August 21, 2009|
The 2009 long session of the North Carolina General Assembly officially adjourned Tuesday, August 11. We understood when they convened in January that the General Assembly was facing a difficult revenue outlook, and created our legislative agenda with that fact in mind, recommending appropriations and tax changes that we believed would speed North Carolina's economic recovery. With the 2009 session now behind us, I have outlined our 2009 agenda items below and the legislative action (if any) taken on that particular item.
On a different note, I wanted to personally thank members of the Charlotte business community for letting me serve as their "voice for business" in the state legislature. It is a privilege and an honor to serve Charlotte in this capacity, and the support of the business community made my first session a pleasure. Through this role I look forward to continuing to work to ensure that Charlotte is the best place to work and live. As always, please contact me if you have any questions or comments at email@example.com or 704-957-3728.
Charlotte Chamber's 2009 Legislative "Report Card"
Agenda Item: "Support expedited completion of I-485"
Legislative Action: PENDING
Agenda Item: "Support increased funding and new revenue sources for roads and equitable distribution of those funds"
- In "Study Commission" bill gives authority for creation of a commission to study the state's "Equity Formula" or method of distributing transportation dollars around the state.
- Road maintenance funds were increased by $41 million and $43 million in FY 09-10 and FY 10-11 respectively for a total of $936 million and $938 million each fiscal year.
Agenda Item: "Support accelerated completion of Charlotte's mass transit and light rail plan"
- Supported the passage of the Intermodal Bill, which would give the rest of the 99 counties in NC the ability to levy a sales tax by a voter referendum for public transportation.
Agenda Item: "Support reform of NCDOT and remove conflicts between state and local policies and regulations"
Legislative action: PENDING
PRIORITY: JOB CREATION
Agenda Item: "Support incentives to attract jobs that compete better with surrounding states and to fully fund job recruitment efforts including the EDPs and the DOC."
- Passed bill that extends the sunset of the Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) program to 2016
- $700,000 included in budget for One NC Small Business Fund (provides matching grants to businesses that qualify for federal program incentive)
- $500,000 included in budget to create a "Small Business Assistance Fund" within DOC to provide qualifying businesses with funds necessary for job preservation
- $19 million and $27.4 million in recurring funds for FY 09-10 and 10-11 for the JDIG reserve
Agenda Item: "Support increased funding for the arts, travel and tourism in NC as it spurs economic development"
- $203,885 budgeted in FY 09-10 for DOC to market the state as a business destination
- Passed bill that expands tax credit incentive for TV & film production companies that come to NC from 15 to 25 percent
- Passed bill that eliminates the antiquated three-day waiting period for membership to "private clubs" so visitors/tourists may immediately patronize such an establishment.
Agenda Item: "Support an additional $5 million in funding for the state's Travel & Tourism Division in 2010"
Legislative Action: None
Agenda Item: "Support an additional $500,000 in funding for marketing for the CIAA basketball tournament in 2010"
Legislative Action: None
Agenda Item: "Support a reduction in the corporate and personal income tax rates to make us more competitive with surrounding states"
- Personal Income tax:
- Expiring for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2011- those married filing jointly will see
- 2% surcharge on the personal income taxes owed for those making $100-250
- 3% surcharge on personal income taxes owed for those making over $250K
- Corporate Income Tax:
- Expiring for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 201
- 3% surcharge on corporate income taxes owed (in addition to the current 6.9% rate)
- Sales Tax
- "Emergency" 1-cent sales tax increase from September 1, 2009 expiring July 1, 2011 (Mecklenburg County's total sales tax rate is 8.25% with this increase)
Agenda Item: "Support efforts to improve our public schools, community colleges and universities and to fully fund their enrollment increases"
- $3 million included in the budget of recurring funds to hire researchers and to provide equipment and supplies for University personnel working at the NC Research Campus in Kannapolis
- UNC Charlotte
- The budget fully funds projected enrollment growth for UNC System FY 09-10 and FY 10-11 at $44 million and $97 million respectively in recurring funds
- Public education
- $13 million included in the budget in recurring funds for additional dropout prevention grants on a competitive basis
- Community Colleges
- The budget fully funds enrollment growth for Community College system for the 2009-10 school year at $58 million with additional $41 million for 2010-11 for a total of $99 million based on an estimated enrollment growth of 5.4%
- $4.5 million included in the budget in recurring funds for vocational and technical education programs system-wide
Agenda Item: "Support the completion of the state's financial commitment to Johnson & Wales" ($2.5 million)
Legislative Action: None
Agenda Item: "Support funding for faculty of UNC Charlotte's Energy Production Infrastructure Center (EPIC)
- $2 million included in the budget in recurring funds to hire staff at UNC Charlotte's Energy Production Infrastructure Center (EPIC).
Agenda Item: "Support tax credits for businesses who offer internships"
Legislative Action: PENDING
Agenda Item: "Support the expansion of the NC Teaching Fellows program from 500 to 1,000 fellows per year"
Legislative Action: PENDING
PRIORITY: WORKFORCE & QUALITY OF LIFE
Agenda Item: "Support efforts to reform NC's Workers Compensation Act."
- Included in the study commission bill: would allow for a study of the duration of the compensation for total disability under the Worker's Compensation act that would limit worker's compensation payments to 300 weeks or the age of 65, whichever period is longer.
Agenda Item: "Oppose efforts to erode NC's Right-to-work laws including opposing collective bargaining for public employees"
Legislative Action: None
Agenda Item: "Support efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system at the state and local level, specifically, to address technology and staffing issues"
- $750,000 investment from the Governor's recommendation through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) for evaluation of court processes and procedure and developing best practices for effective programs. Funding will be made under the authority of the Governor's Crime Commission.
Agenda Item: "Oppose the Employee Free Choice Act"
Legislative Action: PENDING
|Tuesday, August 18, 2009|
|SouthPark Chapter Breakfast - Incorporating Diversity|
SouthPark Chapter Breakfast
Topic: Incorporating Diversity
Audio available on the Chamber Chapters podcast channel here
Robin Crouse, Manager of Financial Services, Prudential
Nicole Dean, Vice President of Corporate Human Resources and Chief Diversity officer, Belk Inc.
Tim Flanagan Jr., President/Owner, Hinrichs Flanagan Financial
Kevin Henry, Chief Human Resources Officer, Coca Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated
Steven Larson, Senior Diversity Consultant, Wachovia, a Wells Fargo Company
Larson started the discussion by asking panelists “Why should a business be focused on diversity in business as a strategy?”
Henry: At Coca Cola, the focus is on commitment and staff. There is an expectation from employees that they will be valued and ideas will be solicited and utilized. If expectations are not met, we will not employ those individuals we seek. It’s about commitment versus compliance.
Dean: Diversity must be aligned with the overall business strategy. The top goal is to re-energize the team to focus on sales. Diversity means how can we relate and respond to the customer. We want the workforce to mirror the communities we serve. The challenge has been to understand what our commitment is.
Crouse: We look for those that are diverse in the marketplace and try to hire people from those diverse markets so they are relatable.
Flanagan: From a business perspective, many have not been served well. As a firm, in the last five years, we have gone in the community to reach out to different ethnicities to learn what is important from a financial services standpoint and hire those that can serve in those communities.
Next, Larson asked “What are the impacts of inclusion strategies and why must they be maintained?”
Dean: With any initiative, you first need to analyze where you are and understand where opportunities and gaps may exist. Must have commitment and support of the CEO or head of the organization. Training is very important, starting with executives. Team must feel like “we are in it together” and get the “elephants in the room” out. Need a leadership team to work on diversity and inclusion. It is critical to focus on diversity and inclusion so you are always prepared.
Flanagan: Understanding is key. You must understand the people you serve and place people accordingly. In the past, few women were in the financial advisors field. As a result, we started a board comprised of women executives and women business owners.
Crouse: Expressed need to get involved in communities to understand needs.
Henry: Whether encouraging progress and expecting progress are two different things. Inspect what you expect. Know what you know and know what you don’t know. Then you know where you need to go to be successful. Be honest and gain understanding around what you need to know. It is important how you engage. Coca Cola has an accepting approach so people suspend natural assumptions and bias’. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Open the book, read a few chapters, then make judgment. Too much knowledge of anything can become a bad thing – if you’re too focused on inclusion you may exclude a group. You could end up with an unintended outcome. Focus on balance.
Larson asked “How do you plan for meaningful diversity initiatives?”
Crouse: We try to see everyone as a person. We hire the faces of America. That is our motto. Diversity departments are in place per territory.
Flanagan: We are supported by Mass Mutual Financial Group who supports local efforts. There is no specific initiative. It’s part of our business. From a business perspective, you must be deliberate and intentional on serving customers and active engagement.
Dean: Overall, you must incorporate your strategy of diversity and inclusion based on the culture of your organization. Initially, the focus on increasing the level of diversity on the executive team. Learned later that this has to be a business strategy and drive the culture to be what you want it to be which is inclusion. You also cannot forget about who started the organization. Everyone needs to participate, not just one group of people. Must expect results but must also support results. Be very clear about expectations.
Henry: Focus on transparency of efforts to ensure clarity around intentions to ensure buy in of the entire organization. Know where you are today as an organization culturally. Gain perspective on where employees are. Organizations change. Understand your organizations willingness to change. Help those that are new. You want them to be like you, but you need to be like them so you are valuing differences in people. Core mission should not be compromised. The consequence of not changing is rejection. Be willing and accepting to change.
Question from the audience: How does age factor in to diversity?
Crouse: Whoever can do the job, can do the job regardless of age.
Dean: From a hiring standpoint, be respectful of experience which can be difficult. The “Belk Celebrates” committee tackles such issues. Last year, the focus was on generation of the workforce. This challenged associates to think about younger customers and how to relate. It comes down to respect and honor and recognizing there will be a knowledge transfer.
Henry: Look at workforce composition. You need to balance and mix. Experienced employees bring wisdom. We must get back to basics. Wisdom will carry the day and is a core competency.
In closing, Larson asked for advise and counsel to those just beginning or in the midst of building a diversity plan
Henry: Have a willingness to understand. Be courageous with your conviction and don’t give up if met with those that are not receptive. Seek help if needed.
Crouse: Tap in to businesses that have a diversity department to seek ideas and implantation. You need to be a resource to your community.
Flanagan: Do it because you want to, not because you think you should. Seek first to understand then be understood. Accept up front that it will not be easy. Regardless of your position in your company, act as a leader. Focus on the opportunity in the sense that you need to get results.
Dean: We are driven by relevance and a desire to be impactful. Be strategic about what you want to accomplish and sell how this well be beneficial to your team. Be open to listening as well as carrying the message forward.
|Friday, August 14, 2009|
|The Next Steps for Governor’s Village Program Recap|
At Thursday’s University City lunch Scott Muri, area superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) Northeast Learning Community, Michael Jones, assistant principal at Vance High School, and Kathleen Zemaitis, community affairs manager at TIAA-CREF presented the re-investing and re-inventing of Governor’s Village. They are leaders in creating impressive partnerships both internally within CMS and with University City area businesses. Below are highlights captured by Dr. Cheryl Richards, dean of the Cato Campus & Professional Careers Division at Central Piedmont Community College and University City Chapter board member. To listen to the complete presentation click here. To view the presenters’ power point click here.
Scott Muri, Area Superintendent, CMS Northeast Learning Community
“It takes a village,” We are all partners in educating our youth: K-12, community colleges and universities, corporations and businesses, as parents and as community members.
- Governor’s Village is a model of this partnership and today the re-investing in and re-inventing of the Governor’s Village concept is being lead from within by the assistant principals of James Martin Middle, Morehead Elementary School of Math, Science and Environmental Studies, Nathaniel Alexander Elementary and Vance High School. The assistant principals are charged with pulling together the students, teacher, administrators and parents of the four schools.
Michael Jones, Assistant Principal, Vance High School
- “We need to be leading by example”. Each of us as parents, business owners, and community residents must lead our youth by modeling the collaborative partnership like that represented in Governor’s Village.
- “We’re all cougars in the Governor’s Village” as all four schools share same mascot, celebrate thru common events and share same community partners.
Kathleen Zemaitis, Community Affairs Manager, TIAA-CREF
- "We are very committed to education” and giving students every opportunity to succeed.
- TIAA-CREF has implemented a mentoring program for their associates to assist Governor’s Village students. The program supports high school senior projects by providing mentorship in professional areas (finance, HR, etc.) or on personal topics (hiking, fishing, etc.)
- Mentor relationships begin with personal face-to-face meetings then continue throughout the year in electronic means so students and employees don’t need to leave their school or place of employment.
|Monday, August 10, 2009|
|East Chapter Luncheon|
July 21, 2009
Jarrett Royster, YMCA of Greater Charlotte - Simmons Branch
Denise Coleman, Latin America Coalition
Jennifer Duru, City of Charlotte's Neighborhood & Business Services Division
Moderator: Sidney Evans, East Chapter 1st Vice Chair
Evans set the tone of the meeting by explaining the importance of colloboration and partnership and how it increases your visibility in the area you serve. Evans then asked each panelist what colloboration means to them.
Coleman expressed colloborating with other non-profit organizations so as not to re-invent the wheel along with small business owners. Duru stressed the importance of public-private partnerships with the overall goal being to serve the community.
Evans asked the panel from a strategic standpoint how colloboration fits into future planning.
Duru commented that many entitites are knowledgable. Coleman felt the community should be empowered so they can in turn support the area and get involved in the community. An example of colloboration is the October 8, 2009 Taste of the World event. Taste of the World is an international restaurant crawl involving East area restaurants, most of which are of different enthnicities. Additionally, the City of Charlotte helps with educating restaurants on what is needed to have a suitable grade to participate.
Evans asked the panel how the process works in terms of bringing organizations together.
Royster indicated that while challenging, the spirit of colloboration is the driver along with a clear vision. You then can determine who can help with influence. Drawbacks to partnerships can be those that disagree with your strategic vision. The more groups involved, the more potential for disagreement.
To wrap up, Evans asked what outcomes everyone hoped to see.
Coleman wanted to educate new homeowners so they not only qualify and purchase homes, but they retain property and get involved in their community. Would also like to see small businesses stay in business by providing resourceful information on loans and grants.
Royster expressed that most small businesses fail because of their business plan. Small business owners need assistance in this area.
Duru has compiled a resource guide. Organizations like SCORE and the Small Business Administration can also help with business plans, cash flow projections, etc., to help maximize profits.
Royster summed it up by stating that East Charlotte is seeking one common vision. Visit www.charlotteast.com for more information.
|Friday, August 7, 2009|
|Legislative Update, Week of August 7, 2009|
While the passage of the state budget is central to our thoughts this week, I would like to begin this update with emphasizing a very timely and important event. Join us as we spark the critical conversation on the impending risk the Charlotte region is facing regarding our air quality and its effects on transportation and transportation funding at our 2009 Transportation Summit next Friday, August 14. Attendees will hear from notable NC business, elected and transportation leaders including Secretary of the NC Department of Transportation Gene Conti, Secretary of the NC Department of Commerce Keith Crisco and Secretary of the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources Dee Freeman. Click here to read the agenda and to register. I would urge you to hurry, as seats are filling fast!
The House and Senate passed a $19 billion state spending plan for 2009-2011 on Wednesday. The budget includes a combination of cuts and tax changes in order to attempt to fill the nearly $4.6 billion gap the state faced compared to last year's budget. The tax package raises $990 million and includes many raises that are supposed to expire by 2011. The state's tax rates will be affected in the following ways
- Corporate Income Tax: In addition to the current rate of 6.9%, there will be a 3% surcharge enacted on the income tax owed for 2009 and 2010 tax returns
- Personal Income Tax: on taxes "married filing jointly" there will be a 2% surcharge on the taxes owed for $150,000-$250,000 earners and a 3% surcharge on the taxes owed for those making over $250,000 for 2009 and 2010 returns.
- Sales Tax: a 1 cent state increase from September 1, 2009 expiring July 1, 2011. For Mecklenburg County, this brings our total sales tax rate to 8.25%.
With the passage of the budget, which the Governor just signed this afternoon, the General Assembly is close to adjourning their 2009 long session. The members of the House and Senate have been busy trying to quickly pass bills as the close of session is imminent. The Senate will have a so-called "skeleton session" next Tuesday after voting on a handful of bills today. The House will convene on Monday after some committee meetings called that afternoon.
The Senate Rules Committee approved today a Study Commission bill, which was just posted to the internet. This bill essentially enacts the ability for the state to provide for all of the "study commission" bills that have passed this session. Of particular interest, the "Equity Formula Study Commission" bill, charged with studying issues related to the state's method for distributing transportation funds, is a part of the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee Studies. Also, the bill allows the NCDOT to enact a feasibility study to look at tolling all interstate highways entering into NC. As the bill text was just released this afternoon, we'll provide a more in-depth analysis of this bill in next week's update.
Of note, the Intermodal Bill saw movement this week. This bill passed the House a few months ago and was voted favorably out of the Senate Finance committee this week, and approved in a vote on the Senate floor. Since there was one technical amendment, the House must concur on the bill. The Charlotte Chamber has supported this bill this session, as it would provide all other 99 counties in North Carolina with the opportunity to levy a sales tax for public transportation. This bill is modeled after Mecklenburg's successful ½ cent sales tax legislation, which the Charlotte Chamber advocated for in 1997 and was again approved by 70% of Mecklenburg voters in 2007.
Follow me and Natalie English on www.twitter.com for up-to-the-minute updates on the Chamber's "Voice for Business" activities at @Voice4BizCLT and @cltlobbyist, respectively. Please feel free to contact me at 704-957-3728 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have comments, questions or feedback.