When the Columbus Chamber transformed its mission two years ago, two main pillars became the focus of its work—tangible business services and government relations. In the government arena, the goal was for this Chamber to become the public policy voice for the business community; to not only make the Chamber relevant in the policy-making process, but to lead integral discussions.
The government relations team is making a real impact and positioning the Chamber as the go-to organization for business policy in the Columbus region. Consider some recent successes:
Promoted Passage of Municipal Tax Reform
The Chamber was one of the first organizations to join a coalition of 30 business groups that worked together for the passage of municipal tax reform in the Ohio General Assembly. Ohio has the most complicated local income tax system in the U.S. and is one of only 10 states that tax both individuals and businesses. The Chamber established House Bill 5 as its top state legislative priority. Chamber staff and members provided proponent testimony and directly lobbied the 22-member Columbus region Ohio House delegation, helping deliver key votes to pass the bill in the House. The Chamber continues support of House Bill 5 in the Ohio Senate.
Secured Federal Funding for the Rickenbacker Connector
Logistics is a driver of the region’s economy, and Rickenbacker Inland Port is critical to the industry. The Chamber coordinated and helped lead the community effort in lobbying the U.S. Department of Transportation to secure a $16 million TIGER IV Grant for the construction of the Rickenbacker Connector. Studies predict this will create over 10,000 jobs and billions of dollars of investments here.
Guided Defense Facilities Stakeholder, Working Groups
Working with a broad-based group of community stakeholders and public-sector entities, the Chamber is spearheading the effort to build the case for federal support of the defense facilities at Rickenbacker, Defense Supply Center Columbus and Heath/Boeing. This endeavor was initiated in response to a potential Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process that could occur in the next few years, but it also focuses on defending and expanding the military footprint of more than 13,000 defense jobs in the region.
Supported Columbus Education Reform
The Chamber participated in every facet of the Columbus Education Reform effort. While Issues 50 and 51 were defeated at the ballot box, the Chamber demonstrated its commitment to providing better schools for the community’s children and increased accountability for those in charge. Education will continue to be a high priority for the Chamber.
Advocated for State Medicaid Expansion
Working with hospital and healthcare partners, the Chamber was the first business organization to support Gov. John Kasich’s proposal to expand Medicaid in Ohio. The Chamber provided proponent testimony during the state budget process, lobbied legislators and attended the Controlling Board hearing that approved Medicaid expansion. Responsible Medicaid coverage presents an opportunity to bend the healthcare cost curve by moving individuals into appropriate, lower-cost settings. Helping 275,000 Ohioans attain healthcare coverage is the right thing to do.
Brought Car Sharing to Columbus
The car-sharing company car2go reached out to the Chamber to help expand its concept to Columbus. The organization contracted with the Chamber to guide its leaders through the legislative, political and outreach process that eventually led to the Columbus City Council approving car2go for a one-year pilot program for car sharing. It successfully launched last fall.
Through these efforts, the Columbus Chamber has elevated its position as a significant advocate at City Hall, the Statehouse and on Capitol Hill, and it will continue to serve the policy interests of members and the business community at all levels of government.
Michael Dalby is president and CEO of the Columbus Chamber. He can be reached at 614.225.6917 or firstname.lastname@example.org