Chambers of commerce are the voice of the local business community
A core principle of most chambers of commerce today is to represent the interests of business with government. Things haven't changed much over time.
In colonial days, you might have found a group of business owners sitting around a table, drinking coffee and discussing the issues of the day. Out of those discussions came the idea of creating an organization to represent their interests and to do good things in the community.
Thus, chambers of commerce were born in the late 1800s. Throughout this history of chambers, one common goal or principle was to represent business interests.
The Prescott Chamber has roots that trace back to 1910, but its history is not the reason for this month's column.
In Prescott, we follow government actions to the best of our ability and report on those issues to our members. Closest attention is paid to our own city government, but we occasionally find ourselves working with county officials, too.
Things become even more involved when we deal with state issues. Clearly, we can't make regular trips to the state Capitol to speak for or against bills that might impact the business community. However, modern technology has come to the rescue.
The 2012 legislative session is underway at the state Capitol, and our region is fortunate to have both bodies of the Legislature led by Prescott-area legislators.
Sen. Steve Pierce is president of the Senate, while Rep. Andy Tobin is speaker of the House. Both have many years of Arizona experience and both have strong business backgrounds, as does our district's other representative, Karen Fann. You couldn't ask for a better "team" to represent our area.
However, there are a total of 90 legislators in the House and Senate, with the majority of them coming from the Phoenix and Tucson areas. Do the math - much of the power lies there, not in rural Arizona.
So, how does the Prescott Chamber help develop and then support a statewide legislative agenda that is endorsed by chambers around the state?
The issues on the agenda are first discussed the previous August at the chambers' legislative summit and then endorsed by chambers around the state. It becomes the "blue print or road map" for issues that the chambers support or oppose during the session, and will be talked about more this Tuesday, March 6, at our annual Chamber Day at the Legislature in Phoenix.
The interesting thing is that the agenda doesn't change a whole lot year after year. The business priorities continue to include things such as "advance tax policies that encourage job creation, attract capital investment, and facilitate Arizona's ability to attract and retain businesses in diverse industries."
Another priority is to "continuously improve education at all levels to that students have the necessary skills for success in the global economy."
The main planks to the agenda platform include:
Create a structurally balanced budget
Create a competitive and sustainable economic development environment
Encourage regulatory accountability
Maintain a flexible, readily available and competitive workforce
Ensure ample and affordable energy supplies
Improve access to and affordability of healthcare statewide
Secure adequate funding for statewide transportation needs
As bills come up that fall into these categories, the chambers track the bills' progress by way of bi-weekly conference calls. If help is needed on a specific bill, we are informed through these conference calls, and we transmit our support or opposition to our legislators, or sign a "coalition" letter to all legislators on major issues.
We can register online to indicate our position on a specific bill and when that bill is heard in committee, the names of all supporters are read, as are the names of those in opposition.
The state Legislature's website has a wealth of information, and it's possible to watch most committee meetings live on your computer. The Prescott Chamber is committed to representing its members and being an effective voice on business issues.