Santa Fe Chamber: The Business Case for an Ethics Commission
At the Santa Fe Chamber, every day we work to build a stronger local economy that helps almost 1,000 member businesses that employ 8000+ New Mexicans thrive. New Mexico has moderate momentum behind our economic recovery, including low unemployment and growth in the local hospitality industry. But, our job growth is still lagging far behind our neighbors. This legislative year, to continue to get our economy back on track, the business community needs a commitment to transparency from our state legislature, starting with the establishment of an ethics commission. This commitment to transparency would transform the business environment and investment climate across our state, and help put our state on a path to greater prosperity for all New Mexicans.
Why is an ethics commission so important? First, it will help ensure a level and stable playing fields for all businesses. Nearly all business enterprises, from the largest corporations to the smallest start-ups, depend on a state government that is accessible to all. All business owners, whether they employ 10 people or 10,000, should be confident that when they come to New Mexico, they are getting a fair shake. An ethics commission helps achieve this, ensuring our state government is open and transparent.
Secondly, it sends a signal across the country that we have nothing to hide. While we have made a lot of progress in recent years to clean up our state government, the absence of an ethics commission introduces unnecessary risk for businesses. When leaders of a corporation are looking to expand, they look to states where there is stability and they can be sure the business climate will stay welcoming. When an entrepreneur is looking for a place to open a business, he or she looks at states where the business environment will allow for their business to flourish for decades to come. Without an ethics commission, there isn’t clear, established ground rules as law that everybody must follow. Establishing an ethics commission, however, would help entrepreneurs and business leaders to be confident about the future business climate in our state.
It is time the state legislature help New Mexico take a step forward in our state’s economic by making a commitment to transparency. Establishing an ethics commission will send a strong message to businesses across our country that they are welcome in New Mexico.
President and CEO
Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce
Updated: 12/06/2014 10:06 PM | Created: 12/06/2014 9:11 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4
A local accounting firm says earlier this week, they received letters detailing how much their clients would need to pay into the state’s Unemployment Insurance Fund as part of new calculations set for 2015. For many of their clients, they say, it could be a bigger price tag than they expected.
“People are saying, ‘I don’t even see [the point of] being in business,'” accountant Anita Lovato said. “One of the ones that was $10,000 a year said, ‘It’s not worth it…it’s not worth fighting this.'”
Many small businesses have seen a tough few years – construction companies in particular. Less income meant cutting staff, something Empire Accounting says their clients didn’t take lightly.
“These people are New Mexico people who have small businesses…and a lot of them [are] family owned,” Lovato said.
Starting in 2015, businesses that had to do layoffs or firings that sent people into unemployment will pay more into that fund. Like with home or car insurance, those who use the fund more pay more, so some employers will see lower rates. But accountant Linda Sedillo worries that those who are about to shell out more are those who’ve already tightened their belts.
“I think it could lead to more unemployment. The construction industry especially has been affected so bad by the economy, and they are just now maybe starting to see things get better…and with these higher rates, they’re going to have to budget in $10,000 more a year… that’s impossible in this kind of economy,” Sedillo said.
Workforce Solutions released the following statement about the rate calculations:
“Strong bi-partisan legislation passed almost unanimously in 2013 changed the way in which employers’ contribution rates are calculated in New Mexico. For too long, politics drove how employer rates would be calculated in future years, leaving the entire business community in limbo, and jeopardizing the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund solvency. Rates will now be more closely tied to employers’ actual benefit charges, and overall industry average. This change becomes effective in January, 2015.
Many experienced and new employers will benefit greatly from this new formula, with lower rates than in past years. Some employers, due to their industry or their actual history of benefit charges in the unemployment insurance program, may see increased rates.
Regardless of the size of a company, rates are driven by the employer’s individual experience with the program. Like a true insurance program, higher rates are driven by high usage of the program.
If any employer would like a review of their new rate or should have any questions they may contact the Unemployment Insurance Operations Center via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-877-664-6984 (Option 3), Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.”
Day in and day out, the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (FOG) is on the front lines supporting the public’s right to know. FOG has been educating, advocating, and litigating for transparency and accountability in NM government for almost 25 years.
So what? Why should you care? Isn’t access to public records a game of inside baseball that only political wonks and the press track? If you care about the state of the economy, you should care about open government. It’s not just about transparency and good government. It’s also about jobs and economic development say a growing number of experts and policymakers.
Journalists were the first to push for access to public records in the ‘60s and ‘70s to find out what government was doing and to hold public officials accountable. However, today requests for public records are predominantly filed by businesses, outnumbering requests from the press by three or four to one, according to one nationwide survey.
Although we don’t have hard statistics in New Mexico, records custodians report that the majority of requestors represent commercial interests—from Landmen in the Permian Basin to realtors in Santa Fe, from lawyers in Las Cruces to technology entrepreneurs in Albuquerque. One state agency that has been tracking Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) requests in 2014 found that commercial IPRA requests were four times greater than IPRAs filed by journalists.
Open data in particular is changing the landscape of government transparency. According to a benchmark study released last month by Socrata, a privately held cloud software company, a vast majority of respondents said reliance on government open data by private sector organizations is now established and can spark economic development. A significant proportion of public officials responding to the survey said open data has led directly to economic development in their community with a large majority (75%) saying they have seen direct benefits in new businesses forming and 73% reporting an increase in jobs. A smaller but still large majority (59%) also has seen increased tax revenues.
Another recent report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. said that open data’s economic potential is estimated at more than $3 trillion in the global economy. According to the McKinsey report, government will play a key role in generating that economic activity and stands to gain significantly from it through increases in tax revenue, reductions in the cost of government transactions, increases in service efficiency and in the creation of jobs.
The late Peter Weiss of the U.S. National Weather Service observed that the largest information generator—the government—is an important input like gas, coal or water to the economic process. “The database and information retrieval industries in the United States are large and have grown exponentially since the beginning of the Internet revolution. They are dependent to a great extent on free, unrestricted, taxpayer-funded government information, which covers everything from economics to statistics to agriculture to the weather,” Weiss noted in a research paper.
The case for engaging the private sector in open governance goes beyond performance and technical considerations. Introducing transparency, accountability, and trust into government-business relations will transform the business environment and the investment climate. It can promote open public budgeting, clean up procurement, and level the playing field for small businesses.
Thomas Jefferson once said that information is the currency of a democracy. Today that is especially true where government information can pay big dividends for the economy. That’s why many in the business community join FOG in pushing for transparency and openness in government. We welcome all businesses and citizens in New Mexico to join us in this data frontier.
Susan Boe is executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government. FOG is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that is the state’s leading advocate for transparency. Visit www.nmfog.org.
Santa Fe, NM – December 2, 2014 – Santa Fe County is currently seeking members of the general public who are interested in serving on a Community Planning Committee for each of the 13 community planning areas, previously established in Santa Fe County (see list below). Membership should include: residents, property owners, business owners, and community groups of the community planning areas. Once committees are established additional individuals are encouraged to attend and provide input at the planning committee meetings.
Each of the Planning Committees will meet periodically and the work involved will mostly likely run from February through August of 2015 on an “as-needed” basis. Planning Committees will be asked to meet and work with County staff on amending community plans, recommending base zoning, and developing an overlay community district—all within their respective community planning areas, to ensure consistency with the Sustainable Growth Management Plan (SGMP) and the Sustainable Land Development Code(SLDC).
A general “kickoff” of the process for all 13 Planning Committees will be scheduled by the County to take place in February 2015. At that meeting further detail will be provided in the form of general information, timelines, templates and scopes of work.
List of Planning Committee Areas:
• Agua Fria Community Planning District
• Community College District (CCD)
• El Valle de Arroyo Seco Plan Area and Highway Corridor District
• La Cienega/La Cieneguilla Community Plan District
• Los Cerrillos Community Plan District
• Madrid Community Plan District
• Pojoaque Valley Community Plan District
• San Marcos Community Plan District
• San Pedro Community Plan District
• US 285 South Highway Corridor District
• Tesuque Community Plan District
• Galisteo Community Plan District
• Tres Arroyos del Poniente Community Plan District
Interested individuals should submit a brief online application through the County (link below) or by sending the attached application to:
Santa Fe County Planning Division Office
Attn: Robert Griego
102 Grant Ave., Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504-0276
Applications are also available at the County satellite offices, senior centers or at the County Administrative Building in the Planning Division Office You must complete a Financial Disclosure 2015 form which can be uploaded as part of the online application or picked up the locations previously listed.
For more information please contact Robert Griego by email at: email@example.com or by telephone at: 505-986-6215
Link to the online application and more information are found at www.santafecountynm.gov/growth_management/planning/santa_fe_county_planning_committee
Application Deadline is Monday, January 5, 2015
In light of Republicans capturing control of the state House after 60 years in the minority, Albuquerque Business First’s Dan Mayfield highlighted what policies could have a greater chance of passage in the upcoming legislative session, and high on the list is right-to-work.
As of Jan.1 this year, 24 states are right-to-work states, wherein labor unions are barred from including so-called union-security clauses in collective bargaining agreements with employers. In the remaining collective-bargaining states, of which New Mexico is one, unions may require all workers covered by the agreement to pay dues or fees to cover the cost of bargaining activities. In other words, workers may be required to join a union as a condition of their continued employment.
Union leaders have long argued that since a union represents all workers, and since all workers of a bargaining unit benefit from collective bargaining, each worker must pay his or her fair share of dues or else unfairly receive a free ride.
Like unions, chambers of commerce are member associations. The Internal Revenue Service has described chambers as “direct[ing] their efforts at promoting the common economic interests of all the commercial enterprises in a given … community.”
ALL the commercial enterprises in a given community, it said, even the nonmembers – the “free riders,” in union parlance. And the IRS requires a chamber, as an exempt organization under Section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code, to have a “meaningful level” of membership support.
But unlike unions, chambers have never guaranteed their income by codifying dues payments from those they represent. In fact, in 1913, when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sought tax exemption through the forerunner of IRC 501(c)(6), it argued in congressional hearings that when chambers of commerce “succeed in their purposes, they increase the incomes, not of themselves, but of the individuals in their communities, irrespective of membership in the organizations.” But to keep the doors open, chambers must earn that meaningful level of membership support by demonstrating their value and, bottom line, actively selling memberships. Chambers have to prove their worth. How is it fair that unions don’t have to do the same?
So for now, New Mexico is a “right-to-dues” state for unions, by statute and by contract. I’m envious, because the Hobbs Chamber must live the mantra “evolve or dissolve” every day, because it is no more immune to negative market forces than our member businesses. We chambers are scrapping to remain valuable, viable and sustainable, and it’s a tough environment. Earlier this year, Albuquerque Business First reported the revenue and net income of 25 New Mexico chambers of commerce, pulled from each organization’s 2012 tax return. Of the 25 chambers listed, 40 percent showed net losses. The Hobbs Chamber, for one, could not withstand consecutive years of net losses, and I assume many of our peers couldn’t either. Can a city’s commercial body afford to see a community institution like the chamber of commerce dissolve?
What to do? For starters, I challenge every New Mexico business owner, executive and manager: Corporate citizenship begins with a membership in the community chamber of commerce. Support the organization that supports you by being a member of the chamber of commerce of each community in which your business operates. If you’re not sold on moral obligation alone, then let me tell you, first among your member benefits is that chamber membership dues, sponsorships and fees paid are tax-deductible business expenses. Some businesses can deduct as much 60 cents of every dollar.
Today in Hobbs, one in about five Hobbs-area businesses is a Hobbs Chamber member. While a sampling of businesses reflecting the wider business community is passable, it doesn’t take a statistician to know a chamber best represents “all the commercial enterprises” when 100 percent of those businesses are on the membership rolls. Sure solves the question of sustainability, as well. Thus, we have articulated the goal to be a “100% Chamber Community” – that the Hobbs Chamber will continuously strive to earn 100 percent of the Hobbs area’s licensed businesses as its members.
So, here’s a challenge to every community chamber of commerce to do the same: let’s compete for bragging rights to see who can come closest to being a “100% Chamber Community” by June 30, 2015. Who’s in?
Grant Taylor is the president and CEO of the Hobbs Chamber of Commerce.
How To Rank Higher In Google Maps
Guest Blogger: Michael Kern from Inform Local
Learning how to rank higher in Google Maps will improve the amount of calls you receive, and traffic to your website or storre front. The traffic and phone calls come from locals in your area that are searching for your products or services. I am going to list the best resources to find citations, and give you advice to improve your Google local business directory listing. Plus I am going to tell you my two favorite and most powerful citation sites.
There are a lot of factors that go into improving your position in Google’s directory. I want to talk about what I consider to be the most important factor, which are citations. If you want to check out all ranking factors and see some studies, check out these articles: Ranking Factors, Google Places quality guidelines and Rank Correlation Data.
A citation is a reference of your business on a webpage other than your own. Citation Example 1: Having your basic business information (Name, Phone number, and Address) listed on Yahoo local. Citation Example 2: When someone writes a review about your business, usually in an online directory like Yahoo Local, or even in a blog post, or press release.
Why Citations Are An Important Ranking Factor
Google only wants to list real local businesses. Webmasters trying to get traffic to their websites have been spamming Google for ever, trying to get their businesses listed outside their actual geographical area. So in order to verify the information entered into the Google Maps Directory, Google crawls the web looking for other instances, or mentions of the same business. The more citations they find, the more they trust, the higher you’ll rank.
So now we understand that we need more citations than our competition, but where do we get them? There is an awesome free tool, I don’t know how long it will remain free, so use it soon. Citation Finder will let you know where you are listed and where you’re not. It delivers you to the page you need via a link, so you can list your business.
There is another way to find citation sources. Put your competitions phone number into Google and search, this will show you all the places they are listed. Repeat this search for your top 3 or 4 competitors and you will have a long list of citation sources.
My Two Favorite Citation Sources
Not all citation sites are created equal, and some are better than others. While you want a lot of citations to help move up your Google Places position, some sites will send customers ready to make a purchase (bingo). The Better Business Bureau (BBB), and your local Chamber of Commerce, are great resources and citation sites.
It is my belief that easy to get citations are not worth as much as citation sources that verify the information that is submitted to them. Some citation sources mail you a code to verify your mailing address, or they call you to verify you actually have the phone number you say you do.
To get an accredited BBB listing, you have to show them your business certificate, and /or show licenses and certifications, sort of prove how long you’ve been in business. Who but real businesses will go through this process.
Many people go to their local Chamber of Commerce, or the BBB when looking for services. These companies are trusted to provide reputable local businesses. Some chambers will let your customers leave a review, and the BBB ranks your business in part by reviews left by past customers (reviews are really citations within a citation).
Nobody has told me Google’s grading system, but I have managed to help my clients get into the top three spots and many to number 1 with what I just shared. One of the keys to learning what works and what doesn’t work is testing.
SEOMOZ.org had a tool that gave you weekly updates. It would give you present and historical rank data. You could see your Google Maps rank for any keyword you plugged in. It also gave you the same data for Bing Local and Yahoo Local. The tool is out of order right now, but we are told it will be back better than ever real soon.
Now you know how to rank higher in Google Maps, get out there and get your citations. It is time consuming work, so add a few every week. You may want to bookmark this post to come back to the tools I have listed.
Hit me up in the comments with any questions or to tell what you have done to improve your local Google places ranking.
http://www.generalservices.state.nm.us/statepurchasing/ has complete information for local small businesses about doing business with the state and working through the procurement process.
For similar information for the City of Santa Fe go here http://www.santafenm.gov/bids_rfps
And for Santa Fe County http://www.santafecountynm.gov/asd/purchasing_division
Many government agencies are required to assign some purchasing to local small business. Take a look at how LANL helps local suppliers here http://www.lanl.gov/business/small-business/general-information.php
The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce recognizes that a strong community hospital is critically important to our economic future. The healthcare sector is forecast to grow and create many well-paying jobs for the future, but in order to create these career opportunities we have to focus on a new way of providing care using the latest methods and systems. But small rural hospitals are under threat: a recent quote from Albuquerque Business First “At the same time that more New Mexicans are getting health insurance, the state’s hospitals are reducing services because of lower reimbursement rates for government health programs like Medicaid and Medicare, according to the New Mexico Hospital Association.”.
It has been refreshing to see that our local elected officials have chosen not to weigh in on the complex contractual negotiations between Christus St Vincent and the nurse’s union. The officials rightly recognize that the world of healthcare and ACA reform is extremely complex and there are no easy answers to questions about funding, technology and staffing.
New management systems, government mandates, insurance and privacy requirements, required staffing levels, patient care procedures, competition from private and regional hospitals, a rising uninsured population, rising costs and other consequences related to healthcare reform. These are enormously complicated issues that are constantly changing. The impacts may not be felt for many years. In this environment, it is worth reviewing some pertinent facts related to local healthcare:
• Christus St Vincent (CSV) is one of only four unionized hospitals in New Mexico.
• CSV serves seven counties and 300,000 people
• 20 New Mexico hospitals had a reduction in expenses last year, eight by more than 10% and three downsized by 20%
• CSV is the largest local non-government employer in Santa Fe and spends over $30 million with local vendors each year
• CSV served over 53,000 emergency patients last year
• CSV nurses work 12hour shifts, three days on and four off, a preference of the nurses
• CSV is a not-for-profit hospital that provided over $47 million in care to the uninsured and under insured last year
• CSV “sole community provider” funding has been reduced from $30million to $4million and is likely to go to zero
• Medicaid reimbursements are now linked to improvements in quality outcomes and improved patient satisfaction indexes
• CSV Nurses with an Associates Degree and no experience start at $51,000 a year. These are great local jobs
• With benefits the average nurses compensation package at CSV is $83,000 for a three day work week
• It costs $800,000 a day to operate the not-for-profit hospital, from which $164M goes to salaries for 1,900 employees annually
Internet pundits enjoy playing the blame game and name-calling CSV management but we clearly have a hospital focused on improving the quality of care during this perfect storm of health care reform and issues are more complex than they might imagine. Christus St Vincent Hospital plays a critically important role in our community. As the major provider of healthcare, as a reliable community partner and as the largest private provider of jobs in the area, CSV is responsible for the health and economic well-being of thousands of Santa Feans. Let’s support positive outcomes and encourage civil discourse around this most important issue.
The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce supports the Santa Fe Area Homebuilders Association and the Santa Fe Association of Realtors in their opposition to raising impact fees on new residential construction. The Chamber recognizes that hundreds of local contractors were severely impacted by the recent recession and we have seen little sign of significant recovery in the construction sector. We believe that the City should be incentivizing job creation for local contractors, not adding additional burden and expense to the cost of new housing. The Chamber urges the City Council to amend the proposed ordinance to remove any language eliminating the 50% reduction on residential development impact fees.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM
Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, 1644 St. Michael’s Drive, Santa Fe, NM 87505
Hors d’oeuvres will be provided
RSVP at the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce website or call 988-3279
We need YOU to help us achieve our goal of reaching every 8th grade student in Santa Fe and give them the opportunity to reach her or his highest potential!
The High School graduation rate in Santa Fe is approximately 60 percent. This is a startling fact: but by helping kids to make better choices earlier on, together we can rewrite this statistic.
In order to meet this challenge, we need 20+ volunteers, so please join us for this special event and invite your colleagues.
CHOICES is an easy-to-learn, organized interactive program that you present to 8th graders using your knowledge and real-world experience. Your time commitment would consist of only 2-4 hours throughout the entire school year (September 2014 – June 2015). Presentations are given during the school day in two 1-hour shifts, over the course of two days.
No one can argue with the impact of the CHOICES Program, with powerful responses like the following from the previous year’s students: “I learned about the importance of choices I would make in high school and college and important times in my life.”
What does self-discipline mean to you? “That it’s your choice to be what you want to be.”
And from a CHOICES Presenter: “Why do I do CHOICES? Easy answer. It is because I care. For various supporting reasons, I truly care about making a difference in the lives of my community’s youth. Even if only 1 student makes the connection, I know that a future has been brightened and our community will be better for it. It is really just about giving and paying towards a better future.”
For more information about the CHOICES program, please visit their website: http://www.choices.org/
For additional information about this exciting event, please contact: