Last week, I and 77 other industry professionals from 30 states met in Washington, D.C., for the sixth annual PPAI Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.). This was my first time participating in L.E.A.D. and I couldn’t hardly wait to get to Washington and be the voice of our industry. I’ve always liked being involved in the industry and previously served as chair of the PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference. However, I never had much interest in politics before, so I was really excited to see how we would get our voices heard in Washington.
Go Team Texas! From left: D’Anna Zimmer (Bag Makers), Peter Hirsch (Hirsch Gift), Me.
During our two days there, we held a total of 260 meetings with senators, congressional representatives and legislative staff to discuss legislation, issues and opportunities affecting the promotional products industry. I was on Team Texas with Peter Hirsch of Hirsch Gift and D’Anna Zimmer of Bag Makers. The three of us had a total of 21 meetings with representatives from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico.
Much of our conversations with these representatives were focused on important national and local issues. We urged politicians to leave the advertising deduction unchanged and delivered independent contractor language that amends the tax code to add promotional consultants to the category of direct sellers. We also wanted to educate them on the promotional products industry and make them aware that it is a $20 billion industry made up almost entirely of small businesses. So any legislation in regards to small businesses can have a huge effect on our industry.
Promotional products in action! It was raining that day and this promotional umbrella from PPAI was perfect.
Our goal during these meetings was to build rapport and create a relationship with these decision makers so they will take us into consideration when deciding on bills that affect the promotional products industry. We also needed to establish points of contact in our state offices so when issues affecting the industry do arise, we have someone with whom we can discuss these issues. I was surprised by how easy everyone was to talk to and they were interested in what we had to say. They must get dozens of meeting requests every day, so I really appreciated them taking the time to meet with us and really listen to our stances on certain issues.
Me with Texas Representative, Gene Green
One-third of L.E.A.D. attendees were participating for their first time, just as I was. It was great getting to know everyone and learning about what provoked them to get involved. I think this shows that an increasing number of professionals within the promotional products industry want to be more involved and are committed to getting the industry’s voice heard in Washington.
L.E.A.D. 2015 was an incredible experience through which I believe I grew both personally and professionally. I had never been much involved in politics before, so this was really an eye-opening experience for me. Not only am I more aware of the process and how specific legislation affects our industry, but now I am much more interested in politics. I cannot wait to participate in L.E.A.D. again next year and I will definitely be following politics more closely now.
See you next year, D.C.!