4/20/2009 | 3 MINUTE READ

Speak Up

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As an industry, it is important that we speak up and be heard.



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Washington D.C. is a beautiful place, teaming with abundant and diverse architecture. You could spend days there hardly thinking about what is going on in the actual government buildings. For most of us, this is a good thing; my brain has a hard time envisioning a trillion dollars. Those words are mostly reserved for jokes in movies.

Despite my hesitations, each of the past 2 years, I have made the trek to Washington to advocate for manufacturing. This year I had the privilege of joining the Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA) to "lobby" on behalf of our industry and the many job shops it represents.

Many people feel that Washington is only a news story and that one person has very little influence. For people like us—those involved in manufacturing—we quickly realize that most of our politicians do not have any idea why manufacturing is important. It is disconcerting that many lack even a basic understanding of economics and what economic wealth creation (manufacturing) is. My dad used to say, "If you have a complaint, go to the source."

This is why you need to participate. Sitting idly by and hoping is not going to change anything. Unless you get in front of your elected leaders to talk about how the decisions they make affect you, they will not change. Politicians rarely do what is right for the sake of being right—they do what is necessary to keep their jobs.

To that aim, we set out to change some minds, and the PMPA had 2 full days planned for that very reason. We started out with a meeting about the issues we were going to discuss with our elected officials:

• Employee Free Choice Act (card check)

• Undervalued foreign currency

• Tax relief to U.S. manufacturers

• Rising health care costs for small businesses

• Increasing resources for job training, recruitment and retention

After our meeting, we had a "meet and greet" reception with two house members, Paul Ryan from Wisconsin and Mark Kirk from Illinois. Both gave impromptu remarks about manufacturing and the current political environment in Washington. They were the kind of remarks you would want to hear if you are involved with manufacturing. Unfortunately Mr. Ryan and Mr. Kirk are not in the majority party.

The next day, the PMPA had us break into four groups to get our message to more elected officials. My group consisted of PMPA Executive Director Mike Duffin, John Hoskins with Curtis Screw and David Thuro with Thuro Metal Products. We had 11 appointments across the capital—by any standard a very full day. If you are going to travel with Mike Duffin, wear a good pair of shoes—this will serve as your exercise for the week.

At our level, lobbying is essentially a sales call without the close. We found it important to speak their language. Instead of talking about legislation directly, we talked about their constituents and the ramifications of their votes. For example, most Democrats are for card check and will openly state that. Labor unions have been contributing in large quantities to their campaigns for years. If we went in asking them to oppose something they have publicly supported, they would have closed down and our opportunity would have been wasted. Instead, we directed the conversation to the effects that added costs will have on businesses and job creation. They need businesses like yours because you employ their constituents. When you mention that adding cost means less money available for jobs, they will listen.

The PMPA lobbying day left me impressed with the association and the members who took the time to be there. Our industry was well represented by Mike Duffin, John Hoskins and David Thuro. John and David did a great job by giving real life examples that the representatives had no choice but to listen to. No matter the issue, politicians could not dismiss the firsthand experience and passion John and David spoke with.

The bottom line: This was time and money well spent. As an industry, it is important that we speak up and be heard. I hope next year we double the participation. I know I will be back.