Stand Up and be Heard

March 1, 2011

My first real involvement with policymakers in Washington, D.C., began in 2002 when the government placed a 30-percent tax on the steel we bought at Pridgeon & Clay. We and other U.S. manufacturers were paying the highest steel prices in the world, while our competitors in other countries could ship the same parts made from globally competitive steel into our U.S. markets. That same year, labor unions spent $28 million on lobbyists in Washington. In 2010, that figure ballooned to $47 million spent on more than 400 lobbyists, and another $73 million contributed to congressional candidates. It was a real wakeup call to me—our industry of small- to midsized manufacturing companies did not have a voice where we needed it most, in our nation’s capital.

Because of that 2002 wakeup call, the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) began to fight back. We hired lobbyists, organized fly-ins to Washington, testified before Congress and government agencies, and met with our Senators and Representatives to make our voice heard, and in 2003, President Bush revoked the 30-perent tax on steel.

This experience taught us a lesson: Government is the single largest factor affecting our manufacturing businesses, and we can change its policies if we apply our resources. Today, thanks to PMA’s continued efforts in Washington, our industry has a seat at the table and a chance to make a difference. Our team is often contacted by legislators to learn what small manufacturers need to be successful.

Last year, we helped stop a climate-change bill that would have increased our costs; prevented tax increases by passing an extension of the current income rates; and extended a number of manufacturing tax credits, including those for R&D, equipment expensing and bonus depreciation. We also spurred our industry’s recovery by improving credit access for small businesses. And, last fall we worked with Congress to pass a law that helps community banks lend to companies like ours, a program which the Treasury Department is launching this month. In 2011, we’re off to a fast start in Washington. The Senate already has passed a bill to repeal the 1099 reporting rule included in healthcare reform, which would require businesses to file tax forms (beginning in 2012) for every vendor that sells them more than $600 in goods, property or services.

Metalworking companies have a chance to build on these numerous victories, but countless challenges remain. We must all work together and with our trade associations to ensure that our voice remains heard. Whether through contributions of time or money, I have learned that we can only change Washington if we have a seat at the table, and we need more of our friends to join us there. Very recently, the unions spent $400 million to pass just one bill—The Employee Free Choice Act, better known as the Card Check bill. We fought back and won, but only because we came together with one voice.

As PMA’s 2011 Chairman, I have placed a strong emphasis on advocacy. The joint PMA/National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) annual legislative conference occurs April 5-6 in Washington, D.C. PMA and NTMA member companies will meet with legislators and continue to spread our message. This is one of the most important association events a business leader can attend—please help our cause by joining us there. If we don’t stand up for ourselves, who will?

Technologies: Management


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