Inside PPAI - July 2016

Loud And Clear

The Industry’s Voice Is Heard Loud And Clear On Capitol Hill

PPAI took the industry’s message to Capitol Hill on May 25 and 26 as part of the seventh annual Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.). More than 80 member volunteers and staff held nearly 250 visits over two days with legislators and their aides from 30 states to discuss the industry’s interests. In addition to the hundreds of personal visits, members from across the country participated in the virtual fly-in, sending nearly 1,000 emails to their legislators to voice their concerns about legislation that affects their businesses and the industry overall.

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The seventh annual L.E.A.D. drew more than 80 participants from across the promotional products industry.

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Anne Stone, PPAI director of public affairs; Perry Werhle, PAW Marketing, Inc.; Dale Denham, MAS+, Geiger; Brian Porter, Pro Towels; Scott Hareid, Hareid Marketing and Mitch Rhodus, HALO Branded Solutions.

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Mark Shinn, Incentives West; Dan Reading, In The Bag Promotions, Inc.; and PPAI Chair Tom Goos, MAS, Image Source (right), visit with Jim Risch (R-IA), second from right.

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L.E.A.D. drew participants from 30 states. Its Texas delegation included (from left) Peter Hirsch, MAS; D’Anna Zimmer; Matt Storlien; Dana Floyd; Leslie Roark, CAS, and Sean Roark, CPIM.

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Bob Levitt, right, Bob Levitt Company, and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA)

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Ryan Small, Blue Dog Merch (left), Joe Walkup, Innovative Business Products, LLC (right) and Rep. Jim Collins (D-TN)

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Andrew Spellman (left), Victorniox Swiss Army and Nicholas D’Eramo (right), Triple Stitch with Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT)

“L.E.A.D. is a powerful way to take our industry’s message to Washington, D.C., and again this year our group more than 80 strong made a compelling and memorable impression on legislators,” says PPAI Chair Tom Goos, MAS, president of Image Source, Inc., who met with a number of his legislators. “Our voices are definitely being heard. I’m very proud of what our members have accomplished on behalf of the industry. I came away inspired by the passion our industry colleagues convey for the promotional products industry.”

L.E.A.D. 2016 brought together both experienced and first-time “L.E.A.D.ers.” Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS, CEO of distributor CE Competitive Edge, LLC in Stevensville, Michigan, chair of PPAI’s Government Relations Advisory Committee and chair-elect of the PPAI Board, joined her colleagues on Capitol Hill this year for the second time. “I participate in L.E.A.D. because I know I am making a difference,” she says. “I am able to meet face-to-face with legislators to share the importance of our industry and why ‘Promotional Products Work!’ I am able to represent our profession and bring awareness of the overall size and impact our industry has in not only my individual state but the U.S. economy as a whole.”

First-timer Daniel Roso, vice president of sales and marketing for Travelchair, was thrilled with the opportunity to talk with his legislators. “The coolest part of this experience is it’s really empowering to get to speak on behalf of our entire industry—to get that trust and that weight behind what you are saying, it’s quite an honor,” he says. “If you are considering doing something like this or have some skepticism about how our government works, this is really empowering. Just to get that experience and see that there is something you can do about it motivates you to believe in the government, try to drive change and get behind something that matters.”

As part of L.E.A.D., the Association recognized Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) as its 2016 Legislators of the Year. The PPAI Legislator of the Year Award recognizes members of Congress who have shown a commitment to small-business interests and success, a willingness to meet with industry professionals and who have given their support to issues critical to the promotional products industry. Past recipients of the PPAI Legislator of the Year award are Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), 2012; Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN), 2013; Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), 2014; and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), 2015.

Conversations during L.E.A.D. focused on important national and state issues, including the Department of Labor’s overtime rule; the Safe Harbor Rule of the Revenue Act of 1978 regarding independent contractors; deductibility for business advertising expenditures and legislation to modify the tax code to support incentives for wellness programs, among other issues.

“The meetings I was involved in were right on task,” says Brad Ness, president of Fargo, North Dakota’s S & S Promotional Group. “We had some good conversations about independent contractors and the overtime rules, and they remembered us from last year as well as some of the things I told them in those visits. One of the aides I visited with thanked me for the hand sanitizer I gave her last year—she remembered it. The word is getting out about our industry.”

While visiting the office of Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, HALO Branded Solutions’ Regional Vice President, Mid-Atlantic, Eric Ekstrand, MAS+, and Vice President of Sales Dale Limes, MAS, pulled out a one-piece baby sleeper with “THIS SIDE UP” printed on the front and explained how the garment helped decrease infant mortality rates in Columbus, Ohio.

“The staffer’s eyes got big when we told her this case story,” says Ekstrand. “She told us that Rep. Ryan was going to be in a committee meeting to request continued funding to prevent infant mortality. She saw the garment and said, ‘That’s so perfect! I’m going to use this visual to get our point across.’”

Devin Martin, key account manager for Advance Corporation, was part of the Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals delegation. “This was such an enriching event,” she says. “I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to attend. It was awesome to see the people of our industry come together for a common cause. I encourage everyone in this industry to ensure their future success by getting involved on the local, state or national level to make sure that we have a continued presence and influence on the issues that directly affect this great industry. Every voice counts and together, we can make a real impact.”

PPAI Updates Mission And Strategic Plan

A few days ahead of L.E.A.D., the PPAI Board of Directors, PPAI executives and staff directors convened in Washington, D.C. to discuss and update PPAI’s Strategic Plan. The session, which was the culmination of several months of preparation, was led by Seth Kahan, a Washington-based executive strategy consultant.

Over the two-day discussion, Association leaders worked together to determine and discuss current and potential disrupters, and think strategically about how PPAI needs to prepare to meet the future and best serve its members and the industry. The result is a new PPAI mission statement, and a fresh set of goals supported by a number of strategies. PPAI’s current strategic plan was developed in 2012; the Association’s practice is to update its plan every three years.

Among the new goals is one that focuses specifically on strategic foresight. “With the velocity of change coming at our members, the industry and our Association, the board made a strategic commitment to this goal to help us stay on top of emerging trends, constantly scan our environment, monitor opportunities, and help our members prepare for and stay ahead of dramatic changes,” says PPAI Chair Tom Goos, MAS.

Goos says he’s thrilled with the meeting’s process and its ultimate outcome. “We set out on a journey,” he says of the four months of meeting preparation and the two days of intense discussion, “and emerged with an exceptionally strong three-year vision and strategic direction for PPAI.”

The mission and strategic plan will be fine-tuned over the next several months and presented to the PPAI membership in fall 2016.

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The PPAI Board of Directors, executives and staff directors, and executive strategy consultant Seth Kahan, met in Washington, D.C., ahead of L.E.A.D. to discuss and update the Association’s strategic plan.

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PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, opens the strategic planning session.

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The process to develop PPAI’s Strategic Plan included a number of small-group exercises involving board and staff members.


Spring Forward

PPAI Board Spring Meeting Focuses On Key Programs And Projects

The PPAI Board of Directors held its spring meeting in Washington, D.C. in late May following a two-day strategic planning meeting and in advance of the PPAI Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.). PPAI Board Chair Tom Goos, MAS, presided.

Following are highlights from the meeting:

Board Chair Tom Goos, MAS, examined key outcomes of the recent strategic planning meeting. He reviewed the mission and vision statements as well as the goals identified by the board and challenged them to identify additional strategies to support each of the four goals: drive meaningful member value and engagement, advocate for the industry, develop and leverage strategic foresight and manage an efficient and progressive organization.

AJ Hunter, director of finance, announced that the Association’s audit firm, BDO, completed its annual audit of PPAI’s 2015 financials and, as expected, identified no major changes or issues. PPAI received an unqualified audit opinion. The board unanimously voted to accept the 2015 audit report, management letter and financial statements as presented by BDO and approved BDO to audit PPAI’s 2016 financials.

Anne Stone, director of public affairs, reviewed the progress of PPAI’s public affairs program including government relations outreach, the process for identifying, addressing and escalating issues, and (in broad terms) what success looks like. She also shared the PPAI legislative agenda and various issues on the table for discussion during L.E.A.D.

Carol Gauger, MAS, director of member engagement and regional relations, reported activity related to member engagement and diversity efforts including delivery of educational content to the regional community, networking with other organizations in the DFW area, establishing a job board, internship and scholarship models, and publishing blogs and articles on the topic.

Rachel Robichaud, director of professional development, reviewed progress on PPAI live events, reporting that all programs are on-target with registration goals and that the Women’s Leadership Conference is sold out. She also provided an update on a new young leaders conference planned for the fall.

Keith Vincent, director of marketing, reported on progress to update two PPAI websites: and is currently in development with a soft launch expected this summer. is in early discussion with completion tentatively set for December.

The board was also updated on the 2016 board election period that will open August 29 and close September 19. The period has been shortened by one week and will allow new directors to attend an orientation held during PPAI’s Leadership Development Week in October.

Getting To Work

PPW!W Brings Industry Together To Celebrate, Promote The Power Of Promotional Products



Artistic Toy President Jim Socci, CAS (right) and guests at his company’s open house, (from left) PPAI Diversity and Engagement Manager Seth Barnett and U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent.

The industry stepped up for the fourth annual Promotional Products Work! Week (PPW!W) held May 23-27. Companies and associations across the industry joined PPAI’s five-day international event aimed at raising awareness of promotional products’ role in advertising and marketing. Retooled and rebranded this year, PPW!W delivers the message that promotional products work to advertisers, marketers and media buyers.

The week-long event brings together the entire industry—large and small companies, regional associations, distributors and suppliers, business services providers and multi-line representatives—in support of demonstrating the power, value and effectiveness of promotional products to those who are making and influencing buying decisions. Industry companies and organizations across the country are finding creative, innovative ways to participate in PPW!W through a variety of programs and events. The industry’s regional associations also turned out in support of PPW!W, holding events and reaching out to their communities throughout the week.

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Michael Antonovich, county supervisor for the LA County’s Fifth District, with HALO’s Stephen Ropfogel, MAS, reads the proclamation declaring May 22-27 the 2016 Promotional Products Work! Week.

Every year, industry professionals find new and unique ways to get the message of PPW!W out to their communities. On May 24, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared May 22-27 the 2016 Promotional Products Work! Week. Michael Antonovich, county supervisor for the Fifth District, presented HALO’s Stephen Ropfogel, MAS, with the proclamation.

“The Promotional Products Association International was founded in 1903. And since then, many small, family owned and operated businesses have contributed to Los Angeles County through workforce, volunteerism, revenue and community partnership,” Antonovich says. “Small businesses form the backbone of our local economy, generating jobs and improving the quality of life for Los Angeles County.”

Ropfogel adds, “Promotional products work because they are the only form of advertising where the recipient thanks you for giving them your ad, and after you leave it, it remains to be seen to remind your client of your brand.”

Events and tours organized by industry companies and associations in conjunction with PPW!W included:

• Supplier Artistic Toy hosted an open house at its Allentown, Pennsylvania, facility. The event drew more than 80 people, including high school students, college professors, promotional product suppliers and distributors, and end buyers, and featured booths from 16 industry suppliers. Artistic Toy also welcomed a visit from U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent. As part of its education component, the open house featured a presentation from Artistic Toy President Jim Socci, CAS, on face-to-face networking, and PPAI Diversity Development and Engagement Manager Seth Barnett spoke on attracting and engaging the Millennial workforce.


Artistic Toy’s open house included booths from 16 exhibiting suppliers.

• The Promotional Professionals Association of Chicago (PPAChicago) scheduled a number of events throughout PPW!W. Association members toured the facilities of suppliers Dard and Sharp Print, and Shockwaves Apparel’s factory. PPAI hosted an education seminar with PPAI Product Responsibility Manager Tim Brown, MAS, on establishing a corporate responsibility program. PPAChicago closed out its PPW!W activities with a member appreciation lunch and charity drive.

• The Specialty Advertising Association of California (SAAC) partnered with to hold a PPW!W fun run/walk and happy hour in Calabasas, California. Sponsored by Logomark, PrintGear and Pro Towels, the event’s $25 entrance donation benefited the Foundation for SAAC, SAAC’s 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit, and the Independent Living Resource Center.

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The Specialty Advertising Association of California (SAAC) partnered with to hold a PPW!W fun run/walk event.

• The Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals (UMAPP) partnered with Advance Corporation for a factory tour, giving UMAPP members an up-close look at its facilities and operations.

• HALO Branded Solutions in Sterling, Illinois, reached out to 12 businesses in its community to share its “Random Acts of Promo” message. The distributor assembled and delivered goody bags with 10 promotional items, along with a card highlighting the value of promotional products in the marketing mix. It also encouraged recipients to share the gifts and the message through social media.

• The Virginia Promotional Products Association’s (VAPPA) celebration of PPW!W included an “Eat. Learn. VAPPA.” event with multi-line rep Mark Chipchase.

• The Specialty Advertising Association of Greater New York (SAAGNY) scheduled a number of factory tours for its members during PPW!W. SAAGNY members visited Vantage Apparel’s factory in Avenel, New Jersey, and also toured Tekweld’s Hauppauge, New York, facility.


The Specialty Advertising Association of Greater New York (SAAGNY) scheduled factory tours for its members during PPW!W, including Tekweld’s facility in Hauppauge, New York.

• The Caribbean Advertising Specialties Association (CASA) hosted a lunch-and-learn event in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The afternoon event focused on how businesses can differentiate themselves from their competition.

• The Georgia Association of Promotional Products Professionals (GAPPP) brought in Daniel Webb of the Webb Company and Jon Jackson of Gemline for a lunch-and-learn in Sand Springs, Georgia.

• The Promotional Products Association of Florida (PPAF) brought its members together for a lunch-and-learn in Winter Park.

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Advance Corporation National Sales Manager Rena Ashfeld, CAS (center) shows her guests from UMAPP around the supplier’s facility during the factory tour.

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