New CEO of State Chamber Targets Business Climate

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Sep. 8, 2008 12:00 am  

Randy Zook: "The business climate includes everything from the work force to taxes to insurance costs to infrastructure availability."

In the last session held in 2007, the Chamber/AIA successfully lobbied to reduce manufacturers' taxes on utilities from 6 percent to 4 percent, Zook said.

The key, though, in the upcoming session will be to understand what's being proposed and the implications those bills will have on businesses, he said, and then give the State Chamber/AIA members a chance to weigh in on those issues.

"We want an environment in Arkansas that's healthy and conducive to not only new businesses coming in, but to existing businesses," Zook said. "We know that when business succeeds that the people who work in those businesses have an opportunity to succeed, and that's what it's all about."

Kenny Hall, executive vice president of the State Chamber/AIA, said the organization is developing its agenda, which should be ready for its annual meeting on Oct. 15.

"We have already been negotiating the workers' comp and unemployment insurance issues with labor," Hall said. "We don't have an agreement yet, so there's some concerns we may have a bill filed and ... battle on those issues. But, hopefully, we can get an agreement."

Hall declined to say what the sticking points on the issues were.

Wilbourn said he believes that in the upcoming session Zook will be able to work with the government relations staff of the State Chamber/AIA and its members to determine the issues that need to be addressed.

Wilbourn said he then expects Zook to move forward with those items, "remembering every day that economic development of the state of Arkansas is the reason for the existence of the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce/AIA." 



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