10 Reasons to Vote For the Safety Levy

Picture2On May 13, voters will have opportunity to support services on which we’ve come to depend by supporting the Ambulance, Bus & Emergency Services Levy. For nearly four decades, voters have voted “for” this critical protection plan, and this year, there are many reasons to continue the tradition.

1)    A vote for the safety levy means no tax increase. First passed in 1973, the levy would continue at the same rate, amounting to about 18 cents a day for the average household. If our friends and family are in danger, is rapid response worth 18 cents a day? The answer is clear.

2)    The Kanawha County Ambulance Authority would continue receiving the funding it needs to keep 40 ambulances out of 14 stations and three advance life support units on the road. Last year, they answered 53,451 calls. They respond to 90 percent of calls within eight minutes.

In addition, the Charleston Fire Department’s Ambulance Division responded to 12,000 calls for service and transported more than 9,300 patients. We can’t afford to see a decline in those impressive statistics. Imagine yourself in an emergency. When you dial 911, the levy funds insure ambulances will provide responsive, quality service.

3)    The levy will maintain funding for local fire and police departments, which receive more than $650,000 each year in public safety grants. The levy would prevent the loss of federal and state grants. Levy money goes toward matching those grants. No levy means no grants, and that means no funding with which to purchase body armor, communications equipment, digital cameras, ammunition and other critical tools police and fire authorities need to protect the community.

4)    The levy would prevent the loss of bus service for 2.8 million passengers on 22 routes each year. The Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority operates bus service seven days a week. More than 60 percent of its budget comes from the levy. Without those funds, we will see reduced service for many who depend on public transportation to get to work, school, grocery stores and health care facilities.

5)    The levy will support buses used in emergency evacuation teams. KRT employees volunteer to assist local resident and agencies during emergencies requiring relocation. The team assists during chemical leaks and flooding, and the busses are an important component of homeland security plans.

6)    The safety levy would prevent an increase in ambulance fees. It provides more than 32 percent of the Ambulance Authority’s total budget. We would have to increase fees to cover the cost of an indispensable and vital service.

7)    The levy will maintain transportation service for the disabled. The Kanawha Alternate Transit program provides curb-to-curb transportation to individuals who mean the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 eligibility standards. The program allows thousands of such trips each year, and without levy funds, the service would experience a sharp decline.

8)    A vote “FOR” the levy would maintain automatic response for well-being checks and vehicle accidents.

9)    The levy would prevent the loss of jobs. KRT employs more than 140 people who depend on levy funds.

10)  Levy funds translate to quickness and efficiency that often mean the difference between life and death. The ambulance, police and fire forces are filled with men and women who make it their duty to protect our friends and families.

They are there — for you — 365 days a year. For just one day — May 13 — they’ll need your help. They’ll need your vote.

Public employees disregard.

‘Project Launchpad’ vetoed

Project Launchpad titleThe Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce works diligently to create and advocate for public policy that solves the challenges of our great state.

While disappointed in the veto of “Project Launchpad” (House Bill 4343), we will continue to strive to work on non-partisan public policy that creates jobs, strengthens our tax base through economic diversity and new investment and improves our workforce.

The “Project Launchpad” legislation was an opportunity to advance West Virginia’s economy. It focused on attracting and expanding technologically advanced jobs and industries, with an emphasis on new technologies in bioinformatics, nanotechnology and other “high tech” industries.

The Charleston Chamber looks forward to working with all of our legislators in the next session to continue to address our challenges and maximize our opportunities.

Call to action: Help get ‘Project Launchpad’ signed into law

Project Launchpad titleAfter passing both the West Virginia House of Delegates and Senate, “Project Launchpad” (House Bill 4343) has yet to be signed into law by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

This is the final step for this important piece of economic development legislation and we need YOUR help to get it done.

“Project Launchpad” focuses on job creation in the state. It will attract new businesses and create high-value jobs for our families now and into the future.

Labor organizations, business organizations and many more have worked on this bill that helps West Virginia’s economy attract the jobs of the future. Vision Shared, which was created by the Legislature to put forth non-partisan public policy, has also worked to craft and improve this legislation.

The economy of the past is shrinking. Our state needs to position itself for better economic development and more job creation.

“Project Launchpad” will produce geographic clusters that will create high paying jobs, new capital investment and a new and diversified tax base.

The modest tax considerations within this legislation are very narrowly defined. Its focus is on diversifying West Virginia’s economy by making it more sustainable and resilient to the ebb and flow of the national economy and global influences. Only high tech growth industries, such as bioinformatics, nanotechnology and photovoltaics, can reap the benefits of the bill.

The legislation also allows for modest tax benefits for employers who have student loan debt service plans as part of their personnel policies.

These provisions of the bill will help recruit and retain new talent. It will also bring back many talented young people that we have lost to the “greener pastures” of better paying jobs in other states.

“Project Launchpad” passed the House of Delegates overwhelmingly, with 90 of the 100 delegates supporting the bill. The bill passed the Senate unanimously.

Each member of the House and Senate of the Kanawha County delegation also supported “Project Launchpad.”

Call to Action

We encourage everyone that cares about creating a brighter future for our state to contact Governor Tomblin’s office at 304-558-2000. Please leave a message saying that you support “Project Launchpad” (House Bill 4343) and want him to sign this bill into law.

West Virginia doesn’t have to be on the losing end of the new high-tech economy. We don’t have to accept losing our talented young professionals to other states.

It is paramount to the future of our children and grandchildren that “Project Launchpad” be signed into law.

Exercise your voice and help make this positive change for West Virginia.

Charleston Chamber supports the Kanawha County Safety Levy

Picture2The Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce supports the passage of the Kanawha County Safety Levy.

A vote for the safety levy will continue the levy first passed by the citizens of Kanawha County in 1973. This levy is NOT a tax increase. It will only continue the current levy we have in place to support ambulance services, public transit, police services, and fire services.

Failure of the levy isn’t an option. It would result in a loss in automatic response for vehicle accidents, reduced service in rural areas, a decrease in bus service and transportation for the disabled and a longer response time for 911 calls.

Our public transportation system, KRT, is used by many to ride to and from work every day. The ambulance, police and fire forces are filled with men and women who make it their duty to protect our friends and families.

They are there for us 365 days a year. For just one day — May 13 — they’ll need our help. They’ll need our vote.

We hope you will join the Charleston Chamber in supporting this important levy.

Public employees disregard.

Charleston Chamber says goodbye to 2014 legislative session

COClogoThe Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce is pleased to have represented our members throughout the 2014 legislative session.

There were 1876 bills introduced during the session and 200 bills  completed the legislative process (105 House bills, 95 Senate bills).

Here is a review of some of the key legislative outcomes from the session:

Project Launchpad

Pushed by the Charleston Chamber and Vision Shared, this job creation legislation passed and is on its way to the Governor for his signature.

The legislation focuses on creating jobs in high tech industries, many of which currently do not exist or minimally exist in the current economy in West Virginia.

The legislation encourages creating   economic “clusters” or geographic concentrations of companies, specialized suppliers, service providers and associated institutions in a particular field that are present in specific region.

The legislation also encourages businesses within a “Project Launchpad” zone to have a student loan debt repayment policy for their employees.

Minimum Wage

The Legislature passed a modest increase in the West Virginia minimum wage law during the session. After January 1, 2015, the minimum wage will rise from the current $7.25 to $8.00 an hour. After January 1, 2016, the rate will increase to $8.75 per hour.

It is anticipated that the federal government may increase the national threshold for the minimum wage soon and the Charleston Chamber will keep you apprised of any changes.

If the federal government increases the minimum wage to levels exceeding what was passed by the Legislature, federal law would supersede state law.

Senate Bill 373

After considering more than 100 amendments, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 373 (SB 373), which establishes new regulatory programs that will require registration and permitting for aboveground storage tanks (ASTs)

Under the new Aboveground Storage Tank Act, owners and operators of all covered ASTs must register their tanks with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP).

As of October 1, 2014, it will be unlawful for any owner or operator to operate or use an AST that has not been properly registered. The legislation also directs WV Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) to establish permitting procedures for new and existing ASTs, as well as performance standards for design, construction, maintenance, corrosion detection, secondary containment and leak detection.

Notably, the bill contains a limited waiver to this permitting program for certain categories of tanks that either do not represent a substantial threat of contamination or that are currently regulated under standards that meet or exceed the requirements established by the new statute.

This new bill also includes requirements relating to annual inspections and certifications, evidence of financial responsibility, spill prevention response planning, notice to local governments and public water systems, tank signage and fee assessment.

Finally, in addition to the new AST program, SB 373 also establishes, among other things:

  1. New requirements for public water utilities relating to source water protection planning
  2. A new article that requires the WVDEP to inventory “potential sources of significant      contamination” (as defined) within zones of critical concern and gives the      agency the authority under certain circumstances to require registration      and permitting of these sources.

Future Fund

The “Future Fund” bill passed in the legislative session late Saturday after several amendments in the House of Delegates. The House amendments materially changed how the “Future Fund” would work from what was initially proposed in the Senate. Our staff is currently reviewing the legislation and the amendments. We will develop a more detailed review in the future to share with the membership.

Legislature agrees to launch the WV economy forward

Project Launchpad titleLast Saturday, “Project Launchpad,” a marquee piece of legislation for the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce and partner Vision Shared, passed both the House and the Senate. It will now go to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin for his signature.

“Project Launchpad” focuses on job creation in the state. It will attract new businesses and create high-value jobs for our families now and into the future.

The Charleston Chamber and Vision Shared, which is a nonprofit community and economic development organization, have worked to craft and improve this legislation for three years. In that time, “Project Launchpad” has been championed by many individuals and organizations.

The economy of the past that West Virginia has relied upon for employment, business activity, taxes and development is rapidly shrinking. Our state needs to position itself for better economic development and more job creation.

“Project Launchpad” will produce geographic clusters that will create high paying jobs, new capital investment and a new and diversified tax base.

The legislation allows a county government to apply to create a launchpad in their county. If it’s within or overlaps a municipality, the county and city would work together and apply to be designated as a launchpad zone. The legislation authorizes up to ten launchpad zones to be created throughout the state.  The zones must be initiated at the local level.

Only high tech growth industries, such as bioinformatics, nanotechnology and photovoltaics, can reap the benefits inside a launchpad area. The benefits apply only to a new business from outside of West Virginia that locates in the launchpad, or an existing business within a launchpad area that expands into one of the high tech industries mentioned above.

The legislation also allows for modest tax benefits for employers who have student loan debt service plans as part of their personnel policies. This element of the bill will help recruit and retain new talent. It will also bring back many talented young people that we have lost to the “greener pastures” of better paying jobs in other states.

The Charleston Chamber would like to thank all the legislators who supported it with their vote.

The sponsors of the House version of the legislation were:

  • House Speaker Tim Miley
  • Del. Bob Ashley
  • Del. Jason Barrett
  • Del. Ron Fragale
  • Del. Nancy Peoples Guthrie
  • Del. William Hartman
  • Del. Tiffany Lawrence
  • Del. Carol Miller
  • Del. Doug Skaff
  • Del. Ron Walters
  • Del. Adam Young

On the Senate side, the legislation sponsors were:

  • Sen, Sam Cann
  • Sen. Brooks McCabe
  • Sen. Corey Palumbo
  • Sen. Ron Stollings
  • Sen. Erik Wells
  • Sen. Bob Williams

“Project Launchpad” was supported by vote by each of the House and Senate members of the Kanawha County delegation.

Thanks to everyone for their help in getting this important legislation passed.

Help propel West Virginia into the future

Project Launchpad titleA Message from Chamber President Matt Ballard

With only four days remaining in the 2014 legislature session, the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce needs your help with an important piece of legislation.

Project Launchpad (House Bill 4343) will be an important contributor to the future of West Virginia’s economy.

The bill, which is currently up in the West Virginia Senate, focuses on job creation in the state. It will attract new businesses and create high-value jobs for our families now and into the future. The economy of the past that West Virginia has relied upon for employment, business activity, taxes and development is rapidly shrinking.

Our state needs to position itself for better economic development and more job creation.

“Project Launchpad” would create high paying jobs, new capital investment and a diversified tax base. The legislation allows for modest tax benefits for employers who have student loan debt service plans as part of their personnel policies.

This element of the bill will help recruit and retain new talent. It will also bring back many talented young people that we have lost to the “greener pastures” of better paying jobs in other states.

Last week, “Project Launchpad” passed the House of Delegates. Now it’s up to the Senate to move this bill forward.

We are so close to getting this bill passed, but we still need your help.

We encourage everyone that cares about creating a brighter future for our state to contact the Senate Finance Committee and Senate President Jeff Kessler today and ask them to vote “YES” on House Bill 4343.

To show your support on social media, use the hashtag #PassLaunchpad.

West Virginia doesn’t have to be on the losing end of the new high tech economy. We don’t have to accept losing our talented young professionals
to other states.

It is paramount to the future of our children and grandchildren that “Project Launchpad” pass the Senate in the next 48 hours.

Exercise your voice to help make this positive change for West Virginia.

 

The time for action is NOW

COClogoWith only days left in this legislative session, the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce requests your help with the following legislative issues.

This is a call to action.

Our democracy works most effectively when we as citizens and businesses communicate directly with our representatives. It is for this reason we ask your help.

Only phone calls, faxes and emails to the representatives, as outlined below, will result in our mutual desired outcome for the future of West Virginia.

Home Rule and Weapons Regulations

Instead of allowing cities to control their own destiny, the Legislature is trying to levy its power onto our cities and towns.

Senate Bill 317 seeks to overturn a regulation in Charleston and other municipalities that have gun regulations on the books, to address the specific needs in their cities.

What rules apply for Charleston, Huntington and Morgantown, may not be right for Gilbert, Glenville and Lumberport.

Whether it’s fees, taxes or limiting dilapidated buildings, each time we take two steps forward in regard to home rule, we take two steps back.

Contact the WV House Judiciary Committee (Click HERE for contact information) and let them know you oppose SB 317.

Project Launchpad and Jobs for West Virginia

Now is the time to encourage the West Virginia Senate Finance Committee and Senate President Jeff Kessler to run and pass House Bill 4343 (HB 4343), commonly known as “Project Launchpad.”

For the past few years, key organizations such as Vision Shared, the WV Manufacturers Association, the Charleston Chamber and many others have supported this job-creating initiative.

“Project Launchpad” would permit areas in the state to provide tax incentives that would support the attraction and expansion of high-tech businesses. The legislation also includes a modest incentive to encourage businesses to provide a student loan repayment plan to their employees.

“Project Launchpad” is aimed at “new economy” businesses with little or no presence in West Virginia, such as nanotechnology, bioscience and photovoltaics. These tax credits cannot be used for traditional businesses such as retail, warehouses or call centers.

West Virginia’s economy in 10-15 years will not look like it has in the past. This legislation, which has been assigned a neutral ($0.00) fiscal impact to the state budget by the State Tax Department, will provide our state, counties and cities with a powerful new economic development tool. It will attract the businesses that diversify our economy and create high-value jobs for our families now and into the future.

“Project Launchpad” will facilitate tax growth and diversification. The types of businesses this legislation would encourage, simply don’t exist, or exist minimally in the state, but they are the types of jobs our children and grandchildren will seek.

Now is the time to act.

Exercise your voice to help make this positive change for West Virginia.

We encourage all who care about creating a brighter future to contact the Senate Finance Committee (Click HERE for contact information) today and ask them to vote “YES” to HB 4343.

Show your support on social media by using the hashtag #PassLaunchpad.

More information on Project Launchpad:

Click HERE for a two-page briefing paper.

Click HERE for a jobs impact study by Vision Shared and the West
Virginia Development Office.

Retirement Savings and Planning

Expanding retirement options for West Virginians is an admirable goal. House Bill 4375 would create a retirement program within the office of State Treasurer. This same legislation was proposed in the Legislature in 2009, 2010, and 2011 and failed.

The Charleston Chamber believes this issue deserves more research and review. The premise of the legislation is that there are limited options in the private sector for retirement plans and programs, yet citizens can take advantage of portable programs such as 401(k),
403 (b), 457 (b) plans, IRAs and other private sector options.

It also indicates that the state can run a retirement program more efficiently and more cost effective than plans already in place, but there can be tremendous costs involved. The proposed legislation grants the State Treasurer sole discretion to invest the contributions on employers and employees.

This makes the Treasurer and the state liable for losses suffered for any misconduct or mismanagement. The Charleston Chamber urges you to contact the Senate Pension Committee (Click HERE for contact information) and ask them not to support House Bill 4375.

Retirement can be scary for one person to tackle on their own. The Charleston Chamber is committed to working with the private sector to expand educational opportunities and increase awareness and understanding of retirement planning throughout our region and the stat

West Virginia needs your support

Project Launchpad titleNow is the time to encourage the West Virginia Senate Finance Committee to run and pass House Bill 4343 (HB 4343) commonly known as “Project Launchpad.”

For the past few years, key organizations such as Vision Shared, the WV Manufacturers Association, the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce and many others have supported this job-creating initiative.

“Project Launchpad” allows localities, working with state government, to provide tax incentives that would support attraction and expansion of high-tech businesses.

The legislation also includes a modest incentive to encourage businesses to provide a student loan repayment plan to their employees.

Project Launchpad is aimed at “new economy” businesses with little or no presence in West Virginia, such as nanotechnology, bioscience and photovoltaics.

These tax credits cannot be used for traditional businesses such as retail, warehouses or call centers.

West Virginia’s economy in 10-15 years will not look like it has in the past. This legislation, which has been assigned a neutral ($0.00) impact to the state budget, will provide our state, counties and cities with a powerful new economic development tool to attract the businesses that will diversify our economy and create high-value jobs for our families now and into the future.

We encourage all business people, community leaders, young professionals, parents and all who care about creating a brighter future to contact the Senate Finance Committee today and ask them to vote “YES” to HB 4343.

Click HERE for their contact information.

Tell legislative members:

“I support Project Launchpad, House Bill 4343. Please pass this bill. It creates no fiscal burden for the state, but in fact will create new jobs, help keep our young people here in West Virginia, attract new residents, and help diversify our economy and tax base.”

More information on Project Launchpad:

Click HERE for a two-page briefing paper.

Click HERE for a jobs Impact study by Vision Shared and the West Virginia Development Office.

Charleston Chamber, Alliance partnering for clean water future

COClogoOn January 9, a chemical leak at Freedom Industries disrupted the lives of 300,000 of our neighbors, including our 600 members, representing 40,000 employees. As we emerge from this incident, we are also presented with the opportunity to create a brighter and stronger future for our region.

In recent weeks, the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce has closely monitored the situation and has been engaged with work underway to prevent future incidents.

These efforts include legislative activity, including Senate Bill 373, which aims to improve regulations for prevention and earlier detection. While no one can undo what happened a month ago, we do have the power to determine which path we take forward. Water is a critical natural resource and West Virginia is blessed with abundant water supplies. However, we must ensure that those supplies remain clean and plentiful.

To that end, the Charleston Chamber, along with several regional partners, is working to create a center of innovation for water cleanliness and sustainability at the West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston.

The mission of the new “West Virginia Water Sustainability Institute” is to develop and commercialize innovative technologies to maintain, improve and protect water supplies throughout West Virginia.

Examples of the work of the institute would include:

  • Commercializing technologies that reduce hazards to fresh water sources
  • Commercializing technologies for rapid identification of water contamination
  • Developing custom solutions to water quality and quantity issues
  • Testing and evaluating technologies that maintain the integrity of the entire water distribution system
  • Providing independent assessments and reviews of potential hazards, technologies, contingency plans, and related water quality issues

While certainly timely, the seeds of this project were planted three years ago with the launch of Vision 2030, a 20-year economic development plan spearheaded by our affiliate, the Charleston Area Alliance.

Developed with the input of more than 400 business and community leaders, and engaged citizens, Vision 2030 is a roadmap to an empowered future for the Kanawha Valley. It identifies seven key “drivers” that will provide the foundation for a tomorrow that honors the triple bottom line and brings opportunity and prosperity for all.
The work on Vision 2030 was prophetic. Toffler and Associates, a world-class futurist consultancy, provided input and guidance on the plan and focused us on the mega-trend that is clean water.

Abundant, clean water will present one of the biggest challenges to not only our region, but the entire planet. In fact, by 2025 it is expected that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in water suppressed areas.

In response, Vision 2030 includes a number of water-related strategic goals, including harnessing our research assets, such as MATRIC, to develop solutions that will make our community cleaner, help industry innovate and create the technologies that support high-value jobs and capital investments right here at home.

We’ve come a long way but have far to go to transform Vision 2030 into a reality. We must all come together to fix any gaps that created the current situation but not miss a step in our advance towards a future that brings promise and prosperity.

Over the course of the coming months, the Charleston Area Alliance, the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Chemical Alliance Zone, the West Virginia Regional Technology Park, West Virginia State University, Marshall University, Marshall University Research Corporation, the Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center (MATRIC) and others will be working with government leaders, private supporters and the business community to make this “vision” a reality.
The West Virginia Water Sustainability Institute will develop and commercialize technologies that can be deployed around the world, creating Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs in the Kanawha Valley.

Protecting our own citizens is paramount — creating a better regional economy while accomplishing that goal is smart.