2013 Congressional Fly-In Recap

By Joe Nowlan

The NAED’s third annual Congressional Fly-In (Sept. 10-11) concluded after close to 100 meetings with members of Congress, the Senate and their staffers in Washington, D.C.

“It was a great day. I think everyone was really energized,” said Ed Orlet, vice-president for government affairs for the NAED.

The Sept. 11 day of meetings began with a breakfast where attendees heard from Republican Congressman Sam Graves from Missouri’s Sixth Congressional District. Graves is chairman of the House of Representative’s Small Business Committee.

However, meeting and schmoozing with a member of Congress or the Senate, perhaps someone the Fly-In participants have seen on TV occasionally, is one thing. But following up and realizing that they need to build on their day in Washington is crucial, Orlet emphasized.

“The follow-up is always what’s critical,” Orlet said. “What matters most is the follow-up and that you do something to have an [ongoing] relationship. If you come out here just once a year and do maybe six or seven visits, it’s going to have a limited effect.”

Jo Lynn Friedel is the government market manager at Schaedler Yesco in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She plans to heed Orlet’s advice to follow up in the days ahead.

“We came out [of the Fly-In meetings] with some actions that we feel very strongly we have to take care of and to follow up on,” Friedel said.

Fly-In attendees are encouraged to let their representatives know what their business does and why it is important.

“We want the representatives in our districts where we have branches to understand our story,” Friedel explained. “I find that when you can tell them a story about the fact that you’re creating new jobs … they like that [in Washington].”

It was the second Fly-In for Dan Gray, president of Independent Electric Supply in Somerville, Massachusetts.

“It was an unbelievable experience. It was an eye-opener to see what goes on down there in D.C., to meet with the representatives … and to just see how all three branches work. We got a basic understanding of why things don’t get done and why things do get done and how [they get done].”

He shares Friedel’s enthusiasm for quickly getting follow-up e-mails out to those with whom he met.

“They’ll be getting a note for me sometime this week thanking them for their time,” he said on Sept. 12, “as well as a note on what we discussed, what’s important to NAED and to the industry. And when they respond back to me, I’ll follow up again. You just got to keep touching base with them.”

NAED business owners were also encouraged to invite those members of Congress and the Senate to visit their facilities, perhaps schedule a tour of their headquarters.

While Gray was impressed by the turnout, he urges others to participate in next year’s Fly-In.

“I would like to see more participation from the membership. I think that once people go there it will be an eye-opener. It is such a great experience,” he said.

While setting up meetings and scheduling speakers is part of NAED’s Fly-In preparation, a new phase for Orlet and his staff began after the Fly-In concluded.

“Actually, the work for us as a staff just starts at the end of these meetings,” he said. “We’ve got a ton of new contacts and a bunch of to do lists. That’s how we carry it forward.”

Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at

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