National The Independent Perspective

The 112th Congress Takes Office

Peter LarkinNow is the time to build relationships and educate new members.

A number of important and encouraging pieces of legislation passed at the end of 2011 that will have positive implications for independent retailers and wholesalers: the favorable extension of the estate tax at a top rate of 35 percent with a $5 million exemption, an ­extension of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts for all income brackets and food safety legislation.

Additionally, the Paycheck Fairness Act was defeated along with the Employee Free Choice Act, which failed to gain enough traction for a vote. As we look to the 112th Congress, there will be several very important issues facing the industry, such as continued tax reform, fixes to the healthcare bill, efforts to protect the gains won to reform interchange fees, and new work to reign in an activist NLRB. Your continued grassroots efforts and relationships with elected officials will be an integral part of the industry’s success in Washington.

The members of the 112th Congress have taken the oath of office including 16 Senators and 93 Representatives, many of whom have never before held elected office. The coming weeks and months will be a critical time to build relationships and educate new (and old) members of Congress on the food retail industry—in particular the independent retail and wholesale grocery sector. Now that I’ve told you how important it is to build relationships and educate new members of Congress, here are a few recommendations on how to do it:

Invite Elected Officials on a Store/Facility Tour

An elected official likes nothing more than an opportunity to meet a diverse group of their ­constituents while supporting a local business. Invite your Senator or Representative on a tour of your store or distribution facility followed by an informal discussion or roundtable on the key issues impacting your operations. What better place to discuss food safety than standing in front of your produce case or the impact of estate taxes while sitting around a table with three or four ­generations of owners? An hour-long meet-and-greet can establish a positive relationship for years to come for your business and the grocery industry. Show them the social and economic impact your company has on the local community and economy. N.G.A. stands ready to help you set up and facilitate these meetings or events.

Grocers Care: Keep Elected Officials Informed

N.G.A. has long promoted the positive impact independent retailers and wholesalers have on the local community through our Grocers Care program, and we urge you to take advantage of the program to promote your company. Opening a new store that will create new jobs in the community or partnering with a veterans group to honor our troops? If so, make sure your Senators and Representatives know! Send out a press release or a short note to their office with mention of the activity or event. Make sure your Senators and Representatives hear from you on the positive impact your company has and invite them to participate in these special events. The more often elected officials hear about the positive impact your company has on the community, the better the chances are that they will look for your input and advice on key pieces of legislation or regulation.

Grassroots: Make your Voice Heard!

Too often people sit by and do nothing as legislation that will have an impact on their lives or business moves through the legislative process. Grassroots is the singular most effective resource that N.G.A. and the food retail industry have to affect legislative outcomes. The recent tax extenders bill that passed in late December included an estate tax ­measure that N.G.A. and other organizations have strongly supported for a number of years. Because of the constant grassroots messages sent by you and your fellow grocers, Congress passed this important measure for family-owned businesses over the objections of opponents. Every ­message, every phone call, every personal letter counts; when you receive an Action Alert, please take action immediately and urge your managers and fellow grocers to do the same. It’s up to you to do your part and help make a difference for your business and our industry!

Come to Washington

Each year hundreds of grocers and state association executives come to Washington for the N.G.A., FMI, FIAE Day in Washington. This year the industry will come to Washington March 30-31 for the 2011 Day in Washington. Participants will receive briefings on key industry issues followed by meetings on Capitol Hill with their Senators and Representatives. Your presence in Washington, especially this year with the new Congress, is important to helping advance our ­industry’s key legislative issues. To register, go to www.nationalgrocers.org and click events or contact N.G.A. directly.

As former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill used to say, “All politics is local.” Remember that your company, regardless of the size, has a positive impact on consumers, employees, the local community and economy. We need to all work together to make sure our elected officials never forget this. Now is a good time to start.

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