PPAI members on Capitol Hill this week for the Legislation Education And Action Week (L.E.A.D.) are in their second day of nearly 300 meetings scheduled with senators, representatives and their legislative staffs representing all 50 states. The meetings wrap up this afternoon.

It was a busy time to be in Washington, but the nearly 80 participants were well prepared on the issues and optimistic for successful outcomes with their meetings. Now in its 10th year, L.E.A.D. provides an opportunity for industry leaders from across the U.S. to meet with their members of Congress and legislative staffs on the issues that matter most to the promotional products industry.

The program began with lunch on Wednesday, followed by an informative presentation by Paula Calimafde, Esq., of the Small Business Legislative Council and a partner at the law firm of Paley Rothman. After a refresher on tips for talking with members of congress and their staffs, Calimafde brought listeners up to date on several key pieces of legislation, including state sales tax, health care, social security legislation, estate tax and retirement plans.

After a busy afternoon on Capitol Hill, L.E.A.D. participants met in small groups for dinners around the city on Wednesday night to reconnect with their peers and discuss their meetings.

“As a first-time L.E.A.D.-er, I was impressed by the process of meeting and dialoging with the Michigan legislators,” says Sandra Kelley, chief operating officer of Prestige Promotions Powered by Proforma in Burton, Michigan. “Out of four appointments, we met with two U.S. Representatives and two staffers. All were receptive to our issues, understood and related to our industry and fully embraced our ask to support legislation that would allow the promotional products industry to continue to grow and thrive.”

Among the top issues discussed with the legislators was the recent tariff increase on Chinese imports. Carroll Hanley Goggin, MAS, owner of DBG Promotions in Winter Park, Florida, who has participated in L.E.A.D. for several years, says, “Engagement on the Hill was strong in regard to the value of the global supply chain. Rep. Stephanie Murphy's legislative aid, Jeff Rapp, commented without hesitation that the Representative was strongly opposed to the current tariffs because they were bad for business in Florida. We celebrated being on the same team with my representative and focused on the need to educate the White House on the struggles our industry and businesses in Florida are facing with the ongoing tariff battles with China."

Longtime L.E.A.D. participant Nick D’Eramo, owner of Triple Stitch Sportswear in Prospect, Connecticut, says he feels the awareness of the industry’s issues was heard and understood overall. “We were meeting with a staffer at Sen. Blumenthal's office and discussing the tariffs. I asked what the feeling was [on that issue] from his office and his response was ‘uncomfortable.’ The White House is in control and they're not getting enough information.”

Brian Grall, chief creative officer at LogoMyBiz.com in Evergreen, Colorado, was pleased with the results after the first day. “Although our D.C. political environment remains contentious, it is very refreshing to see that PPAI’s interests in the global value chain, tariffs, independent contractor status, etc. continue to be well received and supported by our members of Congress. Our members of Congress are also very interested in aligning their thoughts to support the broader interests of small-business entities, which comprise the vast majority of our PPAI membership.”

Jim Gordon, CAS, owner of NorthStar Identity in Phoenix, Arizona, says he met with Tiffany Angelo, policy advisor for Congressman David Schweikert, for close to a half hour discussing the power of promotional products, the global supply chain and independent contractors. “She has only been with the congressman for a year and a half, but previously worked for another congressman from a different state for five years. She remembers meeting with the PPAI delegation a few years ago. The Congressman had an ASU pennant flag in his office along with a number of awards. Congressman Schweikert always loves receiving the hand sanitizer and Tiffany mentioned that when I gave her the sample.”

Jeanne Walls, president of JWalls Ink in Richmond, Virginia, sums up her experience. “Great day on the hill.” she says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican, where else in the world would you have the opportunity to walk the halls of justice, meet your legislators, be invited into their offices and actually voice your opinion, talk about your profession and ask your government officials to keep us in mind when they say ‘yea’ or ‘nay?’ Thank you to PPAI for this opportunity. I love my job.”

As part of L.E.A.D.’s goal of growing and protecting the promotional products industry, those who couldn’t be on Capitol Hill are encouraged to add their voice about concerns and legislation that affect their business and the industry. Participating in the virtual fly-in is an easy but highly effective way to support the onsite work of industry colleagues. PPAI has provided a message to share with elected officials. Today’s message is about the global value chain. Get details on sending an email here. Follow L.E.A.D. on social media on Twitter @PPAILAW and use the hashtag #PPAILEAD.