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Region Seven members press industry concerns on Capitol Hill

By Brock Huffstutler and Connie Lannan

Left to right: Andrew Heesacker, Barb Wyatt and Mary Crosslin in front of the U.S. Capitol

Left to right: Andrew Heesacker, Barb Wyatt and Mary Crosslin in front of the U.S. Capitol

Nearly 60 members of the American Rental Association (ARA), including those from Region Seven, gathered in Washington, D.C., March 28-30, 2023, for ARA’s National Legislative Caucus. The event brings members of the equipment and event rental industry to Capitol Hill to meet with their elected officials to discuss the issues and concerns of the industry.

Thanks to a Capitol that has been reopened to the public, it was the first time ARA was able to host Caucus since 2019.

Caucus attendees had the opportunity to meet with members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives and their staff members. During these meetings, attendees talked about four key industry issues:

  • Workforce development
  • H-2B visas
  • Tax policy
  • Catalytic converter thefts

For more information about these issues, click here.

Caucus kicked off that Tuesday afternoon with an opening session featuring Jim Ellis, senior political analyst with BIPAC (the Business Industry Political Action Committee) — a nonpartisan organization that works to improve the political climate in America for the business community and help employers and employees play a more active role in public policy and the political process.

Ellis talked about trends seen in recent election cycles and how their outcomes portend what could occur in the 2024 presidential and congressional contests. “We’re definitely living in an interesting time in American political history,” he said.

The session was followed by a welcoming reception where Caucus attendees could meet one another and network with other equipment and event rental professionals from around the country.

Left to right: Andrew Heesacker, a staff member of Rep. Brittany Pettersen, Barb Wyatt and Mary Crosslin in front of Rep. Pettersen's office

Left to right: Andrew Heesacker, a staff member of U.S. Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-Colo.), Barb Wyatt and Mary Crosslin in front of Rep. Pettersen’s office

On Wednesday morning, everyone headed to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and staff members. Attendees shared facts, figures and personal stories about how workforce development, H-2B visas, taxes and catalytic converter thefts affect their lives, businesses and the industry.

This year, ARA collaborated with partners from Capitol Counsel and Bose Public Affairs Group to strategically set appointments with the staff of congressional members who serve on influential committees. For maximum impact, these meetings involved ARA members who are uniquely familiar with the issues or whose businesses reside in the committee members’ districts.

“We changed the format a lot this year. We wanted to try to be more impactful and do some things that were segment-specific, and I think that we accomplished those,” says John McClelland, Ph.D., ARA vice president for government affairs and chief economist. “The energy our members brought to Caucus this year was just phenomenal. It feels great to be back in the game.”

Barb Wyatt, managing director, Butler Rents, Glendale, Colo., who serves on ARA’s Event Rental Advocacy Group, has attended Caucus several times and knows the impact it can have.

“That personal touch is so important,” she says. “We can all send letters to our congresspeople, but for them to hear our issues and how they directly affect our businesses — that’s invaluable. And being here you don’t always get to meet your congresspeople, but you’re meeting young staffers who may soon become congresspeople and they’re going to get to know about our industry. Education and awareness are half the battle.”

All from Region Seven felt the visits went very well.

“It was amazing,” says Mary Crosslin, president, Alert Rental Software, Colorado Springs, Colo., who serves as associate member director on the ARA Board of Directors. “We had six meetings. We had a really cool experience. We got to meet Sen. Bennett (D-Colo.) in the hallway as we were going into a meeting with his staff. Every staff member that we met with had thoughtful, considerate, in-depth questions for us, which I appreciated because that means they were really listening and not just saying, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s great.’ It was a fascinating and exciting experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Left to right: Nebraska's Bart Brown; Barb Wyatt; Mary Crosslin; Zach Mendelovici, chief of staff for Rep. Ken Buck; and Andrew Heesacker

Left to right: Nebraska’s Bart Brown; Barb Wyatt; Mary Crosslin; Zach Mendelovici, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.); and Andrew Heesacker

Andrew Heesacker, ECP-SM, president/CEO, Arvada Rent-Alls, Arvada, Colo., who serves as ARA Region Seven director, agrees. “Meeting Sen. Bennett in the hallway was really cool. Then we met with his staff. We feel like we made a good impression,” he says.

With all the voting being conducted on the floor, Wyatt, Crosslin and Heesacker were not able to meet face-to-face with their legislators, but the staff members they spoke with “were very receptive to our concerns and understood the importance of small business. They were particularly receptive to the workforce development and H2B visa issues. I think there could be some movement on those issues,” Heesacker says.

After a day of meetings, everyone got back together for a reception during which a bottle of Angel’s Envy-brand bourbon with a commemorative engraving was raffled off to raise money for ARAPAC — ARA’s political action committee. $14,300 was raised through the raffle; the money will be used to support candidates running for federal office who support a pro-business environment — regardless of party affiliation.

It was back to Capitol Hill on Thursday morning for a final round of meetings with legislators and their staffers. Then Caucus wrapped up with a lunch at the Capitol Hill Club that featured guest speaker U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.).

Over the course of the 2023 Caucus, attendees logged approximately 170 appointments with lawmakers.

Heesacker emphasized the importance of this event for members and the entire industry. “As an industry, we are not as big as the health care industry, but we are very impactful to the GDP. I told all reps that we are like the people behind the curtain, whether it is events, or construction or roadway projects. Nobody thinks about the rental people, but we play a vital role in making those events and projects happen successfully. It is important for us to keep that to the top of their frame of mind,” he says, adding that the day was “very impactful and productive.”