By Mimi Rainero Coles | Chairman, National Precast Concrete Association
Things are beginning to calm down from the highly contentious 2012 elections. Campaign ads no longer monopolize radio and television, candidate signs are disappearing from yards and billboards, our interests have turned to football, hockey and the upcoming holidays! The media and political pundits will quickly turn their attention to the successful candidates and speculation will abound over what they’ll do and how quickly they can accomplish what was promised during their campaigns. It will take a few months for the new Congress to really take shape and begin working (together, hopefully) on the many important issues that are of immediate concern to our country.
In his keynote luncheon address at our 47th Annual Convention, political strategist Charlie Cook gave us some insight into the 2012 elections. He commented on polling results, the debate process and his perspective on the presidential and senate races in close states. He encouraged owners and plant managers to take the opportunity to be advocates for ourselves and our industry, and reach out to representatives – new or incumbent – and invite them to visit our production facilities. He encouraged us to educate and advocate for the precast concrete products industry!
As business owners and managers, we’re sizing up what impact the elections will have on the current and future operation of our businesses. For some of us, there will be new faces representing our local, state and national interests and possible changes to existing laws and policies. Now is the perfect time to make contact with our representatives and build or strengthen relationships that may be important to our businesses down the road.
The newly elected are hiring staff, organizing headquarters and digging in to pressing issues. Incumbents will be thanking their constituents and getting back to the business at hand. Before they’re too tied up with the day-to-day legislative sessions, there’s an opportunity to contact them and invite them to your plant. Nearly every elected official wants to be seen as a friend of manufacturing, and there are very few industries as locally based as precast concrete producers. We make our products locally, put them in the ground and erect them locally while employing a home-grown workforce.
If you can get your representative to commit to a visit, you’ve just crossed a major hurdle. Once they’re in the door, show them around the plant. Tell them about your employees. Introduce them to your management team. Educate them about your role in building local infrastructure and how precast concrete plays a vital role in the construction industry. Share stories about special community projects, contributions or services to stress your local ties. Talk about your use of resources in the community and the economic impact your plant has on the community.
Not used to reaching out? Here are a few tips on how to do it.
• Call your elected official and find out if there is a staff person who oversees infrastructure or construction issues and get to know that person. Now is the time when you can make valuable contacts among new staff who are just getting to know their territories. If your elected official is an incumbent, the recent election is a great excuse to call with congratulations and an invitation to visit your plant.
• Write and introduce yourself, making the point that you are an employer and taxpayer in their jurisdiction, and you would be interested in meeting with them and showing them your plant.
• Meet with them in their offices or attend a town hall meeting if you cannot set up a plant visit. Be persistent. Have two or three key points to make, and be very concise and positive.
• After you have had an initial contact with your elected official or staff person, make sure to follow up with a handwritten thank you.
Whatever you do, do something! If you educate your elected leaders and advocate for your business and promote precast concrete as a dynamic, efficient, modern construction material, you can’t lose. The gains you make may not be immediate, but you’ll be staking your claim as an important voice in your community and in our industry. Whether your representative is an incumbent or new to the office, now is an excellent time to reach out to “educate and advocate” for the precast concrete products industry. After all, we’re the ones that know it best!
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