With policies in place, the Chamber never endorses parties, candidates or officials, but instead supports principles and initiatives. Adhering to these principles, the Chamber has adopted a system of “priority votes” for the issues most important to the business community.
“Businesses create jobs, not government. But, Utah greatly benefits from the cooperation between an engaged business community and elected officials that actively work to cultivate a pro-job creation environment,” said Marty Carpenter, former Chamber vice president of communications. “That partnership can be powerful and the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.”
To connect the policy to politics, Beattie started having the Chamber honor lawmakers who were champions of business at the end of each legislative session.
“This attached accountability to some of our key priorities and we started giving out ‘Business Champion’ awards,” said Wesley Smith, former Chamber vice president of public policy. “It gave us a way to recognize lawmakers for their pro-business votes.”
The effects have been noticeable. Before priority votes, Chamber representatives distribute position papers on legislation to each lawmaker informing them of the significance of the bill to the business community, including statements from the policy guide and the Chamber’s position on the piece of legislation.
“Every legislator understands that priority votes represent the Chamber’s key issues. It’s a lot more than any award or single issue. Lawmakers understand that there is real influence behind these votes. That the business community is behind them. And in a lot of cases, elected officials are working to find overlap with our priorities so they can channel that influence,” said Abby Osborne, vice president of government relations.
“It has become an excellent partnership,” said Beattie. “Our legislators have our confidence and have become some of our closest allies. We respect them. They recognize our business leaders. It keeps business in the forefront, and the results should speak for themselves.”
Beattie credits business leaders for the public policy success of the Chamber during his tenure. “The professional staff has done great work, but it’s the leaders of Utah businesses who have the greatest influence in city halls and on Capitol Hill,” said Beattie.
Beattie continued, “What is good for government is listening to businesses about why democracy and free enterprise are so incredible. Legislators and other elected officials know this intuitively, but they need to be reminded, from time to time, that much of the success of this state comes from business and government working together.”
Thanks to business leaders, Beattie, and the Chamber professional staff, the Chamber has re-emerged as a significant political force.