Archive for Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Chamber still waits for change from state group

August 11, 2004

The Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce's decision to split from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce has not hurt business, leaders say.

"I would say that it's had no impact on operations," said Mark Parkinson, chairman of the 2004 Shawnee Chamber.

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In late April, the Shawnee Chamber chose to withdraw its membership from the state chamber after announcing that it would oppose tax increase options to fund education during the legislative session.

"When it became apparent that they were lobbying against education, that was contrary to our mission," said Linda Leeper, Shawnee Chamber president. "We decided not to be supporting actions in direct conflict with the number one priority of all chambers in Johnson County."

Leeper said the local policy of supporting education to create a better business community led to the decision to withdraw membership, and three months later, that's still the case.

"We're still in a position where we feel like education is still a number one factor in terms of our economic development, and we're looking to partner with groups who also believe that," Leeper said.

The Kansas Chamber basically acts as a lobbying group for its members, and Leeper said the Shawnee Chamber could not support the organization if it was lobbying against an issue Shawnee businesses believed in.

Leeper said other Johnson County chambers considered a break with the state as well but thought Shawnee had made a significant statement with its withdrawal.

The Shawnee Chamber has still been able to work with the Johnson County Public Policy Council and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce in initiatives to support education and show that Shawnee is a good place for business because of its strong support for education.

As for other issues, Shawnee still has a presence in the legislature because there are many other issues the chamber and the lobbying body agree on. The Kansas Chamber continues to have lobbying efforts for these issues in Topeka, such as worker's compensation.

"We just feel like we're going to look at the positives," Leeper said. "The Bullock decision will have a major impact on all of those decisions as we move forward."

The decision on the ruling of District Court Judge Terry Bullock, demanding that the legislature provide more funding for education, likely will affect Shawnee's future with the Kansas Chamber.

If the state chamber should decide to support education again, reflecting the decision, Leeper said Shawnee will likely rejoin.

"We feel like if there's just a little bit of movement and support, then we have helped accomplish a little bit for our economic prosperity," Leeper said.

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