By Joe Nowlan
“Not only was it a good day for NAED and [for] us as electrical distributors in explaining our concerns, it was a learning experience.”
That comment—from Jo Lynn Friedel, government market manager at Schaedler Yesco in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania—summed up the overall feeling as the NAED’s third Congressional Fly-In concluded Sept. 11 in Washington, D.C.
Friedel met with various legislators including Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry, a Republican representing Pennsylvania’s fourth congressional district. Friedel was satisfied her thoughts and ideas received his attention.
“He had to leave for an interview but he told us that we were welcome to walk with him and talk to him about what our concerns are,” she explained. “I want to make sure that I address them,” he told us. He was very direct and very open about the fact that we are the ones who can help them. He said, “People think we know everything but you guys are the ones that know everything. You are the ones who can help us.”
Ed Orlet, NAED’s vice-president for government affairs, and his staff had stressed to the Fly-In attendees the importance of following up with representatives with whom they met.
“We came out with some actions that we feel very strongly we have to take care of and to follow up on,” Friedel said.
The unofficial mantra of the Fly-In meetings seems to have been, “Tell Your Story” with each company representative emphasizing their business’ strengths and contributions (jobs created, for example) to Washington lawmakers.
“We want the representatives in our districts where we have branches to understand our story,” Friedel explained.
Dan Gray, president of Independent Electric Supply in Somerville, Massachusetts, headed home energized by the Fly-In experience, the second he has attended.
Both Gray and Friedel had an issue on their agenda—taxes—that they addressed in their respective meetings. For Friedel, it was tax incentives as well as energy rebates. Gray addressed the lack of a level playing field for businesses like his when it comes to online ordering.
“I can quote out something to a customer and they can then go online about the same thing on Amazon,” he explained. “And I have to charge them [Massachusetts sales tax] and they [Amazon] don’t.”
“It hurts the brick and mortar industries. And not just the electrical industry either,” Gray added. “It’s any other industry that has a physical inventory.… They get affected by this too.… It’s [all about] putting everyone on the same level playing field.”
Gray met with Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey and representatives from Mass. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office. He also met with Democratic Congressman Michael Capuano, the former mayor of Somerville, where Independent Electric’s corporate offices are located. Gray personally invited Markey and Capuano to visit the Somerville location.
Since Independent Electric has locations in New Hampshire, Gray also met with Ann McLane Kuster, a Democrat representing New Hampshire’s second congressional district. A member of the Small Business Committee, Kuster was invited to visit Independent Electric’s Manchester, N.H. location.
Such follow-up gestures are music to the ears of Orlet and his staff. In addition, Orlet stressed to Fly-In attendees the importance of having them forward their meeting notes to his office.
An app was made available for sharing those notes. Via their smart phone or iPad, attendees can type in their notes and they will automatically sync to Orlet’s office so that he and his staff will get those notes immediately.
“We want to make this as easy for them as possible,” Orlet explained. “Just a few sentences on each meeting.”
Back home in Somerville after the Fly-In, Gray spoke enthusiastically of the two-day experience.
“You get a real sense of contribution, that you are giving something back and that at least you are involved in the process,” Gray said.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at email@example.com.Tagged with tED