NIADA members left an opportunity to meet with a variety of federal lawmakers and their staffs with a sense of accomplishment in relaying what it’s like to be an independent dealerships nowadays.
The National Independent Automobile Dealers Association's National Policy Conference and Day on Capitol Hill wrapped up last week, providing an illustration of — and a reason for — NIADA’s growing footprint in Washington D.C.
NIADA's annual Washington event brought independent dealers to the nation's capital from across the country to meet with federal legislators and regulators and make the voice of the independent dealer and small business heard among America's policymakers.
This year's event drew 202 attendees, the most ever for what was formerly known as the National Leadership Conference.
“This is what makes a difference to our industry and our members,” NIADA president David Andrews said.
“We need to tell these people who we are, what we do and what we do for the communities we operate in,” Andrews continued. “We’re telling them what’s going on in our world — the real world. We’re trying to protect our businesses, our industry, our members and our future.
“And you can see what a big difference it makes. Now they know about NIADA and what we do, and they care about us and about what we have to say,” Andrews went on to say along with elaborating even more during a recent episode of the AuSM Podcast that’s available here.
As always, the conference concluded with the climactic Day on the Hill when 14 teams of NIADA dealers and industry partners took to Capitol Hill and met with more than 110 members of the Senate and House of Representatives or their legislative staff.
Association leadership insisted that number clearly shows how NIADA's political reach continues to expand. It’s 20 more than last year, and it means dealers had direct interaction with more than a fifth of the combined membership of the House and Senate in a single day.
“Our presence has really expanded in Washington D.C., and as a result, Congress is taking notice of the importance of our industry's positions,” NIADA chief executive officer Steve Jordan said. “This is exactly how we drew it up five years ago when we decided to restart this event and bring our member dealers to Washington.”
Among the teams were 10 representing NIADA's affiliated state associations. Teams from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, Ohio, the Mid-Atlantic region (MARIADA), Colorado, Illinois and Virginia visited all or most of their representatives and senators.
NIADA’s teams spoke to legislators about a number of issues currently pending in Congress, advocating in support of tax reform as well as major reforms to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to make it more responsive, transparent and accountable.
They also spoke in favor of repealing the CFPB's arbitration rule — a measure that has already passed the House and is awaiting a vote in the Senate — and against a blanket ban on sales of recalled vehicles by independent dealers.
“It’s absolutely crucial for us to be here,” said Stephanie Isakson of Parker Auto Sales in Knoxville, Tenn. “There were a lot of issues we talked about that had the legislators and staffers genuinely surprised by what we told them, about the things that happen day to day that they don't live.”
During the Day on the Hill's Power Luncheon in the Senate Rules and Administration Committee meeting room, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told attendees he’d been asked why businesspeople need to come to Washington.
“I’ll tell you why you need to come,” Shelby said. “You need to come up here and see what’s going on. Somebody's going to influence the tax policy. You’d hope to be part of that. Somebody’s going to influence the regulatory policy that affects everything you do.
“That's why you're here and why you should be here. ... When we vote on things, it affects you, one way or the other — good or bad. When people push regulations and you say, 'Gosh, who did this? How could they do that? Why would they do that? It makes no sense.' All of it affects you,” Shelby went on to say.
The 2017 National Policy Conference also included the presentation of the inaugural NIADA Legislator of the Year award to Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) at a Tuesday night reception.
That same evening, the PAC Cup was awarded to the Southeast Region for contributing the most to the NIADA-PAC fund from among the association's four regions. In all, the competition raised more than $100,000 for the PAC fund.
In addition to legislators, representatives of several federal regulatory agencies — and, for the first time, the White House — spoke to attendees Tuesday, providing updates and answering specific compliance questions from dealers.
The speakers included Damion English of the CFPB, Tom Pahl of the Federal Trade Commission, and a contingent from the Small Business Administration, as well as D.J. Gribbin of the National Economic Council and deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn, representing the White House.
And, as always, the event brought together NIADA's top national leaders as well as those of NIADA's affiliated state associations to conduct association business, develop their leadership skills and get the latest updates on NIADA legislative, education and business initiatives.
“The value of being here is just immeasurable, really,” said Jack Carter of Turn and Burn Motors in Conyers, Ga. “You can’t expect members of Congress to know our business. They’re not car dealers. So we have to continue to try to educate them and develop those relationships. We just have to keep at it.”
BHPH Senior Editor Nick Zulovich was on site at the conference. See his podcast from the event below