The "Private Solution to a Changing Market" is now open for business
Oklahoma City (March 3, 2014) – The State Chamber of Oklahoma is proud to announce the launch of ChamberMarket, a new solution to help Oklahoma businesses get health insurance and other benefits for their employees. The benefits exchange is an innovative way for employers to provide better benefit options to employees while still controlling costs.
The State Chamber is partnering with Cielostar, a benefits management company with 25-years in the business. Together we are creating an online enrollment and purchasing platform for employers of all sizes. Shifting employees to a private exchange has been a solution for some large groups, but the State Chamber is making a private exchange available to employers with as few as two employees. ChamberMarket will help Oklahoma employers control the rising cost of benefits and ensure compliance with any requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
“In Oklahoma where nearly nine of every ten people with private health insurance get it through their employer, it’s important to have this kind of one-stop-shop for business to provide those benefits,” said State Chamber of Oklahoma President and CEO Fred Morgan. “We know that health outcomes directly impact economic growth, so we need to make it easier for job creators to ensure their workforce is a healthy one.”
The growing list of federal mandates for businesses gets a lot of attention: Obamacare, environmental rules and a proposed minimum wage increase, to name a few. Businesses in Oklahoma, however, also need to pay attention to state government mandates. These state-generated rules and regulations also make it harder for Oklahoma to compete with other states when it comes to job creation and growth.
Take the wind industry. Oklahoma is in a prime location for building wind turbines, but so are Kansas and north Texas. If Oklahoma starts passing regulations that make it harder to invest in new wind farms, the companies that produce the power will simply build them across the border, taking with them the capital investment and the royalties that they pay.
You may think it’s a far-fetched possibility, but a bill has already passed a Senate committee that would essentially kill future investment in wind energy in the state. Senate Bill 1559 would subject the industry to additional regulatory oversight by local governments and the Department of Environmental Quality. Why have incentives to promote clean energy production and then do everything you can to stop investment in it?
You don't need a degree in economics to know that every form of government regulation on business affects the bottom line. Minimum wage is no different. When government arbitrarily increases labor costs, a business can either pass it on to the consumer, decline to provide raises to other more skilled employees or subtract it from profits which means fewer dollars for growing that business. If it costs more to hire someone, my ability to hire someone is decreased.
Oklahoma's problem isn't low wages. It's a work force that doesn't have the right skills for the good paying jobs that are out there. Rather than focusing on the pay for unskilled jobs, let's get those unskilled workers trained so they can get better jobs with the possibility of advancement.
Young people today are not fully prepared for the demands of modern manufacturing, which is more and more driven by technology, not brawn. We have to do a lot of training to compensate for what they didn't learn in the science, technology, engineering and math fields in school. If you want to create opportunities for Oklahoma, let's make sure they graduate with the skills needed by the job creators.
Reforms to state’s judicial, pension systems highlight goals for 2014 session
Oklahoma City (January 27, 2014) – The State Chamber of Oklahoma seeks to build on its past legislative successes with an aggressive agenda for the 2014 legislative session set to start next week. After helping achieve a major change in Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system and a successful special session to deal with lawsuit reform in 2013, the State Chamber is setting its sights on issues such as reforming the state’s judicial system, moving forward with rigorous education standards and improving the state’s pension system.
“We are very proud to work with this pro-business legislature to advance an agenda that will help Oklahoma’s economy,” said Gwendolyn Caldwell, senior vice-president of Government Affairs for the State Chamber. “We look forward to working with lawmakers as they continue to improve the climate for job creators in our state.”
Oklahoma is fortunate to be the home of many great businesses, from family run mainstays of their communities to multinational corporations. So it's no surprise that three of those companies — Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy and QuikTrip — are getting national attention from Fortune magazine for being among the 100 best companies to work for.
Since this is based on surveys of employees, getting on the list is a sign that a company has enlightened, visionary leadership. Staying on the list, as these companies have done for years, shows that the vision has turned into a culture. In each case, not only the corporations but also their employees are involved in helping their communities through philanthropy and volunteership.
For a state the size of Oklahoma to have three companies on the list is quite an accomplishment. It shows that our business climate is strong and that business leaders recognize the role employees play in their success. Oklahoma faces significant competition from other states to lure companies to move their corporate headquarters. It's a testament to Oklahoma's pro-business policymakers that these companies continue to stay and grow here. But we can't take this for granted.
We must always look at how to make Oklahoma a more attractive place to relocate, start and grow a business. We've already seen the state make great strides by reforming the most burdensome workers' compensation system in the country and keeping lawsuit reforms in place. Now we need to build on those successes.
Growing Oklahoma businesses and attracting those from other states requires a talented, educated workforce. Maintaining rigorous education standards to ensure that students graduate ready for college or a career is essential to Oklahoma's economic future.
Oklahoma should take pride in the recognition these companies continue to get. Policymakers are to be commended for their work to make Oklahoma business-friendly, but more needs to be done to make Oklahoma the first choice for every business.
Morgan is president and CEO of the State Chamber of Oklahoma.