Fran Ford (second from left) and Bob McLean (right) with Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) (second from right) and Joseph Boddicker, tax counsel and legislative assistant.

This past week was one of establishing and strengthening vital connections all across the industry and beyond as PPAI hosted more than 80 volunteer leaders and staff in Washington, D.C., for the eighth annual Legislative Education And Action Day (L.E.A.D.) and celebrated the positive power of promotional products with the annual Promotional Products Work! Week.

“I’m very proud of the work of our volunteer L.E.A.D.ers during our eighth annual L.E.A.D.,” says PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE. “PPAI members descended on D.C. to hold nearly 260 meetings over the course of a day and half. They carried the message that promotional products work directly to members of Congress and showed examples of life-saving campaigns aimed at reducing infant mortality rates. They urged Congress to protect the advertising deductions currently afforded to advertising expenditures, and members of Congress responded en masse with a ‘dear colleague letter’ opposing any changes to those deductions. And most importantly, they urged members of Congress to oppose a proposed border adjustment tax that would levy a 20-percent tax on all imported products including promotional products—and Congress responded by indicating that the border adjustment tax is unlikely to remain on the table for near term tax reform.”

Bellantone refers to a letter from 110 members of Congress penned on April 27 to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi opposing any measure that would tax advertising. The letter asked that any changes to the country’s tax system be meaningful, economically sound and not threaten the impact of advertising on jobs and the economy.

Carrie Laufenburg, MAS, finishes a visit at Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) offices.


Excitement was high among L.E.A.D. participants—and so was satisfaction. “Wow! What an amazing experience!” says Carrie Laufenburg, MAS, director of key accounts at The Magnet Group. “I feel so honored to have been a part of 2017 L.E.A.D.” She says she was especially impressed with the staff members in Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. Ron Paul’s offices. “They were the only office that seemed to have a full grasp on the negative impacts (of the border adjustment tax) to the consumer. I then showed them the infographic PPAI provided on the cost of a promotional backpack before and after the proposed tax. They were amazed at how much it would affect items in our industry and appreciated the research our group has put into this proposed bill.”

Dana Geiger, executive director at the Virginia Promotional Products Association, made visits with Team Virginia and Team Maryland/Delaware. “Once again, the team at PPAI armed us for success for the two days on the Hill. Team Virginia met with personnel from seven member of Congress offices and Team Maryland/Delaware met with eight. Year after year I am reminded of the importance of continuing these conversations with our legislators and increasing awareness about the value of promotional advertising.”

Jeff Marks, Harold Wood, Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Craig Dickens discuss the issues.


When Fran Ford, president of Castelli, and Bob McLean, executive vice president at PPAI, met with Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, they not only had a highly productive meeting but discovered a shared love of promotional products. “He wants to do a welcome video for Expo 2018 and attend as well!” says Ford.

Many L.E.A.D. volunteers came away with the sense that they made a difference on the important issues. “What an honor to represent our industry,” says Craig Dickens, vice president/sales manager for Suntex Industries. “Jeff Marks, Harold Wood and I had some very good meetings—our meeting with Rep. Morgan Griffith from Virginia turned out to be the best. We spent a good amount of time with his legislative director, Bobby Hamill and also with Rep. Griffith. They were very interested in learning our position on the BAT tax. We explained the big difference between the retail industry importing items for resale, and our industry which does import a lot of our products, but we add value to these imports. They said they had never thought about imports in this fashion, with added value and jobs. I think what impressed me the most was that they asked us to stay in touch about our industry and issues. I received an email from Bobby Hamill within 10 minutes of our meeting as a follow up. Without PPAI promoting our industry, they would have never had this information.”

Pennsylvania team members with Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA), center. From left are Larry Whitney, Bruce Korn, Sharon Willochell, Charles Machion and George Jackson.


Team Texas, which included Dana Floyd, director of information services at SAGE; Nancy Jolly, vice president of sales at In Stepp Marketing; Steven Meyer, vice president of sales at Riteline and D’Anna Zimmer, CAS, regional manager at Bag Makers, Inc., had 25 meetings scheduled. “It seems as though we made some inroads. Each year we are able to dig a little deeper into the offices we call upon,” says Zimmer, adding that Congressman Pete Sessions included mention of their visit and a photo in his weekly e-newsletter. “They are ordinary folks with big responsibilities,” she says. “What an honor it is to represent this industry in a manner that is different from the jobs we perform each day.”

While meetings took place on Capitol Hill, Promotional Products Work! Week was being celebrated across the industry with activities that included engaging buyers through open houses and factory tours; student, business and community group presentations; community outreach, volunteer support and donations to local nonprofits; legislative outreach and customer appreciation.

Taking in the spectacular view from the Speaker’s Balcony (located off the Speaker of the House’s office suite) are George Jackson, Sharon Willochell, Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS; Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) , Mitch Rhodus, Brittany David, CAS, and Charlie Stevens, MAS.


The week’s theme was “Get In Touch!® during Promotional Products Work! Week,” tying in with the Association’s recently launched industry branding campaign, Get In Touch! To celebrate PPW! Week the Association also debuted a new Get In Touch! broadcast ad for use in digital, social, live event and broadcast media. The campaign is targeted to reach ad agency media buyers and in-house marketers and advertisers at small and large businesses. The imagery is based on the promotional product’s unique ability to get in touch with targeted audiences like no other advertising medium by putting brands in the hands of consumers in the spaces and places they live, work and play every day.

PPAI L.E.A.D., Promotional Products Work! Week and the Get In Touch! branding campaign are integral parts of PPAI’s strategic plan of grassroots outreach to create a highly active and connected community of promotional products industry leaders, as well as a create deeper understanding of promotional products as an advertising medium among buyers while demonstrating the benefits of working with highly skilled promotional products professionals.

“I am grateful to our members for their dedication, enthusiasm and commitment to our industry,” adds Bellantone. “I look forward to continued conversations with both PPAI members and members of Congress on these important issues.” See the full list of L.E.A.D. volunteers here.

E-mail photo: Sharon Willochell, CAS, president of supplier Trimark PPAI board member (left) and multi-line rep Michele Jennrich, MAS, outside the U.S. Capitol during PPAI L.E.A.D. 2017.