Michele-JennrichOn May 25-26, industry professionals from across the country will be in Washington, D.C., to meet with senators, representatives and legislative staff into discuss legislation, issues and opportunities relevant to the promotional products industry as part of the seventh annual PPAI Legislation Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.). In the third of a four-part series spotlighting the industry practitioners taking PPAI’s message to Capitol Hill, PPB Newslink speaks with Michele Jennrich, MAS, the Brick, New Jersey-based multi-line rep and an inaugural recipient of the PPAI RAC Volunteer Award.

PPB Newslink: Why do you participate in L.E.A.D?

Michele Jennrich, MAS: My parents were always very involved in politics, whether local, state or federal, when I was growing up in Seattle, Washington. I remember many a Saturday afternoon stuffing envelopes, licking stamps (yes, way back then, you had to lick them) and envelopes for our favorite [candidates].  I can remember many a night when our living room was filled with my parents hosting candidate nights, discussing the issues, sometimes so hotly that a certain wooden armchair was broken the next morning!

Our family had the good fortune to be very good friends with a Washington state senator, which gave me the opportunity to be a page for the day on the floor of the state capitol. I was also lucky enough to campaign for [Barry] Goldwater when I was a teenager. I guess you can say I was born into politics, and getting involved with PPAI’s L.E.A.D was a natural for me. I’m also an elected official in my town at the committee level.

PPB Newslink: What makes L.E.A.D. so important for the industry?

Jennrich: First and foremost, I think the L.E.A.D. program is important if for no other reason than to remind and make our legislators aware of the role that promotional products play in our everyday life. Promotional products can be the most cost effective way for smaller businesses and federal agencies to market their products and services. In the state of New Jersey alone, there are 1,334 promotional products companies employing 11,712 people. Of those, 96 percent are small businesses. These small businesses don’t have the capacity to lobby D.C. on their own regarding issues such as independent contractors or tax collection. By combining our efforts, our voices and in many cases our votes, we can make a difference with our state and federal legislatures. In 2015, PPAI, through L.E.A. D., the Government Relations Advisory Council and [PPAI Public Affairs Director] Anne Stone and her staff, 10 key bills were monitored on behalf of the industry.

PPB Newslink: What do you look forward to at L.E.A.D. this year?

Jennrich: I am proud to be one of the 80 volunteers who will once again be attending L.E.A.D. in May on behalf of the promotional product industry. Will we be talking about some of the same issues again this year? Yes, we will, but it is important that our voices continue to be heard. If you aren’t able to attend with us, please watch for the emails detailing how you will be able to participate via social media from your home or office. The more attention we can get on our issues, the better for everyone. From time to time you will also be asked to participate in a letter writing/email campaign on an issue that could have an impact in your state, so please pay attention tothe emails that come from PPAI asking you to contact your local legislature, fill out the form, email it in and make your voice heard. We all need to work together for the growth and betterment of our industry.

PPB Newslink: Is this your first time attending L.E.A.D.?

Jennrich: I have been attending L.E.A.D. almost from the start; one year I attended just five days after having knee surgery. Let me tell you, getting around Washington, D.C. on crutches is not an easy feat. But I feel so strongly about this program that I wasn’t going to let crutches stop me, even if we do have to talk about some of the same issues year after year.