Chamber of Commerce Endorsements for Biking & Walking: Lessons from Missouri
Nov 04, 2013
Chambers of Commerce – at the local, regional, state and national level – are organizations of businesses that advocate on behalf of the business community.
As advocates, we know that safe infrastructure that gets more people biking and walking in their communities is good for business. If your Chamber develops a platform that represents this, elected officials will hear the demand not just from us, but from the voice of businesses themselves.
Missouri’s Chamber of Commerce's Transportation Commission released its transportation policy statement for 2014. In this statement - which needs to receive final approval from the Chamber board - the Commission shows strong support for biking and walking in both transportation infrastructure and multimodal funding.
The Chamber did not always take this stance, but through education and informed participation, advocates were able to gradually develop support, acceptance and the change they wanted to see.
How did they do it? According to Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation Executive Director Brent Hugh, “this was honestly the easiest advocacy battle I have ever worked on”:
Make sure your organization is a member of the statewide Chamber of Commerce.
Ask to join the Transportation Commission of the Chamber.
Encourage a few other allies to join the committee. Particularly helpful are those businesses and contracts that plan, design, and build bike/ped infrastructure and trails. They are probably members of the Chamber already.
Attend every meeting.
Talk about biking and walking issues the same way you do in any other committee, just always put a business angle on everything. Data and testimonials help.
Make sure that these issues are included in policies and position statements.
Another tip: get to know the Chamber’s lobbyists. They are powerful players at the state house, and often run local commission meetings. “The Chamber lobbyist was probably the single person who could have effectively stopped the change,” Hugh said. “Instead, she is the one who wrote the particularly strong language that was finally adopted. That was based on committee discussion, yes, but she could have phrased it a lot more mildly.”
The great strides that Missouri advocates have made with their State Chamber of Commerce is part of their coalition-building efforts around Missouri’s proposed $8 billion transportation funding proposal, a campaign funded by an Advocacy Advance Rapid Response Grant.
MoDOT's new long-range plan, which lays out their approach to spending the proposed $8 billion over the next 10 years, is being released November 7. MoDOT has promised repeatedly that this will be the first to actually incorporate biking, walking and transit fully.
In many states like Missouri, the Chamber of Commerce is one of – if not the – most influential lobbying entity in the state capitol. Lobbying your Chamber to adopt a position friendly to bicycling and walking can reap many long-term rewards for legislation and funding that benefit active transportation. And, remember, not all Chambers are alike, and aren't nesesarily affiliated with or in lockstep with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Infographic: Advocacy Advance (2013)