Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

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 uitax.support@state.nm.us or call 1-877-664-6984 (Option 3), Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.”

A group of thirty local CEO’s and business leaders met in April to share ideas and thoughts as to how the Chamber can most effectively pursue its mission to Grow the Local Economy and Serve as the Voice of Business.

Attendees included: Mike Loftin of Homewise, Paul Margetson of Hotel Santa Fe, Brian Byrnes of the Santa Fe Community Foundation, Bruce Tassin of Christus St Vincent, Dr Joel Boyd Superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools, Kathy Keith of the Regional Development Corp. and Bill Sisneros of El Gancho as well as twenty Chamber Board members.

The focus of the conversation was jobs and how the Chamber can collaborate in the community. The following day the Board met for six hours to discuss the Plan of Work for FY 2014-15 and talked about issues such as infrastructure, workforce development, community development and internal communications.

The feedback from the leaders was extremely helpful and Chair of the Board Chip Chippeaux commented “It was very useful to hear from such a wide range of leaders about their challenges and how the Chamber can better advocate for community improvement and job creation.”

Chamber staff is actively designing the Plan of Work which will be available in the next few weeks. Members are invited to participate and weigh in on the issues that most affect their businesses.

Leadership Santa Fe is a successful and prestigious program designed for motivated individuals who wish to learn more about the challenges facing Santa Fe and engage in the process of improving the community. The program combines interactive leadership skills training with an informative civic awareness curriculum over six weekends (Fridays and Saturdays) from October 2014 through April 2015.

This year we are adding a Graduate Program focusing attention on systems thinking, addressing community needs, and small group project skills, and a new Youth Program designed to meet Santa Fe’s need for young community leaders; teaching citizenship, job and college preparedness, and civic engagement. The program aims to enhance youth leadership resources for the community of Santa Fe. Youth Leadership Santa Fe will accomplish this by giving civic-minded youth a vehicle for their community-oriented energies, and providing access to community leaders and policy makers.

You can participate by joining one of the programs or by donating or sponsoring a student. There are program details and more information available at www.leadershipsantafe.org or info@leadershipsantafe.org

 

Santa Fe, NM – The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce is hosting four educational seminars on the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange (NMHIX) on September 26th and October 23rd. Two seminars will be held each day – small businesses, under 50 employees at 9am and large businesses, 50 or more employees at 1:30pm.

The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce has partnered with NMHIX in an effort to help outreach and educate all residents of Santa Fe on new options for healthcare coverage. This event is one of many that will be happening, now through the end of the year, to ensure that important information reaches all areas of the state and that all small businesses and individuals have an open forum to ask questions, understand options and learn about additional tools and resources to help them with new affordable coverage options.

WHO:                  Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce / New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange (NMHIX)

WHAT:                New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange (NMHIX) Outreach and Education Seminars

WHEN:                September 26th and October 23rd, 9am (small businesses, under 50 employees) and 1:30pm (large businesses, 50 or more employees) each day

WHERE:              Hotel Santa Fe, 1501 Paseo de Peralta

REGISTRATION:  www.santafechamber.com or 988-3279

NO CHARGE TO ATTEND

CONTACT:          Simon Brackley

About New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange

New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange (NMHIX) was created to help individuals and small businesses get access to affordable health insurance plans. NMHIX will also help consumers compare health insurance plans and choose the plan that works best for their health needs and budget. NMHIX will help individuals determine whether they are eligible for premium assistance and if so, at what level.  Through SHOP, small businesses will be able to purchase competitively priced health insurance plans and offer their employees the ability to choose from an array of plans.  Individuals and small businesses can start enrolling in NMHIX plans October 1, 2013 with coverage effective starting January 1, 2014.  Health Care Guides and brokers/agents are available throughout the state to help with signing up for NMHIX coverage.

For more information on NMHIX, please visit www.NMHIX.com

Education Secretary Hanna Skandera met with members of the Chamber Board in August and gave an update on education priorities at the state level.

Intervention Before Retention

The goal of this initiative is to ensure that all students are reading at grade level by the end of 3rd grade and prepared to learn.  This initiative ensures that all students, parents and teachers are given the tools necessary (early assessments and targeted interventions) to succeed in reading:

Supporting Struggling Schools & Rewarding Excellence

School grades were designed to identify and help struggling schools while highlighting successful schools. This system measures individual student growth over a three year period and the calculation model accounts for circumstances unique to each school. Graduation rates, and their improvement over time, are also factors.  By offering support to our struggling schools and rewarding schools that closing the achievement gap for their students, we are honoring our commitment to real accountability to achieve real results.

Rewarding and Championing Effective Teachers and Principals

Proposed legislation would align teacher advancement pathways within the three tier system to be based on effectiveness. Right now, advancement is based only on years of service and credentials, conflicting with New Mexico’s new evaluation system. Ensuring the two systems are aligned will not only better equip teachers for success, but also positively impact student achievement. Under the current binary evaluation system, a teacher either “meets competency” or does not and over 98% of teachers in New Mexico “meet competency”. This is not commensurate with our student achievement data. Studies have shown dramatic strides in closing the achievement gap when students are taught by highly effective teachers.

Above the Line vs. Below the Line

43% of the state’s budget goes to K-12 education and New Mexicans deserve to see a better return on their investment. The goal is to invest taxpayer dollars “below the line” on proven reforms that will yield measurable results for spending accountability.

 

 

 

Labs in the balance: Northern NM

already feeling impact of LANL cuts

Reporter- New Mexico Business Weekly

While the impact of looming federal budget cuts on New Mexico’s economy is still a question mark, a look at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s situation offers a glimpse of what federal budget cuts can bring.

With its $2.25 billion budget, LANL is the economic driver of northern New Mexico. It had a $300 million budget cut in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. That led the lab to reduce its staff by nearly 700 regular and contract employees, and caused ripple effects in the area’s economy.

The lab’s reduced budget was a result of the Obama administration’s effort to cut costs across various programs, said Kevin Holsapple, director of the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corp.

For every lab worker lost, private contractors and subcontractors that do business with the lab shed one employee, according to people familiar with the situation. Some contractors, especially those that do environmental remediation work, have laid off between 30 and 80 percent of their workforce, area business leaders said.

Los Alamos County government has cut its budget by 10 percent, or $5.5 million, this fiscal year. The county has not had to lay off people, but it might if federal budget cuts known as sequestration take effect as planned beginning Jan. 2, 2013. Those across-the-board federal budget cuts are supposed to result in $2.2 trillion in reduced overall federal spending by 2021. New Mexico, with its heavy dependence on federal spending, could suffer more than other states, experts said.

“We expect a flat budget at best for 2013, but we are trying to take action so we are positioned to deal with that uncertainty,” said lab spokesman Fred deSousa. “There is a council of senior lab management that goes through every new hire and every purchase of above $100,000.”

He added that the lab couldn’t say more because “it’s hypothetical to talk about any specifics.”

Employees laid off from LANL and its contractors spend less money, and that ripples through the economy.

“People don’t go to restaurants, and they don’t go shopping,” said Los Alamos County Councilor Sharon Stover.

Liddie Martinez, community and economic development director for SOC Los Alamos, a firm that provides security services to the lab, said her company is reducing its staff of 340 by 31 employees because of this year’s budget cuts.

“The employees have been notified, and we are trying to have a voluntary separation deal approved” by the National Nuclear Safety Administration, one of the federal agencies that oversees the lab’s operations, said Martinez, a member of the executive committee of a consortium of 30 LANL contractors that is challenging proposed cuts to the sprawling laboratory. Several members of the consortium and area business and political leaders recently went to Washington, D.C. to lobby New Mexico’s congressional delegation on behalf of LANL and against sequestration cuts.

“All of the major contractors seem to have been fairly impacted,” said Jeff Lunsford, area general manager for Technology Integration Group, a San Diego-based company that provides computer hardware and services to LANL. Lunsford is vice chair of the LANL contractors’ consortium.

“One company indicated that it had gone from 150 employees to 30, and they were struggling with how to keep even those 30 employed,” Lunsford said. “It feels like the job losses for the subcontractors are one-to-one, and that’s why with sequestration, if it happens, it will be much worse.”

Lunsford said TIG has yet to be affected by this year’s budget cuts.

Kathy Keith, executive director of the Regional Development Corp., a nonprofit economic development organization in Española, said sequestration cuts could cost LANL hundreds more jobs.

“Our concern about sequestration is that it requires 10 percent across-the-board cuts. For every $1 million they lose in a budget cut, it takes an FTE with it. Los Alamos has a $2.2 billion budget this year, so a 10 percent across-the-board cut would mean an additional $220 million,” Keith said. “At least 50 percent of the workforce lives outside Los Alamos County, which means there is an economic impact to all of us.”

Simon Brackley, president and CEO of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, said sequestration cuts at LANL could do serious harm to the area’s economy.

“Northern New Mexico’s economy is completely linked to the health of LANL and to the funding that goes to the lab. That money not only pays the people who work there, but also the suppliers and the security folks, which are local small businesses, many of which depend completely on their contract with the labs,” Brackley said.

“In Santa Fe, our economy has three legs; government, LANL and tourism. If we lose one of the three legs of the stool, we will be in serious difficulty up here.”

Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce – Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce

Rail Runner Position Paper

Background

In 2003 the New Mexico legislature and the Governor passed a $1.4 billion dollar transportation package called GRIP which was to be funded primarily by bonds. Over 1 billion dollars in the package was for roads that benefited cities throughout the state and $450 million was for capital to build the commuter rail component subsequently called the Rail Runner. The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce supported the GRIP package and most of the recommended financing mechanisms recommended at the time.  The Regional Transit District (RTD’s), the legislature and the office of the Governor negotiated and reached a verbal agreement on how the operations of the commuter rail would be funded.  It was verbally agreed by all parties that 75% of the operations for the commuter rail component would be funded from the four governments (Bernalillo, Sandoval, Valencia, Santa Fe County) through the RTD’s by a required election that would propose a 1/8 cent GRT tax. Additionally, and because it was a state-initiated project, 25% was committed for operations from the state as a part of the agreement.   A vote of the people in the four counties occurred in an election held in 2008.  The issue was passed by a majority of the people for both the commuter rail project and for the tax to fund it.

The election secured the RTD’s commitment for 75% of operations funding, but the 25% (or about $6 million) of state funding was never permanently secured.  The state’s commitment was instead funded by federal funds.  The lack of a permanent funding mechanism  at the state level and  to some extent, the poor economy has created the operations deficit problem for the Rail Runner. In an attempt to cut costs in the short term, the Rio Metro RTD voted on a 6-5 vote to end weekend service beginning mid-August. However, for the long term, the Rail Runner is facing a $1.2 million dollar operations deficit in FY 2012. The state is obligated to pay the $450 million over the next 16 years regardless of whether the Rail Runner is operational or not, as well as  the bond obligation payments for the larger road projects which was included in the GRIP package.  The state must currently use the federal dollars it receives to pay off the bonds which leaves few resources to maintain and expand roads in New Mexico.  Finally, unlike many other states, New Mexico does not have a long-term sustainable transportation fund dedicated to transportation systems which further aggravates the present problem.

Board Position

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce believe that a comprehensive transportation system is an economic development necessity. A comprehensive transportation system which efficiently moves both people and product is essential to creating a vibrant and competitive city and state. The Chambers have conducted several benchmarking trips to cities which have been successful at creating a comprehensive transportation system. All of those systems combine roads, commuter rail, light rail and bus systems in a synchronized plan which is designed to efficiently move people and product. None of those systems, roads included, can operate self sufficiently; all transportation systems need financial support from the people in the form of taxation, fares and in some places, toll charges.

The decision to end weekend service by the Rio Metro RTD , while bringing  the issue to a head, was nonetheless surprising and, we believe premature.  The Governor’s office should have been consulted and been a part of the debate at some level prior to any action being taken on a project which from the beginning has been a partnership between the local governments and the state.

The decision by the previous administration to use federal stimulus dollars and decline- for 4 years- to identify a permanent funding source ($6 million) to fulfill the state’s commitment was a mistake.

The Chambers urge all parties back to the table to creatively solve the dilemma. The investment has been made for the Rail Runner (and all other GRIP projects); the debt for it is still an obligation and tax revenue from the election result continues to come in for the project. We should not nickel and dime this project but solutions should recognize the problems, including, mistakes of the past. In the short run, questions like: How can we make this better? More  effective? More fair? … should  be answered. And then, the bigger problem should be solved – by all of us – how New Mexico can join the many other states who recognize transportation (roads and transit) as an important economic development tool and have created a long-term sustainable fund to pay for it.

 

The American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) today announced the publication of a new study detailing the credit scores and payment behavior of ten local chambers of commerce across the United States, comparing their member businesses with other regional, state and national business averages.  Produced by Cortera™, a community-driven business credit bureau, on behalf of ACCE, the study includes the Bowling Green (KY) Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Boca Raton (FL) Chamber of Commerce, Greater Durham (NC) Chamber of Commerce, Greater Omaha (NE) Chamber of Commerce, Helena (MT) Area Chamber of Commerce, Lake Champlain (VT) Regional Chamber of Commerce, Lubbock (TX) Chamber of Commerce, Salem (OR) Area Chamber of Commerce, San Diego (CA) Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Tulsa (OK) Metro Chamber.  According to the study, chamber of commerce members possess an average credit score of 629, compared to a 557 average score for businesses at large.  Such scores – the payment behavior from which they are derived — play a significant role in attracting lines of credit and securing favorable terms from lenders and suppliers.

A complete copy of the study, which includes both the aggregate findings, as well as the individual commercial credit scores for each of the ten local chambers, is available on the ACCE and Cortera sites.  The study was contracted by ACCE and performed by Cortera, which reviewed payment behavior for chamber member businesses.

“Chamber members have long been seen as responsible and reliable members of their community,” said Mick Fleming, president and CEO of ACCE.  “What this study indicates is that the perception is right.  From a credit standpoint, chamber members on average are better businesses, and as a result they have significant advantages in obtaining the funds they need.  In this economy and the tight credit environment we are experiencing, that’s especially important.”

“The economic health of the entire supply chain is dependent on the payment behavior of each of its stakeholders,” said Jim Swift, president and CEO of Cortera. “This study suggests that chamber members are among the most dependable participants in this ecosystem.”

About the American Chamber of Commerce Executives

Established in 1914, ACCE is the only national association serving the professional development needs of chamber professionals throughout the United States and Canada. Representing more than 7,300 individuals, ACCE enhances the knowledge, leadership skills, and management effectiveness of chamber executives and their staff through education, benefits programs, trend analysis, benchmarking, and network development. ACCE promotes the highest standards of professional excellence and integrity within the chamber profession.

About Cortera

In a sea of business information providers, Cortera is different. With over 15 years of experience serving finance professionals, Cortera combines premium business information and innovative tools with a fresh community approach to commercial credit.  It represents the first community for small business credit reporting and a fundamentally new way to capture the collective insight of millions of financial transactions. As a result, small businesses can make smarter, informed decisions to ensure optimal cash flow while attracting more favorable payment terms from existing and potential business partners. Free credit reports on millions of businesses are available at http://start.cortera.com.

A new study reveals that membership in a local chamber of commerce can significantly boost a business’s image among consumers, as well as among other businesses.  In a scientific survey of 2000 U.S. adults, The Schapiro Group, an Atlanta-based strategic consulting firm, found positive perceptions of chamber members in a number of areas, including overall favorability, consumer awareness and reputation, and likelihood of future patronage.

Click here to view the Chamber Study

The study, commissioned by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), IBM, Administaff, Small Business Network, Inc., and Market Street Services, showed that when respondents were told that a particular small business was a member of its local chamber, they were 44 percent more likely to rate it favorably than study respondents who were not told of the chamber affiliation. Respondents were also 63 percent more likely to want to purchase goods or services from a small business that is a chamber member.

“We discovered that informing someone about a company’s chamber membership opens the door to substantial increases positive perceptions of that business,” said Alex Trouteaud, Ph.D., senior strategist for The Schapiro Group. “There clearly is a feeling by our respondents that chamber membership is synonymous with quality and desirability.”

To tap into this reservoir of goodwill, a small business should not only join the local chamber of commerce and participate, but also make sure consumers and other businesses are aware of that chamber affiliation.

The positive impact of perceived chamber membership is felt by big businesses, too.  For example, when consumers believed that a restaurant chain was a member of the local chamber of commerce, they were 40 percent more likely to eat at the franchise in the future.  And if a consumer believed that one of the major automobile manufacturers was a member of its local chamber, that consumer was 9 percent more likely to consider purchasing his or her next car from that automaker.

“This study reinforces research done in 2005 about the perceived capacity of chambers to lead businesses and lead communities,” said Mick Fleming, president of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE).  “These new national findings point to even more direct benefits for companies willing to be stakeholders in their local chamber.”

The study results had good news for chambers themselves, where 82 percent of respondents indicated that a local chamber of commerce “creates jobs and promotes economic development.”

“The message from this national study is as simple as it is ground-breaking,” said Jim Blasingame, small business expert and president of Small Business Network, Inc. “Join your local chamber, be an active participant in your chamber’s programs and be sure to let your customers and prospects know you’re a proud chamber supporter when they come in your business and when they see your marketing material.”

J. Mac Holladay, CEO of Market Street Services, an economic development consulting firm based in Atlanta that helped create the study, said, “It is refreshing to learn what we have suspected for years — that chamber membership and community involvement are good investments.”

Click here to view the Chamber Study

The New Mexican Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 – 11/17/09

I have recently had a number of conversations about positions taken by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. From these conversations it has become apparent to me that there are a number of misapprehensions about chambers.

The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce is an independent nonprofit organization with around 1,000 local member businesses and a board of 21 directors representing hospitality, arts, manufacturing, media, finance, real estate, restaurant, insurance and other industries.

The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce has no affiliation with the U.S. Chamber. Any position taken by the Santa Fe Chamber is approved by the board of directors. At no time does the Santa Fe Chamber take direction from the U.S. Chamber. In fact, the Santa Fe Chamber rarely, if ever, takes positions on national issues.

The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce is committed to creating local jobs and prosperity for all Santa Feans.