Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce Blog

Updates and advocacy from Santa Fe

Santa Fe New Mexican Calls For Minimum Wage Freeze

Posted by santafechamber on January 16, 2013

 Rethinking the minimum wage
The New Mexican
Posted: Saturday, September 01, 2012 – 9/1/12
 The likelihood of a majority of business owners agreeing that a high minimum wage — at least compared to minimum wages in the rest of the United States — is a good idea hovers right about zero. Despite business opposition, the city of Santa Fe, for reasons of justice and humanity, decided back in 2003 that it was right to require businesses to pay an hourly wage that is higher than the federal government minimum. The city’s “living wage” is now the highest minimum wage in the country at $10.29, well above the federal standard of $7.25.

To some, the wage is a barrier to business growth, keeping small businesses from expanding and stopping national chains from locating here. There have been unintended consequences as well, including some reluctance by business owners to hire teenagers. After all, why pay a kid 10 bucks an hour when there’s an adult who can do the same job but with more experience and a developed work ethic? The wage makes doing business in Santa Fe too expensive, say opponents. Even more worrisome, say some business owners, is not knowing how high the wage will go. Santa Fe’s wage is tied to the Western Regional Consumer Price Index and adjusts depending on the index. Embarrassingly, Santa Fe officials forgot to figure a new wage in 2011, causing the hourly rate to increase 44 cents this year to catch up. That was a big hit for business to absorb all at once.

Supporters, of course, point to the men and women who are better able to support families because of a decent wage. There are business owners, too, who believe in a living wage and say they thrive when their employees do well.

Some nine years in, we still hear calls to repeal the living wage, or at least to stop and review its effects — both good and bad — as the city goes forward. Reviewing the issue is not a bad idea. After all, it’s been about five years since the city last looked at the ordinance in any comprehensive way. Several issues are worth examining: the hiring barrier’s impact on teens; whether businesses have had to reduce workers’ hours or lay off workers to stay in business; how many workers enjoying the higher wage don’t live in Santa Fe, taking their pay to places like Albuquerque; and whether Santa Fe really is losing out on national businesses.

One option we think the city should discuss is this: Rather than tying wage increases to an automatic index, especially given trying economic times, the council should consider voting on wage increases — taking into account the health of small businesses while doing so. What’s more, we should debate how far ahead of the rest of the country we can afford to remain. Albuquerque’s minimum wage is at $7.50, barely a quarter above the national minimum; the city could vote to go up a dollar come November, but that is no sure thing. Santa Fe, admirably, has put emphasis on paying a decent wage to workers at the bottom. Through it all, the city has maintained a fairly low unemployment rate, something it can brag about. Yet it is clear, if only from anecdotal evidence, that local businesses are paying a price for this decision. To ensure that the living wage is helping those it is designed to help and that small businesses are not suffering, the city of Santa Fe should take wages off automatic pilot.


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Chamber Urges Repeal of CWA

Posted by santafechamber on January 16, 2013

If it Ain’t Broke…..

The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce believes that government procurement should be conducted in a transparent manner that ensures that taxpayers’ money is spent prudently, and wherever possible allows local businesses to bid on, and benefit from, the contract.

The current “Community Workforce Agreement” is the exact opposite of these criteria. The agreement is structured so that only out-of-town companies can bid and adds additional requirements and criteria so that citizens pay more. The proposed City Community Workforce Agreement should be immediately repealed if only because a city memo written earlier this summer by economic development staff predicts $5 million in additional costs over the next few years from the ordinance because of a limited number of local union contractors. The memo states: “Unless there are at least several qualified local firms competing for each subcontract within a general contract, bidding will no longer be constrained by normal competitive forces, prices will increase without predictable limits, and out-of-area contractors and their employees will win an even greater majority of the work.”

In short, the City will be spending $5 million of taxpayers money to drive jobs to Albuquerque! Citizens, taxpayers and voters deserve procurement policies that allow local businesses to bid on a level playing field.

The Agreement has been supported by union members from Albuquerque and who can blame them. They will have the chance to bid on Santa Fe construction projects and, as the City’s own report says, bidding contracts will not be constrained by market forces but by favors to organized labor.

National groups including the National Association of Women Business Owners have voiced their opposition to Community Workforce Agreements and other Project Labor Agreements.

Some point to improved training as part of the agreement when, in fact, Santa Fe Community College already provides excellent local training. Proponents also allege improved jobsite safety with no evidence to support such a position, and we not aware of any union-paid apprenticeship programs in Santa Fe and certainly none at the high-school level.

There is no reason to delay or study the Agreement when we can clearly see what the impacts will be. The Agreement did not receive sufficient scrutiny when it was adopted and some Councilors, to their credit, have expressed regret at the oversight.  It’s not too late to overturn bad law.

The Chamber strongly supports hiring local workers for all City projects and believes that a requirement that workers belong to unions will mean many local workers will be prohibited from employment on taxpayer funded projects.  We further believe that taxpayers will spend more on union-only projects than they would if competitive bidding were open to all. Less than 10% of construction workers are part of a union and there is no evidence that union workers produce higher quality work.

The Chamber also believes that raising the dollar amount threshold for when a union-only Community Workforce Agreement would be employed is no solution.  Open competitive bidding from all qualified licensed, bonded, and insured contractors should be allowed.   Such a policy would benefit local workers and local taxpayers and also encourage hiring qualified local contractors and workers.

The City of Santa Fe’s procurement process, while not perfect, has worked well. Bids for contracts include local preferences and open bidding. No survey is needed. The CWA is an unnecessary, unproven, expensive solution to a problem that does not exist.

We urge the council to repeal the CWA and allow Santa Fe companies to bid fairly on local contracts.


Simon Brackley

President and CEO

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Happy Holidays!

Posted by santafechamber on December 18, 2012

On behalf of the Board, members and staff of the Chamber I’d like to wish everyone very happy holidays and best wishes for a safe and prosperous New Year.

As always we encourage you to shop locally during the holiday season. Every dollar spent in Santa Fe multiplies and circulates through our local economy generating tax revenue with every transaction. Money spent online or out of town is gone forever and does nothing to pay for public safety, streets and civic amenities.

The holidays are a time to take stock of the past year and look ahead to 2013. In spite of a difficult economy I’m pleased to say that the Chamber is strong. We are settled in our new St. Michael’s Drive office and our membership is growing after a tough couple of years. Thanks to great leadership by Past Chair Fred Cisneros and current Chair Scott Hutton we have an excellent and involved Board of Directors engaged in important issues such as education, tourism, economic development, LANL support and other public policy issues.

The Chamber recognizes that Los Alamos National Labs is critically important to the region’s economy. The total economic impact of LANL to the state is 23,641 in employment, $1.6 billion in labor income, and $2.9 billion in economic output plus significant tax impacts. We are working collaboratively at the local, state and national level to maintain funding to support the diverse missions of the Lab and the hundreds of suppliers and contractors who create jobs in our community. New Mexico is very dependent on federal money and therefore is vulnerable to budget cuts. We believe that LANL funding is a bipartisan issue and should be strongly supported by every local legislator.

We are pleased to welcome Great Lakes Airlines back to Santa Fe providing direct service to Denver and Jet Blue Airlines providing direct service from Albuquerque to New York JFK. The Chamber has been a strong advocate of improved transportation service and these links will benefit business in Santa Fe.

Tourism remains hugely important to our local economy providing 8000+ jobs for Santa Feans. We are lobbying aggressively at the state level for increased funding for tourism marketing which benefits every community in New Mexico.

Locally we continue to support unlinking the minimum wage from automatic cost-of-living increases – a position supported by the Santa Fe New Mexican and ACI – the state chamber. The mandated minimum wage in Santa Fe is the highest in the nation and $3 an hour higher than New York City. And we support the repeal of the Community Workforce Agreement which increases costs to taxpayers and drives jobs out of town. We are also strong supporters of Santa Fe Community College’s Higher Learning Center and look forward to a ground-breaking ceremony!

As always, our networking events are strongly attended. Santa Feans do business with people they know. Our job is to provide the forum for these relationships to develop.  We have recently started a series of free brown bag lunches to help inform members about business –related topics. See the calendar of upcoming events here

We are preparing our 2013 calendar of events and your business can benefit from being a sponsor of a Chamber event. More details here or call 988-3279.

Thank you for your investment and we wish you a prosperous 2013!

Simon Brackley

President and CEO

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Chamber Membership is Good Business Strategy

Posted by santafechamber on November 30, 2012

Survey: Chamber Membership is Effective Business Strategy
Alexandria, Va. (Nov. 30, 2012) – A national survey of 2,000 adults reveals that being active in a local chamber of commerce is an effective business strategy because two-thirds of consumers believe that such companies use good business practices, are reputable, care about their customers, and are involved in the community.

The study, conducted by The Schapiro Group, an Atlanta-based strategic consulting firm, found consumer perceptions of chamber members to be positive in many ways:

• When consumers know that a small business is a member of the chamber of commerce, they are 49% more likely to think favorably of it and 80% more likely to purchase goods or services from the company in the future.
• If a company shows that it is highly involved in its local chamber (e.g., is a chamber board member), consumers are 10% more likely to think that its products stack up better against its competition.
• When consumers know that a national restaurant franchise is a member of the chamber of commerce, they are 68% more likely to eat at the franchise in the next few months.
• When consumers know that an insurance company is a member of the chamber of commerce, they are 36% more likely to think favorably of the company.

Major Impact on Small Businesses
Small businesses represent the largest segment of most local chamber membership rolls, and the study indicates that chamber membership has consistent and powerful benefits for small business members—if consumers are aware that the small business is involved with its local chamber.

For example, if respondents know that a small business is a member of its local chamber, the business enjoys a 49% increase in its consumer favorability rating, a 73% increase in consumer awareness, a 68% increase in its local reputation, and an 80% increase in the likelihood that consumers will patronize the business in the future.

Most people know fairly well what their local chambers do; the study assessed the effect of this knowledge on perceptions of chamber members. The researchers said ”any belief about the chamber of commerce—whether that belief was true or not—could have a significant positive impact on how someone views a member… he or she is more likely to think that the [member] company’s products stack up well and have a favorable opinion toward the company.”

The key factor in developing and maintaining positive consumer perception of chamber members, the Schapiro Group said, was that “positive outcomes only occur when consumers know that a business is a chamber member (i.e., being involved in the chamber is a known facet of the company’s reputation).”

Accordingly, when consumers know that a large business is a member of the chamber, they are likely to patronize the company more often, to express favorable opinions about the company, to know more about the company, and to buy the company’s products. The strength and nature of these effects differ by industry:

Large Restaurant Chains
When consumers know that a restaurant franchise is a member of the chamber of commerce, they are 15% more likely to report knowing a lot about the franchise, 58% more likely to eat at the franchise more often, 68% more likely to eat at the franchise in the next few months, and 37% more likely to think favorably of the franchise. Among consumers who do not eat at the franchise so often, those who are aware that the franchise is a member of the chamber are 33% more likely to hold favorable opinions of the franchise. Among consumers who hold less favorable opinions of the franchise, those who are aware that the franchise is a member of the chamber are 65% more likely to eat there in the coming months.

Insurance Companies
When consumers know that an insurance company is a member of the chamber of commerce, they are 29% more likely to report knowing a lot about the company, 36% more likely to think favorably of the company, and 36% more likely to consider buying insurance from it. Among consumers who hold less favorable opinions of the insurance company, those who are aware that the company is a member of the chamber are 25% more likely to consider purchasing insurance from it. Among those who have not considered purchasing insurance there in the past, chamber membership increases that likelihood by 37%.

Automobile Manufacturers
When consumers know that an auto manufacturer is a member of the chamber of commerce, they are 21% more likely to have a favorable opinion of that company and 31% more likely to consider purchasing their next car from that company. Among those who have ever considered buying a car from a particular auto manufacturer, chamber membership leads to a 44% increase in consumers’ likelihood of purchasing a car there in the future.

The study, commissioned by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), in cooperation with the Western Association of Chamber Executives, was sponsored by Insperity, a Houston-based company that provides human resources and other business services to more than 100,000 businesses nationwide. J. Mac Holladay, founder and CEO of Market Street Services, an economic development firm in Atlanta, was a key contributor of concepts used to develop the study.
The new study tracks similar data reported by The Schapiro Group in 2007. “Despite changes in markets and demographics, a nagging recession and the growing influence of the internet, the chamber brand today is stronger and more dynamic than ever,” said ACCE President Mick Fleming. “We’re proud that the numbers prove, once again, that engagement in a chamber means a positive perception of the business in the eyes of the buying public.”

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Tourism Matters

Posted by santafechamber on October 6, 2010

Tourism is the only industry that consistently proves exceptional 40 to 1 return on taxpayer investment dollars. That is, for every $1 spent advertising New Mexico to tourists, $40 is spent by tourists in New Mexico. Tourism is a $5.7 Billion industry and generates $739 million in tax revenues.

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Kepler joins mayoral race

Posted by santafechamber on September 7, 2009

Former City Manager Aseneth Kepler has thrown her hat into the Mayoral race.

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The most profitable source of new customers… your Chamber of Commerce

Posted by santafechamber on August 20, 2009

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Wal-Mart’s Sustainability Index: The Greenest Thing Ever to Happen to Retail?

Posted by santafechamber on August 2, 2009

I hate to admit it, but it’s true–it’s getting harder and harder to hate Wal-Mart. Details are surfacing about the gigantic retailer’s initiative to create a massive ‘sustainability index’–one that would meticulously measure the environmental impact of every single item it stocks. Needless to say, the idea alone raises plenty of questions. But if it’s successful, the index could literally change the face of retail forever.

Apologies if that language was a tad grandiose, but it’s actually pretty accurate.

Take it from Marc Gunther’s report in Big Money:

The giant retailer ($406 billion in revenues in 2008) is developing an ambitious, comprehensive, and fiendishly complex plan to measure the sustainability of every product it sells. Wal-Mart has been working quietly on what it calls a “sustainability index” for more than a year, and it will take another year or two for labels to appear on products. But the company’s grand plan-“audacious beyond words” is how one insider describes it-has the potential to transform retailing by requiring manufacturers of consumer products to dig deep into their supply chains, measure their environmental impact, and compete on those terms for favorable treatment from the world’s most powerful retailer.

And this in turn could end up being one of the biggest motivators to make truly ‘green’ products ever. To enter the index, each product will have to undergo an intense life cycle analysis. This will require help from each of Wal-Mart’s 60,000+ suppliers, and some painstaking research. With inspectors and analysts crawling up the supply chain and peeking into every corner of production in order to deliver a comprehensive environmental assessment, we might see some major changes made by some major companies.

But who’s going to be doing the crawling and peeking, exactly? Well, researchers from some of the top universities in the US, for starters. Faculty at Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkelely, and others have reportedly been involved in the planning stages of the index. Wal-Mart’s next move is to announce a ‘sustainability consortium’ (which will debut this Thurs. the 16th) that includes the likes of U of Arizona professors, big manufactureres like Proctor and Gamble and General Mills, and potentially all the aforementioned faculty and even other competing retailers like Target and Costco.

The Last Line of Defense from Greenwashing: Wal-Mart?
Details on how the whole operation will work are still murky, but a label on each product that will help consumers ward off greenwashing will be a key component. But the effect of the index could be much further reaching than that. As Gunther points out:

Wal-Mart has an enormous influence over which products get made, and which don’t. Last year, the company said it would stop selling baby bottles containing the chemical bisphenol-A, which is approved by U.S. and European regulators. (A story that I wrote about this for Fortune magazine ran under the headline “Wal-Mart: the New FDA”). When, as part of its ambitious sustainability program, Wal-Mart said it would sell only concentrated laundry detergent, which uses less packaging and water, manufacturers fell into line.

The program could, essentially, force ungreen products off the market before a label even has a chance to discourage a consumer from buying it–if Wal-Mart continues to be inclined to support products with lower environmental impacts.

Of course, while the idea seems to be pretty inspired thus far, plenty of questions remain unanswered–how will the labeling process work? Who will comprise the consortium, and will it be balanced? Will it grant Wal-Mart too much power to determine which products are sustainable and which aren’t? We’ll be watching.

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Leadership Santa Fe – Editorial

Posted by santafechamber on July 27, 2009

| The New Mexican
7/26/2009 – 7/27/09
Some leaders seem born to it; others might grow into it. Still others have leadership capability that needs cultivating and encouraging.
That last big bunch became the focus of the many community-organized leadership-development courses that blossomed nationwide during the past three or four decades.

Allow promising young people a chance to step back from their jobs, and expose them not only to equally promising counterparts, but also to local leaders — from private enterprise, from government and from the ever-more-important volunteer sector.

Let ’em hear, from those who’ve been on the front lines, success stories as well as accounts of disasters — and the lessons learned from both.

Tell them, with pithy examples, how to serve on corporate and volunteer boards of directors — and what amounts to disservice on such boards.

Maybe even let ’em shadow a top executive of their choosing for a day; give ’em an idea of the many demands facing someone on whom so many people count — for guidance, for inspiration and, very likely, for jobs and paychecks.

Soon enough these emerging leaders lose that adjective; they’re thrust — or otherwise elevated — into leadership, titular, actual or both. The aim of such organizations as Leadership New Mexico and Leadership Santa Fe is to make them that much better prepared.

More than 300 achievers and potential achievers have been through Leadership Santa Fe’s six-weekend offerings in a 30-year tenure interrupted by, well, less-than-successful leadership — but resumed in recent years.

The graduates include City Councilor Carmichael Domínguez and County Commissioner Kathy Holian, as well as many others for whom the course has meant a combination of clear focus and broad view.

Who are the future graduates of Leadership Santa Fe?

Maybe you — who knows?

Interested? Visit the Web site at www.
and apply before Aug. 14.

The group has just taken a couple of seven-league strides: It’s now a program of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce. The chamber’s counterparts launched leadership courses in many American cities, so our community’s business group can draw on plenty of experience. At the same time, the Santa Fe Community Foundation has agreed to provide leadership training for those interested in serving on boards of our area’s many nonprofit organizations.

As we hinted above, board membership is more than hob-nobbing with prominent fellow citizens and getting your name on a plaque somewhere.

It’s an art form demanding the discipline of showing up at meetings on time — prepared to contribute to what’s on the agenda, or at least to listen without butting in if you’re not prepared.

Rules of order can be assimilated if you’re not up to reading Robert’s, and getting into the rhythm of a well-run meeting can be fun.

The community foundation, run by our former colleague Billie Blair, for the nouce, should prove to be a great contributor to the many charitable and service organizations constantly on the lookout for, well, leadership.

Connections are a major fringe benefit of belonging to Leadership Santa Fe: Knowing first-hand who’s part of what organization can make your job better, maybe easier, certainly more enjoyable. Santa Fe, for all its growth, remains a small town in many ways.

Knowing folks is good for business; close contacts coming from joint volunteer service, tanto mejor.

We’re encouraged by the new partnerships lending strength to Leadership Santa Fe. We wish its members, their advisers and all who contribute to the program a successful one as this September’s edition approaches.

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Santa Fe Buy Into It! – Response to SF Reporter

Posted by santafechamber on July 22, 2009

Regarding “Local-Washing” in the Santa Fe Reporter.

The idea that the Santa Fe Chamber has co-opted the term “shop local” is beyond absurd. Part of the mission of the Chamber is to “grow the local economy.”

The organizers of the Santa Fe – Buy Into It! campaign did not “decree that any business located in Santa Fe was “local” but rather that all business activity in Santa Fe benefits the local economy through job- and tax-revenue creation.

EVERY single local business creates tax revenue, allowing local government to exist. Every business pays rent, payroll, taxes and utilities locally. Where a business is headquartered is irrelevant to their contribution to the local tax base.

Whether a business is a local “mom & pop shop” or part of a larger, national company has no bearing on the overall economic impact that the business has on our community.

A business named The Santa Fe Shop can be owned out of state. The Santa Fe Reporter is headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Similarly, a nationally known brand can be franchised by local Santa Feans. Many local people own shares and derive income from national companies. These kinds of divisions serve little or no purpose.

Santa Feans depend on national companies for tax generation, needed products and most importantly, jobs. Jobs create incomes which are then spent locally regardless of the ownership of the company. This spending generates further jobs and incomes. Thus the economic multiplier.

It is true that some of a national chains profits go out of town, but often this is as little as 5% of revenues. Payroll, rent and utilities frequently equal 90% of revenue which stays in the community.

Shopping in Santa Fe helps support public safety, education, roads and sewers.
Suggesting that a national business “strip mines the local economy” serves only to divide the business community and place ideology over economic reality.

To deride Santa Fe businesses that may have out of state ownership or be a part of a larger, national company, perpetuates Santa Fe’s perceived anti-business sentiment.

The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce is proud to represent all local business and to partner with the City of Santa Fe and the media partners who have generously stepped up to support the Buy Into it campaign.

Santa Fe – Buy Into It!

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