Advocacy at NAFEM: At work for members

December 18, 2018

NAFEM members saw many regulatory changes and challenges in 2018. From California announcing plans to implement the vacated EPA SNAP regulations on January 1, 2019 and introducing new Proposition 65 warning label requirements, to the U.S. imposing tariffs on steel, aluminum and Chinese imports, advocacy issues have been at the forefront of members’ businesses this year.

To understand how NAFEM is supporting members’ advocacy needs, and the important role members play in achieving these goals, Advocacy Update recently spoke with NAFEM President Joe Carlson, CFSP, president, Lakeside Manufacturing, Milwaukee, Wisc.

Editor: Why has advocacy – or government relations – been so mission-critical to the industry this year?

Joe Carlson: Each of the previous four presidential administrations has added burden that impacts our members to the point where everything is under siege. We expected this administration to focus on increasing good-paying U.S. manufacturing jobs. Instead, we’ve seen a great deal of chaos caused by the rapid pace and unexpected nature of tariffs and other changes. Fortunately, NAFEM is providing regular information and insight, and serving as a united voice with the administration. Advocacy has always been a NAFEM priority, but not always on the front burner. Now it’s a boiling, front-burner topic.

Editor: How has the regulatory and legislative environment changed over the years?

JC: Over the past several years, our advocacy efforts have become much more broad based. We’re now dealing with multiple government agencies and a tremendous amount of activity from the State of California – all at the same time. The situations we are facing are touching all aspects of the industry and every member, from smallwares to heavy equipment, and domestic as well as international sales.

Editor: How have NAFEM’s advocacy efforts evolved to keep pace?

JC: We’ve always participated, but our voice was not as large. Today we have a seat at the national table and we’re truly making a difference. Consider the following:

  • When Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson wanted to understand the impact of the steel and aluminum tariffs on Wisconsin companies, two of the 13 business leaders invited to a roundtable he hosted were NAFEM members Dave Rolston, CFSP, president/CEO of Hatco and Steve Heun, CFO, Volrath.
  • Chris Scott, president and Diane Scott, executive vice president of Howard/McCray spoke at Trade Builds America Day at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. in September to help Congressional staffers and influencers inside the beltway understand the challenges trade tariffs are imposing on small business owners across the country.
  • In July and August, NAFEM submitted comments and testified before the S. Trade Representative requesting exclusions for numerous items on the lists of Section 301 tariffs on Chinese imports. NAFEM was successful in securing the removal of 40 percent of member companies’ components and finished goods from List 1. As a result, these items are not subject to the current 25 percent tariff and represent a significant cost savings to our members.

Editor: What role do members play in NAFEM’s advocacy work?

JC: The efforts I just described were successful because members raised their hands and offered to help. Whenever something happens in the NAFEM family, everyone pulls their weight. Now more than ever, this is exactly what we need. Our advocacy goals can’t be achieved by NAFEM alone. We need members’ ideas and input, and we certainly need to know how member companies are impacted by pending regulations, legislation and tariffs. Without these concrete examples, we can’t advocate for the industry.

Editor’s note: NAFEM has created easy-to-use toolkits of talking points and email messages, as well as information on how to reach senators and representatives. The Section 301 Chinese imports tariffs toolkit is here and the Section 232 steel/aluminum tariffs toolkit is  here.

Editor: How should members maximize NAFEM’s advocacy work within their companies?

JC: The issues we are discussing are having a significant impact on my company and most NAFEM members. I recommend every member designate a senior person on their team to monitor these issues and update management regularly. Ideally, this person should be a member of the leadership team or have direct access to the leadership team. These issues call for strategic – not tactical – thinking. I also suggest looking beyond the sales and marketing team for this advocacy leader, as they should not be distracted from their immediate priorities.

Editor: How do you see NAFEM’s advocacy efforts taking shape for 2019?

JC: In 2019, we’re focused on broadening our network to ensure that NAFEM is engaging with the right people in the right way at the right time to influence the best possible outcome for our members.

Categorized in: Member Tools