Trending Content

Region Two members press industry concerns on Capitol Hill

By Brock Huffstutler

May 16, 2023

L-R: Larry Ott, Travis Shafer and John D. Makrias heading into a meeting with a Pennsylvania congressman's staff

L-R: Larry Ott, Travis Shafer and John D. Makrias heading into a meeting with a Pennsylvania congressman’s staff

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 Two took part:

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

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.

L-R: Tim Allen, Rep. Tom Kean and Brian Richardson

L-R: Tim Allen, Rep. Tom Kean and Brian Richardson

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.

Eda has attended Caucus several times and knows the impact it can have.

“It’s always great to get members of ARA back together again, and this gives us an opportunity to represent ourselves up on Capitol Hill so our voices can be heard,” he says. “I felt the staffers we spoke with were very receptive to the issues that we presented to them. They gave their part of it — whether it was either for our issues or something that might be on the representative’s agenda — but they were very welcoming.”

“This was a new and exciting experience the whole way around,” says Shafer, a first-time Caucus attendee. “I wanted to be part of this to preserve what the rental industry is now and find ways to improve it in the future.”

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.

“I spoke mostly with staffers. I don’t think I got to speak with any representatives this year, but I did get to shake a few hands,” says Makrias. “Overall, it was very productive and very successful as far as getting our points across to them. Democrats and Republicans were all pretty much in favor of our issues — in the offices I talked to anyway. Everybody seemed to listen and understand what we were saying.”

Brian Richardson, left, and Mike Fitzwater, right, with other ARA members at Caucus including ARA president Steve Mau, center

Brian Richardson, left, and Mike Fitzwater, right, with other ARA members at Caucus including ARA president Steve Mau, center

Fitzwater says he had a similar experience. “In most of my meetings the staffers took extensive notes and really were concentrated on the issues that we were talking about,” he says. “H-2B visas were our big push and they really took a lot of information down. We were throwing figures at them very fast, and they were writing them down as fast as possible, so I think it was very successful, all in all.”

Richardson not only met with representatives from his home state of New Jersey, but he also played wingman to Caucus attendees from other states in their visits to bolster the advocacy of ARA’s focus issues.

“I met with the congressman from Georgia — Rep. Buddy Carter — who was very welcoming. Josh Nickell [ARA vice president, equipment segment] and I talked to him. He was great, very enthusiastic. He supported our issues, especially catalytic converter thefts and the H-2B program, though they don’t use H-2Bs as much in Georgia as they do in the Mid-Atlantic states. All in all, everybody, even the chiefs of staff that we met with from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, were very enthusiastic. They welcomed us and were happy to see us,” Richardson says.