Mike Miazga 2014-05-03 04:00:02
You can make an impact The last time I was on Capitol Hill as part of NetworkASA 2013 this past October, my visit was cut a bit short. As many of you recall, ASA members were visiting with their members of Congress when a shooting triggered a Capitol Hill lockdown. I spent more than hour hunkered down in the office of New York Rep. Daniel Maffei. Some six months later, my return visit to Washington featured no extracurricular activities. Instead, the first combined American Supply Association/Plumbing Manufacturers International Legislative Fly-In went off without a hitch and featured a bevy of productive talks between association members and their local congressmen. Hats off to ASA and PMI for the great job they did in preparing members during a three-hour presentation the afternoon before the Hill visits. Members were thoroughly briefed via a variety of guest speakers on all the hot-button topics ranging from marketplace fairness to water efficiency. PMI CEO Barb Higgens provided some telling statistics related to water efficiency (for more on what Higgens said, see my story on the event on page 38). “I’ve been here only a couple hours and already have learned so much about the issues that impact our industry and what I can personally do and say about them to other people so they might make a difference in the long run,” First Supply’s Katie Poehling told me after the briefing in a video interview available at www.supplyht.com. Poehling made her first Capitol Hill visits last fall at NetworkASA 2013 and walked away from the process impressed and primed to make a return trip to Washington. “In October I got a little taste of what it’s like to be in those meetings with your congressmen and other people in the industry,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to build the relationship and network with your representatives in Washington and take that knowledge home and demonstrate how it impacts us.” I sat in on six ASA-member meetings with their local Legislators and witnessed plenty of meaningful dialogue on marketplace fairness, tax reform, water efficiency and LIFO — all topics that have a direct impact on businesses in our industry. One of the major topics on this visit was the aforementioned marketplace fairness, something that strikes a chord with many. “The Marketplace Fairness Bill will help level the playing field between brick-andmortars — which the majority of our guys are — and their competitors in online retail,” ASA Director of Government Affairs Dan Hilton says in another video interview available at www.supplyht.com. “Online retailers are able to charge between 8% and 10% lower and they are taking customers away who are doing a lot of research in our members’ showrooms. The Marketplace Fairness Bill confronts the issue of showrooming, levels the playing field and helps the local brick-and-mortar guys.” The turnout for the fly-in was strong with 40-plus ASA and PMI members taking time out of their workweek to have their voices heard on Capitol Hill. Many of those ASA distributor members appear in our annual Premier 150 rankings on page 30 of this issue. But there is plenty of room for even more distributors and manufacturers to come to the Hill and educate members of Congress on topics that directly impact the very businesses they own and work for, not to mention the industry as a whole. “The benefits of a fly-in are immeasurable,” Hilton says. “The policymakers here in Washington and in the state capitols impact the lives of business owners and employees on topics such as tax reform and LIFO. If they choose to repeal LIFO, that will impact a lot of our members. Our job is to educate them on what a LIFO repeal would mean.” Hilton adds if a distributor or manufacturer cannot make it to Washington to participate in a fly-in, there still are ways to help his or her business and the industry. “Through our e-advocacy on the ASA website, you can write a member of Congress with a click of a button,” he explains. “All it takes is a few easy steps to tell a member of Congress about issues that are important to the association, the industry and your business.” How do things usually change in life? By being proactive. When you hear about the next legislative flyin, think long and hard about attending. It’s time for your industry voice to be heard. Let your voice be heard on Capitol Hill.
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