Tired of feeling as if your voice isn’t being heard? Want to get out ahead of issues for a change? Get in front of folks who can actually make a difference?
No better place to start than the American Boating Conference, which will be held in Washington, D.C., May 8-9.
Advocacy is everyone’s responsibility, whether it takes place at the grassroots level or in D.C. Make your voice heard. Bang a gong. Just because a particular issue isn’t your problem today doesn’t mean it won’t be knocking on your door tomorrow. That’s sort of the way the world works. What goes around comes around.
“I view our industry as an ecosystem,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich says. “Something that adversely affects one part or one segment of our industry will eventually adversely affect the entire industry.”
For that reason, it’s important that we stand together and tell the story of an important U.S. industry built primarily of small businesses, the job creators. And it’s a particularly effective story if each of us tells it in our own voice, in our own unique way, to the legislators and their aides.
“You wouldn’t let someone else, especially a competitor, manage your distribution, your production, your marketing,” Dammrich says. “So why would you depend on someone else to be sure your voice is heard by Congress and other policy-makers in Washington?”
We need to put our collective shoulder behind some of the key issues that will be discussed at ABC, including ethanol, dredging, threats to our fisheries, the myriad challenges facing small businesses and more.
For those who may be particularly skeptical (with good reason) about whether anyone will actually listen, NMMA legislative director Jim Currie says face-to-face meetings with constituents from home districts are very effective. Money may be the mother’s milk of politics, but so is having a good ear to the ground regarding what’s on voters’ minds.
“That’s their survival mechanism,” says Currie, a Capitol Hill veteran. “If they satisfy the people back home, they stand a much better chance of getting re-elected. … The ones who are smart are fearful of being out of touch.”
And the so-called “Hill visits” that take place during ABC go a long way in helping to reinforce the NMMA’s ongoing lobbying efforts.
“In the end, it’s what the voters in the districts think and tell their members,” Currie says. “There’s nothing like looking across the table at a staffer and saying, ‘This is what’s important to me.’ The members who are most successful really want to talk to folks and hear what’s on their mind.”
This year there are a record 29 industry co-hosts (including Soundings Trade Only). By joining forces, Dammrich says, the industry will be able to reach more legislators and be even more effective in discussing issues and concerns.
If you don’t feel you’ve got enough background to discuss an issue, the NMMA does an excellent job of preparing white papers and talking points. Remember, it’s not rocket science. Nothing is more effective than straight talk from someone running a business back home.
IBEX show director Anne Dunbar attended ABC for the first time last year and said it was an “incredible” experience.
“NMMA does a great job organizing this event,” Dunbar says. “All you have to do is register and show up, and they will make sure your voice is heard on Capitol Hill. They handle everything from debriefing you on the policies and regulations that need to be discussed with lawmakers to arranging the meetings up on the Hill.”
When you attend ABC, Dunbar says, “You see the big picture of what’s affecting the industry and boaters. It’s a powerful experience.”
Your presence will make a difference. And I promise you’ll leave with more knowledge.
“Your voice,” Dammrich says, “is our most valuable asset.”