NAMA Government Relations Blitz Draws 200+ Vending Professionals To Capitol Hill

by Tim Sanford and Emily Jed
Posted On: 7/28/2015

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TAGS: vending industry, National Automatic Merchandising Association, NAMA Fly-In, Eric Dell, Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, coin composition, Fit Pick vending machines, Crane Co., Mondelez, Canteen Vending, Sean Spicer, Republican National Committee, Mo Elleithee, Democratic National Committee, Howard Chapman, Peter A. Tullio

vending, NAMA, Eric Dell
ADVOCACY: Eric Dell, National Automatic Merchandising Association senior vice-president of government affairs, conducts orientation on communicating with elected officials at the start of first annual NAMA Fly-In in Washington. More than 200 industry members from around the country took part the late July political blitz.

WASHINGTON -- More than 200 industry members converged on the nation's capital for the National Automatic Merchandising Association's first formal "Fly-In" legislative relations program -- and almost half of the event's registrants represented operating companies. Called "NAMA Takes the Hill," the fly-in is the latest initiative in NAMA's ongoing campaign to make legislators and regulators at all levels of government more aware of the essential role played by the workplace refreshment service industry in the U.S. economy.

According to NAMA senior vice-president of government affairs Eric Dell, the turnout for the late July event exceeded the expectations of the program's organizers.

"This first-ever fly-in was a tremendous success by any metric," Dell said. "We are blown away by the support this event received from our members, sponsors and legislators. The impact and value of the relationships we've enhanced with lawmakers is critically important as we expand NAMA's footprint in Washington.

"The fly-in demonstrated advocacy in action, without question," Dell reported. He emphasized that the strong turnout "will help move the needle on the industry's most significant issues."

Participants representing 35 states and the District of Columbia engaged in more than 180 meetings with elected officials and their staffs from the Senate and the House of Representatives. Discussions focused on three major issues: calorie disclosure in the context of health and wellness, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act and coin composition. Some of the largest state delegations included California, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

More than 400 people attended a NAMA-hosted reception at the U.S. House Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill, which showcased today's high-tech vending machines. These included Crane Co.'s Fit Pick-themed merchandiser, two Mondelēz diji-touch video display-front venders and Canteen's Enr.G machine stocked with a selection of the industry's "better for you" products, especially those complying with NAMA Fit Pick standards, along with traditional vending favorites.

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), Chairman of the House Small Business Committee; Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY); Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS); Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA); Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) were among the legislators, Congressional staffers and Fly-In participants at the event. Their presence underscored the industry's commitment to nutrition and choice.

The event began with a Tuesday-afternoon (July 21) briefing conducted by Dell, NAMA director Randy Smith, LightSpeed Automation (Alpharetta, GA) and NAMA regional legislative director Sheree Edwards.

The briefing was followed by an advocacy education session and dinner. Carla Balakgie, president of NAMA, welcomed participants, noting that the large contingent from the West Coast had overcome travel delays. Howard Chapman, 2015 NAMA chairman, emphasized the importance of member involvement in association efforts to strengthen public understanding of the industry and its role in the U.S. economy.

The Race Is On

Government relations committee chairman Jeffery R. Smith, All Star Services (Port Huron, MI), NAMA's 2015 secretary-treasurer, introduced Beltway insiders Sean Spicer, chief strategist and communications director of the Republican National Committee, and Mo Elleithee, a former Democratic National Committee communications director who now serves as director of Georgetown University's new Institute of Politics and Public Service. The two campaign veterans engaged in a lively exchange on the likely trajectory of the 2016 presidential campaign titled "Power Plays: The Race is On."

Spicer pointed out that the winning party will be the one that more effectively communicates its message to voters who are not reliably in its camp. Elleithee said that the key to understanding the electorate in 2016 is to recognize that the Republicans have become identified as being "for the rich" and the Democrats as being "for the poor." What today's (and 2016's) voter wants to know is, "Who's for me?" The candidate who best communicates the right answer to that question will be the next president, he predicted.

After a brief explanation of the NAMA Political Action Committee by Jeff Smith, NAMA immediate past-chairman Peter A. Tullio, Gourmet Coffee Service and World Wide Vending (Van Nuys, CA), introduced distinguished guest speakers Reps. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) and Mick Mulvaney (R-SC). Both are former small businessmen.

Rep. Cárdenas urged the audience to understand the importance of safe, efficient, up-to-date public infrastructure to the continued success of American business and industry. Mulvaney hailed the ability of American business to implement necessary improvements through voluntary cooperative action.

Following an early breakfast on Wednesday morning (July 22), fly-in participants boarded buses for the Capitol and then split up into teams, each made up of industry members from one state. These teams then visited the offices of the senators and representatives from those states, to educate them and their staffs on issues of particular concern to the vending industry.

The elected officials were urged to support workable front-of-package caloric-content labeling to inform consumers' snack choices, to oppose attempts to change the metallic composition of U.S. coinage without regard for the tremendous downstream costs that ill-considered reformulation would have on vending and other industries that must validate and process large volumes of coin; and to continue to support the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act. This measure will require that any proposed new regulation affecting small businesses be analyzed on a cost/benefit basis, taking into account both direct and indirect costs. The House version of this bill, H.R. 527, has passed; the Senate version, S.426, was introduced earlier this year and is awaiting action.

The industry delegations also had the opportunity to inform their elected officials about industry initiatives at the state level. A New York team, for example, described the New York State Automatic Vending Association's Taste NY program, which is sourcing locally produced foods for sale through branded vending machines in highway rest stops, railway stations, colleges and universities, among many other locations. It's supported by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was greeted warmly by the legislative staffs.

Dell reported that NAMA is confident that the success of this year's Capitol Hill visits has gotten the program off to a very strong start. "We can't wait for next year," he said.

NAMA, vending
VOX POPULI: Citizen-voters from the vending, micromarket, foodservice and office refreshments industry gather at start of the National Automatic Merchandising Association's first annual "Fly-In" legislative advocacy gather in front of capitol building, which is undergoing renovation. The assembly divided into delegations from 35 states and the District of Columbia who then visited the offices of their senators and representatives to explain importance of compatible coin composition, practical caloric labeling and mandatory cost-benefit review of proposed small-business regulations before they're implemented.

NAMA, vending
SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME: Offering perspectives and exchanging views during "Power Play" presentation at NAMA Fly-In dinner are Sean Spicer, chief strategist and communications director of the Republican National Committee, and Mo Elleithee, former Democratic National Committee communications director who now is director of the Institute of Politics and Public Service at Georgetown University. The political professionals discussed the importance of getting beyond "on-message" preaching to the choir in order to win support from voters who are not committed to either party.

NAMA, vending
EMPIRE STATE: NAMA Fly-In New York delegates tell the vending story at the House Office Building. Reviewing NAMA's Fit Pick program, from left, are John Platt, Burdette Beckmann (Pelham); Joshua Wells, American Food & Vending (Syracuse); Brian Gill, New York State Automatic Vending Association; Mark McCoy Snyder, legislative assistant to New York Rep. Peter King, R-NY (with Fit Pick water bottle); John Murn, RSA Buying Group (Bellerose, NY); Emily J. Jed, Vending Times; and William M. Murray, president of the National Coffee Association (New York City).

NAMA, vending
THINK GLOBALLY, VEND LOCALLY: Discussing the New York State Automatic Vending Association's Taste NY local-products initiative in the office of Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), clockwise from right, are Brian Gill, NYSAVA; Joshua Wells, American Food & Vending (Syracuse); John Murn, RSA Buying Group (Bellerose, NY); Emily J. Jed, Vending Times (Rockville Centre); Colleen Ramsey Nguyen, Rep. Rice's legislative director; John Platt, Burdette Beckmann (Pelham); and National Coffee Association president William M. Murray.

NAMA, vending
IN PLAIN SIGHT: Gathering in office of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) to explain value of practical front-of-package calorie content labeling to vending patrons and operators from right) Brian Gill, New York State Automatic Vending Association; William M. Murray, president of the National Coffee Association; Joshua Wells, American Food & Vending (Syracuse); Melissa Connolly, Rep. Nadler's legislative assistant; John Platt, Burdette Beckmann (Pelham); John Murn, RSA Buying Group (Bellerose, NY); and Emily J. Jed, Vending Times.