More than 80 PPAI volunteers and staff arrive in Washington, D.C., today to take part in more than 250 meetings with members of Congress and their staffs about the effectiveness of promotional products and the strength of the industry in the U.S. This is the eighth year for PPAI’s Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.), one of the Association’s most powerful and influential efforts to educate legislators about the $21 billion promotional products industry. The meetings begin on Wednesday and run through late Thursday.

Among the key issues up for discussion is the border adjustment tax (BAT), a proposal PPAI and a coalition of more than 400 like-minded business leaders, corporations and business oppose because it will increase the price of imported goods, including promotional products. Other discussion topics that don’t include current legislation are the Safe Harbor Rule relating to independent contractors and business deductions for advertising expenditures. Meeting agendas will also focus on key stats about the promotional products industry with a request for members of Congress to keep the interests of the industry in mind when considering legislation that could hamper its success.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to tell our story about the power of promotional products and our industry’s impact on the economy and employment,” says PPAI Board Chair Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS, CEO of Michigan-based CE Competitive Edge, Inc. “With $21 billion in annual revenues and more than 34,000 companies employing more than half a million Americans, we’ve got a very powerful story.” In addition to meeting with a number of her senators and representatives this week, Tomasini also has the honor of presenting PPAI’s Legislator of the Year award to Sen. Gary C. Peters (D-MI) during a breakfast on Thursday morning. He will be the sixth recipient of the award.

“Prior to the LEAD event just a few short years ago, promotional products were not on the radar of most politicians as an important industry. Today, most offices know our industry well when we arrive for meetings,” says PPAI Chair Elect Dale Denham, MAS+, executive vice president at Geiger, who will join Team Florida for 11 appointments on Wednesday and Thursday. “My hope is that we continue to reinforce the work already done to keep our industry in the forefront of the minds of our lawmakers to support the health of our industry.” He says he’s particularly looking forward to discussing the border adjustment tax and reminding them of the many jobs the industry creates for decorating, shipping, selling and servicing based on imported products.

“There’s a lot happening in Washington that could have a huge impact on the promotional products industry, our businesses and our livelihood,” says Dana Floyd, director of information services at Texas-based SAGE, and a third-year participant at L.E.A.D. “Washington needs to hear about the tremendous value and positive impact this industry provides, and that what they do affects our families and our communities. This year’s event will heighten awareness of the importance of promotional products in D.C.” Floyd is part of the Texas delegation that will also represent Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arkansas with 25 confirmed meetings.

Longtime L.E.A.D. participant George Jackson, owner of West Virginia-based George Jackson Promotions, has meetings scheduled with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-WV), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) among several others. “What brings me back to L.E.A.D. year after year is my love of the political system and that even when things look grim, in the end, the system usually prevails for the betterment of the people,” says Jackson. “D.C. is a fascinating place to be involved in lobbying for the promotional products industry. The rest of the LEADers and I have developed friendships with members of Congress and their staffs over the years and are welcomed into our meetings. Also, to see such young, bright minds working in the offices, reinforces that the country is indeed in good hands for the future.”

About a third of this year’s participants are first-timers; among them is David Tate, president of Signet, Inc. in Memphis, Tennessee. He has set the following personal goals for his five meetings with Tennessee legislators: “To implant awareness of our industry and its extent in Tennessee, to get a reading on which way they think the votes will go on the troublesome pending border adjustment tax proposal, and to probe how our industry may be made an exception if the tax passes.”

Another first-timer, Dawn Olds, senior vice president of operations at HALO Business Solutions in Illinois, has set as her personal goal to effectively communicate to her Illinois representatives how essential the industry is for the local, state and national economy. “Since we employ over 250 of their constituents and are making a major investment in the regional economy with our new building, I have a story to tell that should resonate directly with them,” she says. “We need their support on some key legislation that will have deep effects on our industry.”

Members unable to be on Capitol Hill this week can also let their voices be heard by sharing their thoughts through the L.E.A.D. Virtual Fly-In. Each day will have a specific message to share with elected officials that will support L.E.A.D.’s efforts in D.C. The daily messages will target a variety of issues, including promotional products effectiveness, independent contractors and the border adjustment tax.

Watch for more coverage of L.E.A.D. in Thursday’s PPB Newslink and check out photos and updates as they happen on PPAI’s Facebook page.