Almost 80 PPAI leaders and other industry professionals are heading to Washington D.C. today for PPAI’s Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.). During the annual event, which starts Wednesday and runs through Thursday afternoon, teams will conduct more than 300 meetings with senators, representatives and their legislative staffs on Capitol Hill to discuss pending legislation and issues relevant to the promotional products industry—most importantly, perhaps, is the 15 percent increase in tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports announced last Friday.

Elevating legislators’ understanding of global value chains and the industry’s involvement in them is sure to be top of mind for all participants. Other discussion topics include preserving the deductibility of advertising expenditures, preserving independent contractor designations and Section 530 of the Revenue Act and other ways legislators can support the promotional products industry to ensure it remains vibrant and dynamic.

Ten of this year’s L.E.A.D. participants are there for the first time. Among them is Kelli Denes with supplier Raining Rose, Inc. “I’m so excited to participate in LEAD this year because it’s an opportunity to reflect on our industry and the impact we make outside of our day-to-day work,” she says. “It also allows me to share the big impact of our industry with the leaders of our country.” Denes is hoping to establish relationships with her local legislators so that she can continue to share how the promotional products industry makes a difference and how their decisions impact the industry. “I am also really looking forward having the chance to be a part of our political process and sharing my personal experience with others,” she says.

Another first-timer, Chris Babiash, MAS, with distributor M.A. Apparel, Inc., says that after 20 years in the industry, completing his MAS and volunteering with his regional, Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals (UMAPP), he decided it was time not only to give back to the industry but to challenge himself to learn more. He admits that when he first got involved in L.E.A.D. through UMAPP, he was not 100 percent sure what it was. “The amount of information and content that is available from an advocacy perspective is truly overwhelming,” he says. “I have spent the past couple weeks organizing my schedule, reading content and learning more about the importance of Capitol Hill in what we sell every day.” His goal at this year’s event is to learn. “I love to build my database of knowledge regarding the industry, but I also like to meet and learn from others,” he says.

Kathy V. DiFrancesco, with supplier SnugZ USA, is another first-timer who is eager to be part of the process. “I feel strongly about being an active advocate in life overall,” she says. “My personal impetus is a strong desire to communicate, connect and educate for the sake of thousands of my peers who work in and benefit from our industry, including me and my family.” Over the next two days, she’s hoping to connect with legislators to “exchange in dialogue that helps our government officials understand the significant impact the promotional products industry has on our economy, supply chain and thousands of professionals.”

Her SnugZ colleague, Steve Rone, who is also new to L.E.A.D., says he wants to connect with his Tennessee lawmakers to help them see the strong and vital industry the group represents. “We need them as advocates, especially when voting for bills concerning tax reform, small business, global free trade and tariffs. We are a unique industry that is made up of thousands of small businesses and we need to make sure that our leaders understand the impact of their decisions.” He adds, “It is extremely important that we lend our voice with others across the country to make sure federal and state lawmakers know about and understand exactly what our industry is and what it represents. We need allies in congress who will support small business and all of the employees that depend on a strong promotional products industry.”

In addition to the feet on the street this week in Washington, thousands of industry professionals will support their colleagues’ work by writing letters, emails and social media posts as part of the PPAI L.E.A.D. Virtual Fly-in. Each day, a different message will be provided to share with elected officials. Click here to participate in the Virtual Fly-in.