Jeff Lignugaris, right, speaks with a congressional staffer
Nearly 60 members of the American Rental Association (ARA) 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.
The following members from ARA’s Region Three took part:
- Jeff Crotto, CERP, All About Events – Jacksonville, Jacksonville, Fla., ARA president-elect*
- Carol Fontanez, ECP-SM, Jamco, Inc., Sanford, Fla., ARA of Florida president
- Robert Krueger, Rentalex Div. of Sonco Corp., Tampa, Fla., member of the ARA of Florida board of directors
- Jane Hutton, Arena, Orlando*
- Jeff Lignugaris, Northside Tool Rental, Atlanta**
- John Scott, First Source Rentals, Burlington, N.C., ARA Region Three director
- Andy Cooke, Cooke Rentals, Cornelius, N.C.*
- Daniel Hooks, CERP, Party Reflections, Charlotte, N.C.*
- Ed Noonan, United Rentals, Charlotte, N.C.**
- Bryan Bolt, CERP, TopTec Event Tents, Moore, S.C.*
- Mike Holland, CERP, Chattanooga Tent & Event Solutions, Chattanooga, Tenn., ARA of Tennessee treasurer
*member of ARA’s Event Rental Advocacy Group
**member of ARA’s Equipment Rental Advocacy Group
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
L-R: Floridians Jane Hutton, Carol Fontanez and Robert Krueger link up at a Caucus reception
Click here for specifics on the four issues ARA members pushed for at this year’s Caucus.
The event kicked off that Tuesday afternoon with an opening session featuring Jim Ellis, senior political analyst with BIPAC (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 welcome reception, where Caucus attendees could meet one another and network with other equipment and event rental professionals from around the country.
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.
Krueger admits that as a first-time Caucus attendee, he was a little nervous heading into his first meeting with congressional staffers, but after that, “everything went smooth and I relaxed. I had a great time. Then, going into the second meeting, it was just unbelievable. It was a great experience. We were able to educate the staffers on some of the issues they weren’t aware of, and they were very appreciative.”
Jeff Crotto, left, and fellow ARA members prepare to enter another congressional office
Bolt also came away with a positive experience, meeting with staffers from a variety of states for maximum impact on this year’s issues. “It was great. I had three appointments: one with a rep from Kentucky, one from South Carolina and another from Georgia. We met with staffers all day, but they were totally engaged and open to everything that we talked about,” he 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 staff. 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.
Clockwise from left: John Scott, Dan Hooks and Andy Cooke meet with a congressional staffer in a House of Representatives office building coffee shop
Like Bolt, Holland also visited with lawmakers’ representatives from several states. “On the first day I got to see three people from Tennessee and then one from Florida and one from Louisiana — but obviously Tennessee leaned a little bit more to my heart; we have offices in two of those districts. They all seemed to be receptive to what we were talking about — nobody said, ‘I don’t want to hear it.’ I’m hoping that we made a dent. There’s a lot of effort that is put into putting [Caucus] together and I hope that it is as productive as it could be,” he says.
Hutton says that while she did receive a little pushback on one of the issues from an office she visited, “it was a really great conversation and I actually learned something from the comments they made. The rest of the people that we saw were great; they were all very, very involved.”
Cooke’s takeaway that was he was pleasantly surprised by the support he saw on both sides of the aisle for Caucus’s focus issues. “I thought the staffers were very receptive — more so than I anticipated from office to office looking for bipartisan support on our topics. They really were on board with the PART [Preventing Auto Recycling Theft] act, so it was encouraging,” he says.
Hooks agrees, offering particular praise for the caliber of congressional staffers the team visited with for most of the visits during Caucus — the ones who are instrumental in delivering the rental industry’s concerns to lawmakers’ ears. “I would almost put [the staffers] up there with the congressmen, to be honest with you, because they were well-versed on what we were talking about,” Hooks says.