Archive for Friday, June 8, 2012

Local Chamber of Commerce not renewing state membership

June 8, 2012


A difference in philosophy has caused the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce to part ways with the sometimes controversial Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

The leader of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce confirmed Wednesday that his board of directors has decided not to renew its membership with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

“Our board has determined the state chamber’s program of work simply does not align with the Lawrence Chamber’s programs and our economic development mission,” said Greg Williams, the president and CEO of the Lawrence Chamber.

Williams said the chamber board decided not to list specific disagreements in philosophy it may have with the Kansas Chamber, but he said he believes other chambers of commerce have taken similar actions.

“Our research indicates that a little less than half of the local chambers in the state are not dues-paying members of the state chamber,” Williams said. “This is not something we are doing on an island. Lawrence hasn’t set the precedent by any means.”

Kent Beisner, president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber, said he wasn’t aware of Lawrence’s decision. He said the chamber has lost a few local chambers of commerce from its membership in recent years.

“But when I say a few, I mean less than a handful,” Beisner said.

Beisner said sometimes local chambers of commerce do disagree with positions taken by the state chamber, but he said he was confident the Kansas Chamber was in touch with the positions of the state’s business community.

“Our mission is to help businesses,” Beisner said.

The Kansas Chamber’s legislative lobbying activities, though, have rubbed some chambers the wrong way. The Shawnee Chamber of Commerce, just outside of Kansas City, dropped its membership about seven years ago, said Shawnee Chamber President Linda Leeper.

Leeper said the Kansas Chamber had taken positions against education funding and did little to lobby for the state’s economic development programs.

Leeper said she thought several other chambers had become uneasy with the Kansas Chamber’s political action committee and the amount of outside money it is pouring into races.

“We just really don’t believe local campaigns should have lots of dollars pumped in from outside the area, whether it be from Wichita or from out of state,” Leeper said.

The Kansas Chamber’s PAC has drawn attention in political circles for lobbying against moderate Republicans and for advocating that districts in the Kansas Senate be redrawn to boost the chances of conservative challengers. The Kansas Chamber also has faced criticism that Wichita-based Koch Industries and its conservative founders have outsized influence with the Kansas Chamber.

Williams said the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce will review its membership status with the Kansas Chamber on an annual basis.

“If we see some indications that their style of management is becoming a bit different, then I suspect we’ll be right back in,” Williams said.

Williams said he doesn’t expect the Lawrence Chamber’s decision to drop out of state chamber to affect Lawrence’s operations. He said the state chamber’s main role was to provide legislative lobbying. He said the Lawrence Chamber has staff members who provide that legislative advocacy work.

Beisner confirmed the Kansas Chamber of Commerce has about 80 to 85 of the approximately 200 local chambers of commerce as members. He said that number has held fairly steady in recent years and includes most of the large communities in the state.

But the organization does not publicly list its membership, including which chambers belong to the organization. Beisner said his board of directors had decided against publishing a directory of the organization’s membership.


Lawrence Morgan 6 years ago

We should know exactly who each of these people are - if you are afraid to list them, we should know why.

optimist 6 years ago

This is what we get from the new leadership. It's all a joke. This chamber has repeatedly, with the help of local government failed to retain and attract many opportunities at primary jobs. It's really very pitiful. Do your homework and consider how much better the local chambers that belong to the state chamber are fairing. I think you'll see which philosophy we should consider following.

anotherview 6 years ago

I don't get your point. You say the Lawrence Chamber has failed to attract jobs while it has been a member of the state chamber, but then you go on to say how much better local chambers that belong to the state chamber are fairing.

So, if Lawrence has failed to attract jobs while being a member of the state chamber why not give it a try without being a member.

parrothead8 6 years ago

I'm curious as to how, exactly, you suggest doing this homework since "the organization does not publicly list its membership, including which chambers belong to the organization." Have you taken the time to look up all local chambers of commerce in the state of Kansas to see if they list themselves as members, and then compared their job statistics over the last few years to localities whose chambers do not list themselves as members? If so, perhaps you could share your research with us?

Bob Forer 6 years ago

Kudos to the local chamber. I am glad that they understand that political Neanderthals are not good for business.

somebodynew 6 years ago

Great move. I don't agree with a lot of the things the local chamber does (or doesn't ) do, but this is one I am behind.

Kookamooka 6 years ago

Here Here! Good choice Lawrence. You did the right thing.

If only 85 of the 200 chambers in the state are in the State Chamber of Commerce...there are more than a "handful" of chambers that disagree with their philosophy.

softsun 6 years ago

Great Move. The ruthless Kansas Big Business Association is a waste of time, energy and money for small local businesses. Greg Williams should catch on and stay away from those manipulative "business can do no wrong" thugs. Nail that door shut! The State Chamber helped Brownback ruin governance in Kansas with his ultra Neanderthal following. We will be years recovering from this last legislative session. Good riddance State Chamber!!! Good move Lawrence Chamber Board. Stay out of the State Chamber, their membership is plummeting. Far less than half of the local chambers belong.

question4u 6 years ago

“Our mission is to help businesses,” Beisner said.

In the process of doing so he has demonstrated that ethics, justice, compassion, foresight, civic duty, democracy, and common human decency are of no concern to him. His vision is diseased, and the further the Lawrence Chamber can get from him the better, not only for Lawrence but for Kansas. Many business owners are admirable individuals who care about the community as well as their own prosperity, but you can't have your picture taken next to someone like Beisner without infection. Is it any wonder that the 85 chambers are afraid to let people know who they are?

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

The US Chamber of Commerce was the "laundering agent" who spent $1.4 million health care dollars a day to circumvent health insurance reform and to keep Single Payer insurance off the table completely.

Single Payer insurance would save the business community,government and public schools a ton of money.

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce sleeps with the US Chamber of Commerce. Both have become PAC's for the very conservative political elements in the USA. Not good for the working people,keeping jobs in the USA or wages. Neither support public education to any extent.

Bob_Keeshan 6 years ago

Shocking news -- the president of the Chamber lied.

At this point, the only meaningful local chamber that belongs to the state chamber is the one in Wichita.

Coincidence? That just happens to be Koch's local chamber.

tomatogrower 6 years ago

Check out this chart. Sedgwick County, home of Wichita has a 2 percent higher unemployment rate. That's because they probably spend all their money on buying politicians, instead of trying to attract businesses and jobs. Thanks, Lawrence Chamber. I have a whole lot more respect for you.

blindrabbit 6 years ago

think every member of the Lawrence Chamber should fully understand that the Kansas Chamber is a biased political organization; which for the most parts is a mouthpiece/lacky for the Republican/Tea Party organization. Having been a member of the Lawrence Chamber, I have felt that the majority of the membership is also Republican, however the thrust is more towards community development activities. I would hope that the local Chamber would keep their affiliation with the Kansas Chamber at arms lake and keep a wary eye on it's activities and sponsorships.

My complaint with the local Chamber is that it is too" New" development oriented, appealing to the Building, Construction, Real Estate, Banking and Insurance industries, sometimes to the longterm detriment of understanding the overall needs of the community! Maybe too much of a social "country club" like organizagtion with convoluted business and social ties and a lot of "my back", :"your back".

overthemoon 6 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

olddognewtrix 6 years ago

The Manhattan area Chamber of Commerce long ago decided the Ks Chamber of Commerce was a counterproductive force--thus it is an independent chamber. Congratulations to the Lawrence chamber for its wise decision.

6 years ago

excellent move by our local chamber!

Dick Sengpiehl 6 years ago

Halelujah!.. Great move, Lawrence Chamber. The Kansas Chamber is so political it's a disgrace to business and the state.

pace 6 years ago

I am just sorry it has taken so long for the Lawrence Chamber to step back from the State Chamber of Koch stooges.

Patricia Davis 6 years ago

I have been appalled by the brownshirt moves of the state COC. Congratulations to Lawrence for saying no to these neocon bullies.

John Kyle 6 years ago

“But when I say a few, I mean less than a handful,” Beisner said.

Thanks for making that more precise.

overthemoon 6 years ago

I made a similar comment asking how many Chambers of Commerce would fit in a hand...and it was wiped for violation of usage agreement. What on earth is that all about. Just a simple observation, that's all. No cussing or spitting or nothing!!

blindrabbit 6 years ago

Hey, am I just imaginng, but there seems to be a lot of WW2 Germanic themes floating around Kansas lately! I not suggesting anything myself but I have seen the following wording and phraseology used in LJW blogs during the last year:

Brownshirt motives Voter suppression policies (through I.D. issues, Secretary of State attitudes) Ethnic cleansing through immigration policies Book burning (in the form of trying to de-emphasisze evolution) Singling out undesirable groups (homosexuals, latinos, blacks, women, poorer classes) Denying and restricting access to basic civil rights (voting, health care, family planning) Brownback's Bund meetings with State legislators violating "sunshine" openness laws Trying to gerrymander districts to favor an outcome, early-on, Adolph loved this tactic Making State government more zealot "religious like" in it's domga and political thrust Trend towards right wing Bund-like leadership in the GOP, Brownback, Klien, Kobach, Koch Long Knives, in the form of conservative republicans de-electing moderate GOP members Fortunately, I have not heard of any Krystal breaking yet

And please don't say I've "put my shorts on too tight" Just think of the above similarities!

JackMcKee 6 years ago

If anything the Lawrence Chamber should be ashamed that they weren't one of the leaders in abandoning that ship. It's embarrassing that they kept on as long as they did, but look at who runs that thing. They mostly just have cocktail hours. It's about as worthless a chamber as they come.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years ago

I fully agree, I know a few business owners in town and asked them about the chamber, none of them had been contacted about membership and one has been in business for 6 or so years. I was also told from a couple who had been members before, that in a nutshell, the chamber is only interested in what you can do for them as in donations of time and your business assets, but when it comes to them helping you....well.

I see the chamber like a union, totally focused on their survival and not those who pay their bills.

chootspa 6 years ago

Man, that convoluted journey into union jabbing took some serious effort.

lunacydetector 6 years ago sounds like the local chamber of commerce wants to go back to the days about a decade ago where they advocated any tax and spend measure they could get their hands's really too bad the local chamber wants to go back to being out of touch with reality, rewarding only people that fit into a small clique of local phonies....i'll keep my $300+ this year too.

softsun 6 years ago

One Lawrence Chamber of Commerce selection criteria was for the new CEO Greg Williams to have a good relationship with the State Chamber. It is now out that Williams had a close relationship with MU Chancellor “Gary Forsee who landed on the hot seat over alleged insider dealing in a transaction between the University of Missouri, under which Cerner would provide healthcare information services to the University of Missouri and explain to members of the Missouri University's I.T. department, the process! Forsee's son worked at Cerner for several years and several sons of local Lawrence power people are with Cerner. Mikekt can include the "Order of the First Called" in his Harriott Potter theme to tie Forsee service on corporate boards with Cerner's CEO, Neal Patterson, the Medical Records vendor. FYI Cerner medical claims software is used at LMH but was not chosen for use at KU Med nor Topeka Hospitals. MU Employees said it was the first time they’d heard the name “Tiger Institute.” George Carr, chief information officer for MU Health, canceled a regular staff meeting which could have shed light on the situation. “I am going to postpone the town hall meeting until we can cover the status of the Tiger Institute (MU/Cerner Partnership) “I do realize that this is a huge issue to everyone, so I want to make sure we spend our time wisely and get the results we need.” The matter quickly fell to back pages of the news and the uproar died down, but mistrust of Forsee was evident within UM's ranks, according to news reports published at the time.” Shortly after his sponsor, Gary Forsee resigned as President of the University of Missouri, MU officials announced that due to budget considerations, Greg Williams position at MU was being eliminated due to budget considerations? Forsee was named one of the "Worst CEOs in America. After taking an extended leave in December, 2010 to care for his wife, Sherry, who was diagnosed with cancer, Forsee announced his immediate resignation to the MU Board of Curators on January 7, 2011.” Soon, MU officials announced elimination of Greg Williams position and the Waver Partners “head hunters” for the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and close ties with the Kansas Chamber it will be interesting to see if Waverly skates into position to place the next Lawrence Chamber President. With the Lawrence Chamber Board Chairman and Search Chair changing their focus seeking this economic development “Rock Star?” Shooting star? falling star? Booting out the 3 loyal Lawrence locals, offering them some cover up door prize of "courtesy interviews", was "rough shod" and is costing the Chamber Board leadershi some credibility and grief. Frank Male with his close relationship with Terri Lois is now emerging as the cult leader of the Joint Commission - perhaps Male will win the Douglas county commission seat against Thellman and run the JEDC for the new Chamber guy. Thanks again, mikekt

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