Last month U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) stopped by for a visit at Womack Electric Supply in Burlington, North Carolina.
After meeting with Hagan during NAED’s Congressional Fly-In this past July, Ray Womack, CEO of Womack Electric Supply, decided to invite the senator to see what his business is all about.
“I invited her to come and see us while we were at the Fly-In, and then a few weeks ago, one of her staffers called and said she wanted to come for a visit,” Womack recalled. “I got off the phone and started thinking to myself, ‘this is a U.S. senator…what does she want to hear from us?’ Did I need to make a PowerPoint presentation?” Womack laughed.
After calling Hagan’s office back, he learned that Hagan didn’t want a presentation, “She wanted to meet with our employees and customers and have a conversation about the EPACT Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction and how it impacts what we do,” Womack said.
That conversation was one that Womack and his team knew they were ready to have. Two of the company’s energy sales employees put together a binder of information for Hagan. They explained the cost of a retrofit compared to a retrofit with tax incentives and compared to a retrofit with tax incentives along with incentives from the local utility company.
Ray Womack goes over information on the EPACT Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction with Senator Kay Hagan
“She loved the material that we put together, because she could see the impact the tax credits have on selling energy efficient products,” Womack said. “She could see the legislation was working and helping create jobs, increase sales and save customers money and energy. Senator Hagan has become a proponent of this legislation.”
“The EPACT Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction is a great selling tool for distributors,” said Ed Orlet, vice president of government affairs for NAED. “It encourages energy efficient upgrades to existing commercial buildings and the partial deduction for lighting upgrades allows building owners to realize significant energy cost savings without the large upfront costs total building retrofits require.”
Hagan asked Womack to justify expanding and extending the EPACT Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction and was impressed that he had a firm grasp on the legislation.
It wasn’t just Hagan who was impressed—Womack was too. “Senator Hagan was very nice and very low-key. She was very knowledgeable and had a good grasp of the issues,” Womack said. “She didn’t walk in with an entourage and a bunch of cameras. She had one staffer with her and that was it.”
After discussing energy efficiency with the sales team, Hagan continued her tour into the Womack Electric Supply warehouse where Ray had a real world example of energy efficiency products at work to show the senator.
“I set up an old 400 watt high pressure sodium fixture—a high energy consuming product—next to a new 145 watt energy efficient fixture,” Womack explained. “I showed Senator Hagan how the energy efficient fixture not only saves energy, but it had almost an identical light output. It was a real application of how EPACT helps us put energy efficient products in our customers’ hands.”
Looking back on his visit with Senator Hagan, Womack stressed the importance of being involved in the legislative process. “I wouldn’t have been likely at all to invite Senator Hagan for a visit if not for the NAED Fly-In,” he said. “After meeting with her and her staff in D.C., I now have contact with key staffers in her office. Without the Fly-In, if I called her office, it would have just been a generic phone call. Now, I have relationships with her people, and that has made the biggest difference.”
Ray Womack and his staff pose for photos with Senator Kay Hagan
“The electrical industry is a relationship business. So is government advocacy,” Orlet said. “Ray is the perfect example of a number of our members who have taken the plunge into building these relationships. Most of them find it’s a lot easier than they thought and that policymakers are ready and willing to listen and act on your concerns.”
Womack plans to continue building that relationship with Senator Hagan. “I plan to continue to pass along information on issues that matter to me and to NAED,” he said. “I asked Ed for information on the Implementation of National Consensus Appliance Agreements Act (INCAA) and he was able to narrow that bill down to one page about why it matters to distributors, I sent it to Senator Hagan’s office and ultimately the bill was changed. Keeping in contact with your legislators is key to making your voice heard in Washington.”
As for advice for how to keep the communication between your business and Capitol Hill going, Womack suggests sticking to the facts. “They aren’t interested in rhetoric,” he explained. “But they will listen to you if you have a factual presentation and you present it in a way that makes sense.”Tagged with tED