Japanese Tourism Delegation Meets with AIBA

AIBA was delighted to meet with a small group from Japan in the US to learn about advancing regional tourism. The State Department recommended they meet with AIBA to discuss the value of local business and how to market local business to tourists. We were honored to be the only Austin organization that they met with.

We met with Harumi Tokuoka, Executive Director of the Iriomote Island Ecotourism Association; Aya Takeda, Sales Manager for Hotel Metropolitan Sendai; and Yoko Akagi, Executive Managing Director of the Beach Hotel Sunshine Ishigaki Island. While all three spoke some English, we had an interpreter from the State Department.

AIBA is by nature, hyper local-focused. It’s wonderful to connect with others from around the world focusing on the same things we are. Across oceans and cultures, we shared stories and goals. I was proud to represent Austin and local business to our foreign visitors. From our recent advocacy on tourism, I felt quite educated about Austin’s tourism industry and able to share knowledge and views freely.

Thank you to our visitors who took the time to share with us and to Global Austin for hosting the meeting. Activities like this broaden our horizons too. #Think Globally Shop Locally!

Earned Sick Time Update: The Final Rules

At the time of this writing, two things have happened:
1. The implementation of the Ordinance is in limbo. Originally passed to take effect on October 1, 2018, lawsuits, appeals and counter suits have put this date on hold. Only the courts can activate this so it’s in a wait and see position. Of course the Texas Legislature (in session in January) can kill the ordinance passed by the Austin City Council, rendering it null and void.
So what is a business owner to do? The on, off, on, off again process has left the local business community confused about implementation. My advice is to treat your employees like family (in all the good ways), be fair always and generous when you can. Prepare for the regulations and stand by.
2. The Rules for Investigation of Complaints and Assessment of Civil Penalties under City Code Chapter 4-90 (the Earned Sick Time Ordinance) have been approved and contain a couple of surprises. The entire document is 411 pages and includes comments and answers during a public participation period addressing, not the ordinance, but the rules. Most all of the comments are contained in an 80 page chart which I did read.
At the end of this input, the city made a few changes to the rules. The most concerning is that they increased the penalties to businesses, effectively doubling the fines of businesses with fewer than 14 employees. Just to note, of 80 pages of comments, 12 people requested that the fines be raised and thus it was so.
The time investigators have to schedule interviews was shortened from 10 days to 8 days. The time to complete a final determination was shortened from 120 days to 75 days. 10 people requested some form of shortened process time.
While the most requested change (from both sides of the issue) was to add an appeals process. 13 people requested this. There is no option for an appeal of a determination in the rules and none was added.
No request for any adjustment from a business or business entity was granted.
Once again, it appears that divisiveness rules the day and local business loses.

9 Minutes to a Better AIBA

AIBA is here for you, our member. We take that very seriously and we want to be the organization you want us to be. But we need to know what you want.
We haven’t done a membership survey in several years but we’re asking you now. Please take just a few minutes to tell us your thoughts, what you need, what you want (we all know wants can be different from needs), what would thrill you and maybe even what you’d like for us to stop doing.
The survey will take 9 minutes or less. To make you feel extra special about filling out our survey, respondents will be entered into a drawing for:
     1. A free year of membership added to your current membership.
     2. A free upgrade to your current membership.
     3. A $50 Gift Card to Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill
This survey is for AIBA’s use only. Your name and business name are completely confidential. Any data used for advocacy purposes will be aggregated and unidentifiable to the individual.

Nominate Your Favorite Small Business for a Marketing Makeover!

Independent We Stand is a national organization promoting shopping at locally owned businesses. They host an Indie Business of the Year contest in which your favorite business could win big!
The eighth-annual Indie Award competition is now underway and the grand prize for one lucky small business will be a $25,000 marketing makeover! Entering is quick and easy. Just tell us a short story about how your favorite business went above and beyond to deliver great customer service and/or community support.  But enter now because the earlier you enter the better chance they have of winning!

City of Austin Development Services Department Partners with Austin 311

Anyone who has used Austin 3-1-1, the City of Austin’s one call for information and answers, knows how effective the resource is. Staffed by a knowledgable crew, we’ve found them to be exremely helpful. Often, when members contact AIBA about a question or issue, we refer them to 3-1-1 because it’s the quickest way to find what you need.
Over the past few months, 3-1-1 has met with the Development Services Department (DSD) to learn about the services provided, and have undergone extensive training in navigating the DSD website and online tools to learn where to find information for the customer and how to direct customers to find information in the future. In September 2018, 3-1-1 became the primary point of contact for all calls to the DSD. Callers dialing DSD’s primary phone number, 512-978-4000, are automatically routed to 3-1-1 Ambassadors who will provide immediate, responsive and quality customer service to DSD customers seeking assistance and guidance 24/7, including holidays.
Along with improved customer service, this partnership will also:
·      Support continuous service in the event of a City shutdown due to inclement weather
·      Provide a memorable phone number for DSD customers to easily remember
·      Track the rate of responsiveness to customer inquiries
·      Track types of calls and frequently asked questions, which will help in improving DSD’s service levels.
If the requested information is not available or rises to a technical level, 3-1-1 will generate a Service Request routed to DSD Customer Service Representatives. Each request will be assigned a tracking number, which the customer can use to recall their request if they have follow-up questions and view their request status online at 311.austintexas.gov.
DSD is a partner of AIBA which allows us a closer relationship to work together and help local business. This is just one of many improvements coming you way!

Join DSD for a webinar to review new Project Dox enhancements

Project Dox, the ePlan software utilized by DSD will be upgraded on September 22, 2018! The new version 9.1 features several improvements to increase usability.
The upgrade will be completed in two phases:
• Phase I rolls out September 22 and allows the use of any browser to view drawings and PDF files. Other enhancements include a better screen layout, ability to search and sort all columns, and more intuitive button names. Additionally, Project Dox now integrates with Bluebeam for file review.
• Phase 2 will be launched later this year and will include a more streamlined workflow and simpler one-step task acceptance, file upload, and completion.
View screenshots of some of the enhancements.
For more information, contact Christopher Summers.
NEXT WEEK
Applicant Overview webinar
Wednesday, September 19
12:00 noon – 1:00pm