by Evan Johnson, NSSGA Communications Coordinator
Congress is working hard to pass a number of key infrastructure bills this summer that will provide innumerous benefits to the aggregates industry. To keep the pressure on our elected officials and build relationships with these lawmakers, NSSGA recommends that member operations host as many of their congressional representatives as they can. Last year, CRH, LafargeHolcim and Bond Construction Corp. hosted their representatives all throughout August, answering questions and guiding tours.
CRH launched their 30-in-20 Tour, hosting 32 elected officials in only 20 days. Ryan Lindsey, executive director of government relations at CRH’s Americas Materials Division, made sure that no two tours were the same, saying, “We worked with local company leaders to play to their operation’s strengths or focus on specific industry issues. For most, time was spent in and around the facility explaining how our business and industry works. For others, the focus was on engagement such as a Q&A, roundtable or meet and greet with employees. In fact, at one tour a barbecue was even held with over 250 employees in attendance!”
“I reached out directly to the district and D.C. offices of my representatives and senators. It’s easier than you might think,” Hicks Winters, director of government and public affairs at LafargeHolcim, said when asked about the first steps to organizing a quarry tour.
Karen Hubacz-Kiley, chief operating officer of Bond Construction Corp., told NSSGA that the state, local and congressional offices she contacted about her quarry tour gave very positive responses and came to the tour. “It was quite easy and fun. Just give yourself plenty of time ahead to schedule,” she said.
Not only do quarry tours offer your representatives media exposure and quality time with their constituents, but NSSGA members also gain the opportunity to discuss important issues one-on-one with their representatives. Winters and Hubacz-Kiley suggested that any operation willing to plan their own tours should take a moment to highlight the history of your operation, introduce your staff and give a description of your involvement in the community and any key safety and environmental programs you’ve initiated. Most importantly, they encouraged operations not be afraid of discussing any regulatory or legislative concerns elected officials can address.
All three companies maintain good relationships with their representatives. “Our local state representatives I see on a regular basis and they are always accessible if there is an area of concern that we have. I did see Congressman McGovern at NSSGA’s Legislative and Policy Forum in D.C. last September. He always wants to know of any issues we have and would certainly be of assistance,” said Hubacz-Kiley.
Winters cautioned not to be a “one hit wonder,” stating, “True relationships require work, which means more than a phone call or email for a plant tour once every couple of years. Become a part of the members’ trusted circle and be prepared to offer solutions from the perspective of your business and our building materials industry.”
Quarry tours offer NSSGA members the opportunity to engage Congress and other elected officials on a wide array of subjects. Developing deep-seeded relationships works both ways. Your representatives can address national issues from the point of view of their constituents and they may turn to you for advice and guidance when issues arise.
“Hands down, the biggest benefit is building a strong relationship before you need it,” said Lindsey. “That way when an issue arises, the representative and his or her staff will likely be much more receptive to input because they know exactly who you are.”
“We have a lot of work left to do if we are to see a robust spending bill passed but we love our momentum and where we are headed,” said Lindsey. With election campaign season fast approaching, get on your representative’s radar now, and consider making visits an annual event for your lawmakers