Up Close And PersonalWritten By: Mary Sedor
Article Date: 03-01-2007
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
Talk to your elected leaders at the Spring Government Affairs Conference.
It's been described by some as the "best kept secret in the industry." Each spring, a host of equipment distributors converge upon Washington, D.C., for the AED Spring Government Affairs Conference.
The conference, set this year for March 28 and 29, allows attendees to hear first-hand from our nation's elected leaders, AED Washington staff and industry coalition partners about the major issues affecting distributors, the construction industry and the nation as a whole. Attendees also spend time meeting personally with their representatives and senators, to educate them on the equipment industry's policy objectives.
You Make A Difference
"We host the Government Affairs Conference each year to give our members an opportunity to hear directly from congressional leaders, people in the administration and leaders of other trade associations about what is happening in Washington on issues that matter to our industry," says AED's Vice President of Government Affairs Christian Klein.
AED members are able to interact with members of Congress directly in order to discuss the issues. In addition, a formal AED Government Affairs Committee meeting is held to ensure the AED Washington staff has defined the hot button issues for the industry.
"The Government Affairs program gives our members an opportunity to get directly and personally involved in the political process," says Klein.
One of the most important aspects of the conference is discussing the issues of the day. This year's topics include infrastructure funding and the looming funding challenges of the federal highway program, water infrastructure funding, the airport reauthorization bill and other bottom line issues such as LIFO repeal and death tax reform. Speakers are also invited to discuss the broader issues, such as the economy and national security.
Whether you're a new AED member or you've just never had the opportunity to attend, the Government Affairs Conference is a great networking opportunity.
"The meeting tends to attract the true leaders of the equipment industry," says Klein. "Attendees have the opportunity to take advantage of one of the major parts of the AED value proposition. One of the major services AED provides to members is a vehicle to political involvement for the equipment distribution industry."
According to Klein, one of the most important reasons for having the Government Affairs Conference is to show strength in numbers.
"Participation in the conference demonstrates to members of Congress their level of commitment to what AED is trying to achieve on their behalf," says Klein. "When they see a room full of distributors, they see what's behind the AED Washington office. It gives extra weight to what we're trying to do on their behalf."
Speak To Your Elected Leaders
Don Chambers, CFO of Low Country Machinery in Pooler, Ga., became involved in the conference last year and has since grown more involved in AED's Government Affairs Program.
Last year Chambers met with his Congressional leaders and has since forged relationships with them, which has given him a voice in Washington.
During his first conference last year, Chambers met with Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who has been a leading proponent of association health care plans. He also was able to meet Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA, 1st) and has since gotten to know him well. Recently, Kingston visited Chambers' dealership and met with his employees. Kingston sits on the House Appropriations Committee.
"The highway bill is a big component of our industry," says Chambers. "Having that fully funded is important to us and the industry because the more highway jobs there are the more equipment we sell and rent. There is talk of not fully funding the bill. We want a new structure for funding to be put in place because it needs to be fully funded. It's in the best interest of our industry and all Americans."
Chambers recommends AED members become involved in the conference.
"It really gives you an opportunity to learn first hand about key items that relate back to your business," he says. "It's important for all of us to keep a pulse on what's happening in Washington because it drives our businesses. We should make our voices heard on issues that directly impact our businesses positively or negatively."
Since attending the conference last year, Chambers has registered at Congress.org, a website that allows you to identify and write letters to your elected leaders in Congress. He receivesregular updates on the topics they are voting on and he's since written letters to his congressional leaders.
"Because of the Spring Government Affairs Conference, I've met my congressional leaders and their staffs," he says. "I have their email addresses and when I know an important issue is coming up, I email my comments to the people I've come to know."
Chambers says the conference is a great opportunity for AED members to learn more about specific issues that are critical to the industry.
"Christian Klein and the entire Washington office has done an excellent job of trying to eliminate the death tax, preventing LIFO repeal and keeping us abreast of other important topics," says Chambers.
Jim Price, executive vice president of Valley Supply & Equipment Co. in Hagerstown, Md., has been attending the conference for seven years and agrees the interaction with Congressmen is one of the best features of the conference.
"I love the interaction with the congressmen," says Price. "We are able to get an upfront and personal view of the inner workings of our government. We vote these people into government and they want to see us. It makes a difference for us to be there. This is probably the best kept secret we have in the industry and the best meeting we have."
During the first two meetings Price attended, he was able to meet his congressmen, and now he visits congressmen with other AED members.
"Showing up in strength we make a bigger impact on their thought processes," he says. "When a congressman looks out and sees three or four representatives from the industry, he knows how many dollars that puts in his state. He's got to drive the same roads we help build every day. It makes a difference."
Mike Walsh, president of Walsh Equipment in Butler, Pa., says he's been to four or five government affairs conferences. Even as a mid-sized dealer, Walsh says his presence in Washington is still important.
"It's the trickle down theory," says Walsh. "If there is more highway work we're all busier. Christian Klein and the Washington office do a great job of pushing for the bills that are important to our industry, but when you have local dealers actually talking to the congressmen, it makes them think.
"If you don't know what kind of effect the government has on your business, the Government Affairs conference will open your eyes."
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