Taking Steps to Get Your Company's Voice Heard Before Congress
October 7, 2010

Many glass companies and organizations are passionate about industry and legislative efforts that could benefit the whole industry, and many opportunities, such as getting in front of legislators to get the voice of the industry heard, are available to help them along the way. Over the past year numerous glass and fenestration companies have brought congressional representatives in to tour their facilities. Likewise, associations are becoming more involved than ever before in legislation that could impact the industry.

“Communication between members of Congress and constituents is more prevalent than ever. Gone are the days when a vote could be taken in D.C. and explained over time to voters back home,” says Bill Yanek, executive vice president for the GANA. “This dynamic compresses legislative decision cycles, and increases the impact of every vote.  That being said, special interest groups are continually refining efforts at influencing Congress. 

He adds, “The glass and glazing industry must evolve its efforts as well. I am regularly asked whether GANA should be focused on technical activities or advocacy. My answer is yes.  The two are intertwined like never before. Green building codes are being incentivized by stimulus packages; commercial retrofit initiatives, such as Building Star, are being ushered through Congress by groups such as the Energy Future Coalition; and International Building Codes are being pressured to increase energy efficiency by Administration policy and Congress.”

Rich Walker, president and chief executive officer of the American Archtectural Manufacturers Association agrees.

“As legislation related to issues like the EPA Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting regulations, and ENERGY STAR have greater impact on our members, AAMA continues to make it a priority to not only monitor changes in the legislative and regulatory realms, but also be involved in the process,” says Walker. “Through visits to Washington and by maintaining relationships with key member staff contacts and regulatory offices, we bring forth the concerns of the industry. Weighing in on legislative and regulatory issues is an effective way to address the widening disconnect between Washington and the day-to-day concerns of our industry.”

So, when it comes to organizing a congressional visit there are number of key steps to follow. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) suggests beginning by contacting local representatives and senators and telling them how certain legislations will affect companies and industry. NAM says when it comes to arranging the meeting, work to get it set up as quickly as possible and be flexible with the scheduling. Begin by calling the congressional representative’s office and ask for the scheduling secretary. If unable to schedule the meeting right away, follow up. Call once then call a week later and so on.

The NAM also says to keep in mind that if a meeting is scheduled it won’t be for more than 30 minutes, so be prepared and bring a business card as well as any other leave-behind materials.

Before the meeting find out as much as you can about the congressional representative. The NAM suggests reviewing his/her bio online, as you may find something you have in common, such as attending the same college. You can use that connection and then move to the reason for the meeting.

Also keep in mind that you may end up meeting with a staffer instead. Don’t get upset if this happens, as staffers often know the issues better than the elected official. Next, after a brief introduction, the NAM suggests getting right into the issues you are there to talk about and explaining why they are important to your company. NAM adds that this is usually the best time to ask the congressperson to visit your facility.

Afterwards, be sure and follow up. This includes always writing a thank-you note, no matter what.

And if you aren’t able to secure a meeting? If you happen to be in Washington, D.C., and haven’t heard from your representative, stop by the office anyway and leave some information.

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