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Distributors take post-election look at businesses, industry

With the presidential election now behind us, distributors are looking ahead to what the next four years will look like for their businesses and the industry as a whole. Throughout the year, tED magazine has had the opportunity to speak with several distributors about the election. We decided to check in with some of those same people to get their post-election thoughts.

In September, Ray Womack, CEO of Womack Electric Supply in Burlington, N.C., and his company hosted U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) at their facility. Womack’s feelings about the economic climate haven’t changed, and he says his perspective isn’t necessarily tied to the national election.

“I was optimistic about the future business climate before the election regardless of who was going to occupy the White House for the next four years. I still feel that way today,” Womack said. “We tend to get carried away during presidential elections about how much influence a president has on our economy.  In reality, a president’s influence on the economy is not that significant because on the one hand Congress has the purse strings, and on the other hand, economic cycles do not coincide with presidential cycles.”

Related: NAED’s Blueprint for Economic Growth

Bill Jarvis, vice president of sales at J & M Electrical Supply in Cambridge, Ohio, discussed the election with tED magazine in July, during the National Association of Electrical Distributors’ (NAED) Congressional Fly-In. With the election now in the rearview mirror, Jarvis feels as though his company, and the entire industry, is in a holding pattern.

“We’re in the same boat as other businesses our size–we are on hold,” Jarvis said. “Our personal economic climate in Ohio is fair. However, I am personally concerned about the regulatory climate now. We are seeing reports of over 6,000 new regulations coming down the pike. So we are in ‘wait and see’ mode.”

As far as the issues are concerned, Womack used his visit with Senator Hagan, as well as his meetings with congressional representatives during NAED’s Fly-In, as an opportunity to talk about The EPACT Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction. He has a good feeling about this piece of legislation now that the election is over.

“As far as I can see, the election didn’t have a detrimental impact on EPACT. Every congressman was for this legislation when I visited with them in July. In fact, the bill proposed just before the recess increased that tax deduction from $1.80 per square foot to $3.00 per square foot. The bill has a long way to go before passage but I think it will be just as good as the prior bill, if not better,” Womack said.

Jarvis isn’t quite as optimistic about the estate tax—an issue that’s close to his heart working at a family-owned business.

“I don’t hold out much hope for the estate tax,” he said. “I don’t believe we will necessarily go back to the 55% top marginal rate but I don’t believe It will be repealed either. Both parties will come to some bargain on the estate tax—I personally won’t find any bargain to be satisfactory.”

The estate tax and a number of other issues remain on Womack’s radar, as well, and he stresses the importance of continued political involvement.

“I lobbied against some language in the new Energy Star legislation that would greatly increase the liability to distributors on products sold through distribution… We had immediate success with getting the liability language that was detrimental to our industry removed before it landed on the Senate floor,” Womack explained.  “I think there are the important issues that need to be lobbied now and in the future regardless of who holds the political power in Washington.”

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