Former House Speaker Tip O'Neill (D-Mass.) once said: "All politics are local." He was right, and his sentiment still holds truemembers of Congress want to know what issues are important to their constituents.
But for Congress to act, it is critical you make your voice heard. Lawmakers need to understand how their decisions affect your business. During meetings and events in Washington, D.C., members of Congress often share stories about what they hear from their constituents. Why not have one story be yours? Participating in grassroots efforts is one way to make this happen.
Make the effort
There are numerous ways you can participate in grassroots activities, and some only take a few minutes of your time. First, you'll want to visit NRCA's government advocacy Web page (www.nrca.net/GovernmentAdvocacy) for updates about key legislative and regulatory issues that affect your business. In addition, be sure to register for NRCA's E-News, which provides updates straight to your inbox.
It's also important to establish personal relationships with your representative and senators. As a business owner, you carry considerable influence in your community. You can start by attending a town hall meeting in your area where lawmakers hold an open forum to discuss what is going on in Congress. Introduce yourself, and share your thoughts about what lawmakers should do to help resolve issues important to you.
You also can set up a meeting at a lawmaker's local office. Members of Congress schedule office hours in their states or districts regularly so they can meet with business owners, local officials and other constituents. Many congressional offices even have a dedicated business outreach staff person you can meet with any time. Meetings with staff can be just as beneficial as meeting directly with a member of Congress; staff often are more familiar with specific details of issues than the members themselves.
Another way to build a personal relationship with a member of Congress is to invite him or her to tour your business and/or job site and meet your employees. Educating lawmakers about how your business operates can pay huge dividends when key issues of importance to the roofing industry come before Congress.
Although as a business owner you have a stake in every election, so do your employees. Their jobs could depend on actions coming out of Washington. Take the time to educate your employees about the issues that are important to your business. Explain to them why it's important to stay engaged and learn about the issues and candidates before they cast their ballots.
Making your voice heard through the media also can be particularly effective because members of Congress pay special attention to local publications. NRCA staff can help you prepare an op-ed article or letter to the editor of your hometown newspaper regarding a key issue of importance to your business.
Social media is another great way to influence lawmakers. Follow your elected officials on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms; it's one of the fastest and easiest ways to make your voice heard.
A strong partnership
NRCA has a strong presence in our nation's capital, and together we can effectively communicate a message in support of policies that enable entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and create jobs.
Although it's important to be engaged on the policy front, it's also imperative to help elect pro-business candidates to Congress. That's where ROOFPAC, NRCA's political action committee (PAC), plays an important role. By raising personal funds from NRCA members, ROOFPAC provides financial support to candidates who support policies consistent with NRCA's pro-business government agenda.
During the 2011-12 cycle, ROOFPAC raised and disbursed nearly $300,000 to members of Congress and other candidates, making it the third largest specialty contractor PAC in Washington. A financially strong ROOFPAC is critical to amplifying NRCA's voice in the nation's capital, and all NRCA members should support ROOFPAC.
With active member involvement at the local level, NRCA can be an even stronger voice for the roofing industry. NRCA's Washington staff always is available to help members become more engaged in the political process for the benefit of the roofing industry.
Andrew Felz is NRCA's manager of federal affairs.