Nearly 80 PPAI leaders, industry professionals and staff are in the nation’s capital this week to meet with legislators on key industry issues focused on protecting the promotional products industry and preserving the interests of small businesses.

Over the course of two days, they will hold more than 300 meetings with members of Congress and their staff members as part of PPAI’s ninth annual Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.). The program gets under way in Washington D.C. on Wednesday morning at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill with an education session and lunch for all participants before they head to Capitol Hill for their first appointments. Among the key industry topics being discussed this year are the value of promotional products, independent contractors, advertising expenditures and the global value chain.

“I am always in awe of the number of volunteers who take time out of their busy lives and come together on The Hill to educate Washington about the promotional products industry,” says PPAI Chair-Elect Brittany David, CAS, vice president of sales at Salt Lake City-based supplier SnugZ USA. “I am hoping that our voices will be remembered when decisions are made about small businesses, independent contractors, advertising spend/deductions and our global supply chain. It is important that our industry is brought into the light and that the power of our $23.3 billion [in annual sales] and 500,000 jobs speak loudly to those who represent us in D.C.”

Returning participant Mary Dobsch, president of supplier The Chest in Washington, Missouri, believes L.E.A.D. truly helps elevate the industry and its issues. “Our visits make us real people with real concerns,” she says. “When we provide information professionally and with true stories, it becomes something they cannot push to the side of their desks. It is important that we remind our Congress about the concerns and issues that the 24,500 Missouri constituents that they represent are facing in today’s business environment. They can only represent us well if they are aware of the issues we are dealing with. I truly enjoy making these contacts and building a relationship with the individuals who represent us.”

Second-year participant Kenny Ved, vice president of sales at San Diego-based supplier Goldstar, says, “Visiting with our legislators allows us to continually educate them on the value and impact our industry has on the U.S. economy. This year, I want to strengthen our relationships with the representatives and staff members I met with last year, and reinforce our legislative issues.”

Tom Johnson, president of distributor TJ Studio in Conyers, Georgia, is also a second-year participant who is looking forward to building on the relationships he forged with his representatives last year. He says, “I hope to make a difference for everyone in the promotional products industry by telling our story and bringing critical issues to the attention of our elected officials. I hope to continue these conversations throughout the year as they return to their districts. This is our livelihood and we play an important role in our local business communities and add value to small and large businesses alike.”

Among the 17 first-time attendees is Meghan Kory, territory manager for Tampa-based supplier Hit Promotional Products, who is looking forward to speaking with her members of Congress about the industry. “I think it is important to advocate for what we are passionate about,” she says.

Another first-timer, Jim Gordon, CAS, president of Phoenix, Arizona-based Northstar Identity, is president elect of the Arizona Promotional Products Association and says he’s seen the importance of being involved in all aspects of the industry, including L.E.A.D. “We have a number of supplier factories in Arizona, not to mention all of the distributors, so it is important that we are in D.C. to meet with our legislators and their staffs. My goal is not only making sure the legislators understand the importance of the global supply chain in our industry, but also to let them know that Arizona has a very strong promotional products industry,” he says.

Thursday’s PPB Newslink will feature an update on L.E.A.D. activities. Industry members who are interested in adding their voices to the issues being addressed can join the virtual fly-in each day this week. Industry members are receiving emails from PPAI each day asking them to call or email their members of Congress in support of the same issues L.E.A.D. will address during its face-to-face meetings. Each day’s e-mail will focus on a different subject discussed in D.C.—independent contractors, the global value chain, advertising deductibility and promotional products’ effectiveness. By sending emails and making phone calls, the industry can add its voice to the conversations other members are delivering in person in Washington, D.C.