GCP-Supported Cyber Bill Headed to Governor, Blockchain Language Included

Senate Bill 220 (SB 220) has cleared the legislature and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. Over the course of the last year, GCP and our members have had encouraging dialogue, resulting in the introduction of this legislation. 

The purpose of SB 220 is to create an affirmative defense to a cause of action sounding in tort related to a data breach and it would apply to all businesses that include and comply with certain cybersecurity frameworks.

We strongly support providing a legal safe harbor opportunity for covered entities that implement a specified cybersecurity program because the legislation provides an incentive to encourage businesses to achieve a higher level of cybersecurity through voluntary action. 

The bill, also known as the Data Protection Act, is not a mandate and it would not create a minimum cybersecurity standard. 

To read more on our support of the cybersecurity provisions in SB 220 click here.

SB 220 is a sound initiative that encourages more businesses to properly protect their business ventures, their workforce, and those with whom they do business.

In addition, “Ohio is close to becoming the latest state to offer legal support for blockchain-based business transactions.”

Language from Senate Bill 300 (SB 300) was included in the cyber legislation described above. 

Generally speaking, it states:

"A record or contract that is secured through blockchain technology is considered to be … an electronic record.”
“A signature that is secured through blockchain technology is considered to be … an electronic signature.”

On June 19, GCP convened a meeting with bill sponsor, Senator Matt Dolan, and a group of our members and partners regarding blockchain, cutting-edge technology that secures records electronically.
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    Next up: GCP-supported Cybersecurity Legislation Passes Ohio Senate

    GCP-supported Cybersecurity Legislation Passes Ohio Senate

    Members of the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) played a lead role in shaping Senate Bill 220 (SB 220), a bill that incentivizes the business community to implement recognized industry standards to ensure companies protect data. GCP applauds the Ohio Senate for approving this important legislation last week. 

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    GCP members have increasingly identified cybersecurity as an emerging issue and significant challenge. GCP supports SB 220, which would provide a business a route to argue an affirmative defense if the company implements a specified cybersecurity framework. The legislation encourages businesses to achieve a higher level of cybersecurity through voluntary action.

    On Jan. 10, Tim Opsitnick (executive vice president and general counsel at Technology Concepts & Design, Inc.) presented verbal testimony, on behalf of the GCP, in support of Senate Bill 220 (SB 220). GCP will continue to advocate for the initiative as members of the Ohio House of Representatives begin their review of the bill. 


    Next up: GCP Supports Port of Cleveland And Tri-C Ballot Issues; Opposes Questionable Drug Pricing Measure

    GCP Supports Port of Cleveland And Tri-C Ballot Issues; Opposes Questionable Drug Pricing Measure

    The Greater Cleveland Partnership is endorsing ballot issues for the Port of Cleveland and Tri-C and has taken a position against a questionable drug pricing measure.

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    Port of Cleveland

    Members of the GCP recently voted to endorse a renewal of the Port of Cleveland’s .13 mill operating levy. The levy, on the ballot this November, costs a homeowner $3.50 for every $100,000 of home value, making it one of the smallest tax levies in Cuyahoga County.

    GCP member companies actively support commerce generated through the Port and utilize its services. Levy funds support maintenance of lakefront docks, the Cuyahoga River navigation channel, and other maritime activities. Specific projects related to the initiative include the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve and the Irish Town Bend stabilization efforts (an initiative the GCP supported in the 2015 state capital bill).

    "Thousands of jobs exist because of the Port of Cleveland maritime activity," said Debbie Read, Managing Partner/CEO of Thompson Hine and GCP Board Member.

    Partnerships formed between the Port and the Greater Cleveland business community have led to billions in overall economic impact to the region and generated millions in state and local taxes.  The Port leverages the resources it receives and it plays a critical role in Cleveland's lakefront development."

    The GCP backs the Port of Cleveland because a stable, strong Port drives growth and opportunity.  Ample resources are also necessary to ensure tomorrow’s economy and workforce remain equally strong, leading the GCP to take a formal position on the Cuyahoga Community College’s (Tri-C) election day bond issue.

    Tri-C bond issue

    The GCP Board decided to support a .5 mill bond issue—that will generate $227 million in funding—to support new Tri-C facilities and facility upgrades across all campuses. This issue would annually cost $17.50 for every $100,000 of home value.  If approved, the capital bond would be in addition to the college’s two operating levies.

    A skilled workforce and talent attraction strategy are key drivers of the GCP’s work.  Cuyahoga Community College’s plan will aid the school and the region in:

    • Building a 15,000-square foot addition to the Advanced Technology Training Center for manufacturing and engineering programs.
    • The expansion of the Transportation, Distribution & Logistics Academy to provide offerings in supply chain, logistics, diesel technology, warehousing and distribution.
    • An expansion of the Automotive Technology program at the Western Campus.
    • College-wide laboratory renovations, specifically those used in programs that provide credentials and training for some of the region’s fastest growing industries: engineering, medical technology, nursing, pharmacy, radiology and respiratory therapy.

    “Investing in facilities, technologies, and the education of our youth – particularly in high-demand industries – is not an aspiration in today’s economy, it is a necessity,” said Joe Roman, President/CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership.  

    “Tri-C graduates live and work in Northeast Ohio.  Retaining those skills and keeping that talent in Cleveland is a key ingredient, building upon the momentum our region is experiencing.”

    Tri-C was recently ranked number one in Ohio and in the top twenty nationally among two-year institutions in awarding associate degrees across all disciplines.   

    Opposed to Issue 2

    Separate from the aforementioned local ballot issues, the GCP board also voted to oppose a statewide ballot proposal that would change how state of Ohio purchases prescription drugs. The proposed initiated statute, Issue 2, would attempt to prohibit the state from purchasing a prescription drug unless the net cost of the drug is equal to or less than the lowest price paid for the drug by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely the proposal could be implemented or be able to achieve its purpose. Issue 2 is vague and lacks certain definitions, meaning it is questionable how differing entities and state agencies would choose to implement it. 

    The GCP—and more than 60 other organizations ranging from the Ohio Hospital Association to The American Legion—are extremely concerned the proposal will lead to cost shifting and drive up prices for employers, their employees, and even increase the cost for veterans. The Act would not apply to the approximately 7 million Ohioans who use private insurance or other coverage.  Moreover, one provision in Issue 2 would give the four co-sponsors of the issue an unprecedented right to intervene—at taxpayer expense—in any post-election legal challenges to the law. State taxpayers would be on the hook to pay attorneys' fees and expenses, as well as any bills incurred by the Attorney General in litigating the matter. 

    While Issue 2 appears to be well-intended, it is a big risk in a volatile health care environment.

    Next up: GCP's Federal Tax Reform Priorities

    GCP's Federal Tax Reform Priorities

    Leadership in Washington continues to signal that Congress will attempt to tackle the first set of comprehensive tax reforms since the 1980’s. The final results are far from a finished product, but House and Senate Republican leaders recently crafted and unveiled their nine-page tax reform framework, in coordination with the Administration.

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    Members of the Greater Cleveland Partnership believe a thoughtful, balanced, and competitive tax environment is critical to the success of our economy and that any reforms made must be all-inclusive and benefit all sectors of the business community.

    Corporate tax reform is essential to growth. And the GCP was encouraged the tax plan aims to cut the corporate rate and lower the top individual rate.

    It is equally important to recognize most small businesses are organized as pass-through entities—they file taxes through the individual income tax code instead of the corporate income tax code.  Therefore, the GCP is optimistic that the proposed tax framework strives to cut the rate for pass-through entities.        

    A tax overhaul and a long-term federal tax plan that results in parity for all business sizes and that incentivizes investment and employment must be realized. Having the tools—such as the New Market Tax Credit—to advance transformational physical development in the City of Cleveland is also crucial. Our membership recognizes the importance of this resource as the GCP has partnered with organizations in the past to secure the successful passage of a five-year extension of the federal New Market Tax Credit program, a financing option that has been instrumental for development in low-income communities.   

    The House Ways & Means Committee has set an ambitious timeline and will aim to mark-up and vote on legislation before Thanksgiving. The GCP will continue to represent our members’ interests throughout the debate and advocate for comprehensive federal tax and entitlement program reform.  

    Next up: Geeked Out Marketing

    Geeked Out Marketing

    The way you run your business is the ultimate branding campaign. Here are four ways business owners can leverage their ultimate marketing advantage.

    The way you run your business is the ultimate branding campaign. Here are four ways business owners can leverage their ultimate marketing advantage.

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    Robert Stephens started Geek Squad with $200, a cell phone and a bike. He made house calls doing what felt right: helping people with their problems and making them feel less intimidated by technology. In 1994, this was a big deal because technology was hitting home in a big way.

    “I started Geek Squad within a month of the first Web browser coming out,” says Stephens, who had been fixing computers for a different company in his hometown in the Twin Cities after earning a computer science degree at the University of Minnesota. (He dropped out of the Art Institute of Chicago to pursue his passion for the technical.)

    Stephens didn’t have a marketing budget when he launched his homegrown venture. He had drive and an idea. “I grew up with Star Wars and we had a computer in the 1980s—I was always taking things apart as a child, and I also liked helping people,” he says, relating how this business launch seemed like the natural thing to do.

    The meager seed money that Stephens poured into the business blew up into an estimated $1billion to $1.5 billion during a 20-year period, and Geek Squad today is the largest tech-support organization with about 24,000 employees, referred to as “agents.” Stephens sold Geek Squad to Best Buy in 2002 and continued to serve as its CEO and the chief technology officer of Best Buy until 2012, when he left to pursue other entrepreneurial projects.

    Geek Squad might be the biggest part of the Best Buy brand. But there was no marketing stunt in mind when Stephens started the tech services firm, known for its white-and-black VW Beetles and “agents” wearing white shirts and black ties. “For me, the cars and uniforms are not marketing gimmicks,” he says. “The business operations is the marketing.”

    “Helping people is the best advertising,” he adds.

    How you conduct business, the way you provide customer service, how you present yourself on the street is what creates the brand. Even how you answer the phone. “All of those things paint pictures for customers,” Stephens says, adding that when he started Geek Squad, he couldn’t afford a graphic designer to create a logo anyway.

    “I had to do those things myself,” he says, adding that businesses have access to a range of tools today to market their organizations. “This is the era of YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and other social media that are advertising channels.”

    Here, Stephens talks about how business owners can leverage their ultimate marketing advantage: business strategy and uncommon customer service.   

    Helping is timeless. Technology gets outdated—fast. But customer service is always relevant and in demand. If you ask Stephens, he’ll tell you Geek Squad isn’t really a tech business. It’s a helping business. “There is a tech aspect, but it’s also a lot like a small restaurant or a boutique hotel where there is a lot of customer experience that goes along with it—showing up on time, dressing nice, and helping regular people feel comfortable with technology and not feel overwhelmed,” he says.

    Build trust. People open their doors for Geek Squad. They invite agents into their homes, expose their data and share their problems. Customers are a little vulnerable—they’re also overwhelmed and looking for answers. Earning trust is critical to growing a service business, and Geek Squad adopted a flat rate fee structure to show customers their intentions were to solve problems, not run up a large hourly bill for tech services.

    “Flat rates were a way to build trust early on,” Stephens says, relating this removed risk for customers who took a chance on hiring Geek Squad.  And, when Geek Squad agents meet with customers, they listen. “Every time we touch a customer, we are learning more about what they want—we are seeking insight,” Stephens says.

    Hire bright people. Geeks love to learn about technology. So training for skill was not a big focus for Stephens and he knew he could teach anyone to fix computers. “But I can’t train people to be nice and to care about customers,” he says. “Either you do or you don’t.  I would always hire for the qualities I could not train for, and the three most important traits are curiosity, ethics and drive.”

    Curiosity is essential because agents must solve problems. And, they must care about learning more about the customer, Stephens says curiosity is the No. 1 trait for successful businesses in the 21st Century.

    Ethics are critical because of the nature of Geek Squad’s business, working in customers’ homes. And drive is the persistence to do it right. “Everyone has had services where they don’t get it done right the first time,” Stephens says. “You don’t have to be perfect, but you have to have the persistence to get it right and not drag your feet.”

    Solve problems. What are you really selling? If it’s just the technology, you could be obsolete by the time you finish reading this article. Focus on the customer and their needs. Find out what makes them tick—what do they want to do better. “You’re not selling a drill, you’re selling a hole on the wall, so focus on the hole the customer wants because the drill might not be the answer,” Stephens relates.  “Maybe you need a hole-punch, or a sideboard with a hole already cut in it—sometimes you have to think more broadly.”

    Be responsive. “The easier you are to talk to as a business, the more business you will do,” Stephens says. That’s why messaging is the best technology advance to come around since the Web browser opened up the World Wide Web in 1994, he says.

    Stephens explains: “Right now, if you use Google Maps or Yelp, the only way to interact with a business is to call that business, and that’s quite inefficient—it ties employees up on phone lines, and does anyone really believe the call is being recorded for quality? But if you can text a picture of your problem and see a copy of that message, that’s a persistent conversation. Facebook messaging is free, and I encourage every business to use it.”

    This article was originally featured in the July/August 2015 issue of the COSE Update.

    Next up: Tips for Your Business: Generate Revenue by Selling Soft Cost Savings

    Tips for Your Business: Generate Revenue by Selling Soft Cost Savings

    Competing on price is extremely difficult to do. Thus, businesses need to find ways to add value, along with competitive pricing, to stand apart from the competition and succeed in today’s economy. “When it comes to cost savings, most organizations focus on hard dollar amounts,” says Sara Schweda, director of client solutions for Group Transportation Services (GTS), a third-party logistics provider in Hudson. 

    Competing on price is extremely difficult to do. Thus, businesses need to find ways to add value, along with competitive pricing, to stand apart from the competition and succeed in today’s economy. “When it comes to cost savings, most organizations focus on hard dollar amounts,” says Sara Schweda, director of client solutions for Group Transportation Services (GTS), a third-party logistics provider in Hudson. “In today’s competitive environment, companies strive to do more and perform better while keeping operations lean. Positioning your company as the partner to help a client achieve these goals is an opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competitors and generate additional revenue streams for your business.” 

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    Small businesses can leverage their portfolio of services and highlight their largest assets – their people and technology – to stay competitive. While each of these benefits is considered a “soft cost,” they stress the real value received in saving both time and resources. “Investments in service and technology result in substantial ROI for clients, but in order to sell these you must not only understand the clients’ processes and operations, but also the objectives that have been set as a company and direct your focus to helping the client accomplish them,” says Schweda.

    Assigning a dollar value to items such as time savings, ease of use, or even customer service can be done if there is an understanding of the time and resources involved. “We include this process review in our onboarding,” notes Schweda. Ask clients how they use data to make strategic business decisions across multiple business units. “Hard dollar savings is by far the most attractive differentiator in decision making, but soft cost evaluations can provide additional value while increasing your service offerings to the client.”

    This article originally appeared in the July 6, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.