Congressman Murphy visits Tri-State Supply Company

Last month, Tri-State Supply Company, Inc. hosted United States Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) at the company’s Washington, Pa. headquarters.


Murphy toured the facility, met with several employees and talked with Jeff Van Zandt, Tri-State Supply’s vice president of operations.


Van Zandt arranged for about a dozen employees who live in Murphy’s congressional district to be able to participate in a Q&A session and have lunch with the congressman.


“I think Congressman Murphy found some new supporters among our employees who aren’t political junkies. He spoke to the issues that matter to our business,” Van Zandt said.


While some employees don’t follow political news as closely, Van Zandt stressed the importance of the upcoming election and exercising the right to vote. “This is a monumental election,” Van Zandt stressed. “With the price of oil, the floundering economy and the tension in the Middle East, this is the most important election I can remember. We need things to change in DC if we want small businesses to thrive.”


One of the issues that came up was the Infrastructure Jobs and Energy Independence Act (H.R. 1861)—a bill that Murphy sponsored.


“He really hammered home the importance of this bill,” Van Zandt explained. “It focuses on the over-regulation in the coal and natural gas industries—industries that are booming in our area, but regulations are really hurting them.”


Van Zandt cited the recent news of Alpha Natural Resources’ plans to cut 1,200 coal mining jobs, close eight mines and trim coal production by 16 million tons annually. Alpha is a key customer of Tri-State Supply.


Kevin Crutchfield, Alpha Natural Resources’ CEO reportedly said the changes are partially to blame on “a regulatory environment that’s aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal.” Van Zandt fears the regulations impacting Alpha Natural Resources will negatively impact his business too.


“Part of H.R. 1861 involves extending the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction through 2013,” said Ed Orlet, vice president of government affairs for NAED. “Many of our numbers have had success using EPACT 179(d) as a selling tool, and our members have taken an active role consulting with lawmakers about how the program can be improved and expanded. 


Repealing the estate tax was also top of mind for Van Zandt. “We are a family business and we’re going through the estate planning process right now. In fact, we’re trying to get it all done before December 31 of this year because of the changes to the estate tax rates that are scheduled to take place at the end of the year.”


Murphy told Van Zandt that 60% of businesses that are left to heirs go under within a few years of the death of an owner.


Van Zandt and his family are no strangers to the political process. Jeff’s great, great uncle James E. Van Zandt was elected as a Republican representative to the 76th, 77th, and 78th Congresses and served from January 3, 1939, until his resignation September 24, 1943. While a member of Congress, he was called to active duty in September 1941 and served until January 1942 with the Pacific Fleet and in escort convoy duty in the North Atlantic. James E. Van Zandt re-entered the service in September 1943 as a lieutenant commander and was assigned to the Pacific area until discharged as a captain, January 25, 1946, and retired as rear admiral, United States Naval Reserve, January 1, 1959. He was then elected to the 80th and and to the seven succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1947-January 3, 1963).


James E. Van Zandt is also known for his bravery during an attack at the United States Capitol. “My uncle tackled one of the Puerto Rican terrorists that was shooting up the Capitol in 1954 when Congress was in session,” Van Zandt explained.


This story impressed Murphy when the two talked in Washington, D.C. during NAED’s Congressional Fly-In this summer. “He (Murphy) asked if we could get a picture together on the Capitol steps that my great uncle walked many years ago,” Van Zandt said.


The two ended up on the steps of the capitol in July after a meeting in Murphy’s office. Van Zandt was scheduled to meet with Murphy during the Fly-In, but Murphy’s staff informed him that the congressman was in session. One of Murphy’s aides said the congressman would meet with Van Zandt outside the capitol and walked him to the steps. Van Zandt recalls that Murphy met him out there and spent several minutes talking with him about NAED’s legislative agenda. “You just don’t forget something like that,” Van Zandt said.


Van Zandt said he was able to build a relationship with Murphy because of NAED’s Congressional Fly-In. “The Fly-In was instrumental in making this happen,” Van Zandt said. “The advocacy training we received was excellent and it helped me feel prepared. It’s easy to feel intimidated walking into those congressional offices, but our training put me at ease.”


“Nine times out of 10, members of Congress would rather meet with their constituents in their places of business instead of D.C.,” Van Zandt continued, “and it was because of the Fly-In that I was able to invite him.”


“One of the goals of NAED’s Government Affairs initiative is to encourage our members to build relationships with their legislators,” Orlet explained. “Jeff and the team at Tri-State Supply did just that by attending the Fly-In and then, most importantly, following up after the event and inviting Congressman Murphy for a visit.”

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