On occasion, luck plays a huge role.
A couple years ago when the American Supply Association was sealing the deal to hold NetworkASA 2013 in Washington, D.C., the group led by Executive Vice President Mike Adelizzi had no inclination an issue such as tax reform would be up for discussion by Congress.
Flash forward to present day and that’s where the nation stands and attendees of NetworkASA 2013, the association’s annual convention, have an enormous opportunity to help federal tax law writers understand what is needed for PHCP and PVF distributors to thrive.
“When we made the decision two years ago to put the convention in Washington, no one thought that tax reform would be a legitimate issue at the time we would be there,” Adelizzi says. “Distributors and manufacturers have the opportunity to come to Washington, have an unbelievable convention experience and be able to fight and defend their business at this critical time.”
ASA’s goal is to have 100 distributor companies and an additional 100 manufacturer companies in Washington, creating a perfect setting for industry leaders to make their voices heard at this critical juncture for businesses.
“With tax reform going on and leaders in the House and Senate speaking about a legitimately clean slate, everything is on the table,” Adelizzi says. “Distributors need to be there to defend themselves on topics such as corporate rates, rates S Corps pay and deductions. They can’t sit back and hope and pray other groups can be effective and get out there.”
Leading ASA’s charge on Capitol Hill is Dan Hilton, the association’s director of government affairs. This will be the third round – and by far the biggest – of Hill visits Hilton has set up since joining ASA in late 2010. Prior to opening ASA’s Washington office, Hilton spent more than a decade working on the Hill as a staffer for members of Congress as well as the House Armed Services Committee. He says optimism for tax reform is growing and that ASA will look out for members regarding LIFO and keeping the individual tax rates at acceptable levels.
“There is a lot of hope for tax reform,” he says. “A lot of members pay at the individual tax rate. However, President Obama recently proposed a corporate tax rate reduction. If you reduce the corporate tax rates, what’s going to happen with the individual tax rate? There’s about 30 million businesses paying at the individual tax rate and about 1 million paying at the corporate tax rate. We want to ensure the individual tax rates are addressed as well.”
During 2012’s ASA’s Legislative Fly-In, a major focal point was metal theft. Hilton explains the bill cleared a major hurdle by passing the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, giving the bill a foothold in the Senate. He adds the full Senate has yet to take the bill up on the floor, but that could come in time. NetworkASA will provide attendees the opportunity to show Senate members what is important to the industry and also show members of the House what may be coming to their floor in the near future.
“The advantage this year is that we have a bill,” Hilton says. “It’s a great thing to have to show the members of Congress the points in the bill that has been introduced.”
Hilton and ASA are increasing its presence on the Marketplace Fairness Act. The bill has passed the full Senate but, according to Hilton, the House isn’t enamored with the legislation.
“This will level the playing field for brick-and-mortar supply houses and those which strictly deal on Internet commerce sites such as eBay,” Hilton says. “Opponents bill it as a tax on the Internet, but it’s actually an existing tax that isn’t being collected. When ASA members and other mainstream wholesalers sell something online, it’s coming from their shops. They’re still paying for the product. People selling on eBay don’t have a physical presence and they don’t have to pay sales tax. That’s how they can drop their prices.”
ASA members that have taken part in the first two Legislative Fly-In events are excited to get back into the Congressional offices again in 2013.
“I have been involved in many of the appointments in the past,” says Gary Jones, Wilkes-Barre, Penn.-based Eastern Penn Supply’s marketing manager. “It not only is a unique experience to meet with elected officials in Washington, but also to go into the meetings with your competition. We all have the same issues which challenge our companies.”
Adelizzi says ASA’s presence in Washington has paid off – and will continue to pay off with NetworkASA 2013 – quite well.
“Dan has made ASA a recognizable name and this event is going to help put ASA on the map even more,” he says.
Bring your No. 2 pencil
ASA has increased the size of its ASA Education Foundation and the focus on education at NetworkASA for 2013. On Wednesday, Oct. 2, there will be three sessions with featured speakers discussing critical issues ASA members face. Dr. Michael Mercer will speak on hiring, Tom O’Connor of Farmington Consulting Group will discuss strategic planning for distributors and Dr. Barry Lawrence will present on sales and marketing optimization.
ASAEF Executive Director Amy Black, who spearheads the Foundation, says ASA’s educational programs have evolved beyond the basic ‘Here’s what you should do’ to ‘Here’s how ASA will help you within your business’ with the introduction of ASA University (ASAU).
“It’s really grown because now we have a compelling message to tell the ASA membership at NetworkASA,” Black says. “For years, we spent a lot of time, resources and effort on industry-specific content. That was very important, but our members weren’t sure what to do with it and we weren’t prepared to support them.
“That’s the main reason we developed the new ASA University program. We have developed the roadmap and all the resources a member may need to implement a true training talent management program within their company. Now they can know the where, why and what they need to train on.”
Black says since ASA University launched four years ago, sales made through the group have tripled. She adds about 30% of ASA membership is engaged in training through ASAU.
“We have greatly increased our customer base that uses our products,” she says. “We’re becoming vital and more relevant to our members.”
The entire ASAU staff will be on hand in Washington as a resource for members to reach out to for assistance during the educational sessions.
“You can make an appointment to meet with us during vendor conferences to ask us any questions you may have,” Black says. “It’s basically free consulting. We’ll talk with you about what we can offer, your issues and how we can help. Our message now is centered on a talent management plan and how the more connections you make to training the better your return on investment. We’ll talk about all those steps within a plan and how we can help. That’s been our bottom-line message.”
Washington-area distributor Thos. Somerville will be in attendance and its president is impressed with how ASA has taken a leadership role in the PHCP industry.
“ASA has clearly defined its main goals of advocacy and education,” says Thos. Somerville President Pat McGowan. “They have taken this opportunity in Washington to unite the industry.”
Black notes that ASA’s full repertoire for members will be on display during the NetworkASA.
“NetworkASA is an opportunity to see your friends and make new ones, but it’s also an opportunity to learn about the benefits available to you through ASA,” she says. “You’re going to see the breadth of services we provide via ASA and ASAU.”
For another year, ASA and its partners have loaded the NetworkASA 2013 docket with an impressive roster of speakers.
For the second-straight year economist and ITR Economics Principal Alan Beaulieu will provide distributors with an industry forecast. Beaulieu, who will address attendees Thursday morning Oct. 3, was a hit last year and wholesalers are excited to hear what might be in store for 2014.
“His forecast is one of many that we use in preparing our future projections and plans,” McGowan says. “I am certain he will have many insights as it relates to our overall debt and the growth of our economy.”
Jones adds: “His track record speaks for itself regarding their forecast and reality. We always hope to hear optimistic statistics in our geographical area. Alan’s gift is that he will tell you a depression is coming and not make it sound so bad. And likewise in good times, he always advises us when it will break.”
McGowan and Jones are cautiously optimistic about how the market is shaping up for 2014.
“We feel there is a tremendous amount of pent-up demand if we can create some optimism within the marketplace,” McGowan says. “There is too much uncertainty that still exists in our area that causes a very uneasy environment.”
Jones adds: “We are conservatively optimistic about the future. NetworkASA always reduces the risk within our markets by dialogue with vendors, reps and fellow wholesalers.”
Weldbend has added another impressive name to its list of IPD Breakfast speakers by tabbing Fox News stalwart Bill O’Reilly. Also on the docket to speak at NetworkASA are high-profile political pundits “Ragin’ Cajun” James Carville and Mary Matalin — a husband and wife team on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Bob Woodward, one of the nation’s most respected journalists, will also speak at NetworkASA.
“These speakers add to the overall experience,” Adelizzi says. “While the speakers might bring more people to convention at first, once people are there and they have a great experience, it helps them come back.”
Jones says NetworkASA has evolved beyond the old meet-and-greet hangouts and turned into a beneficial event for industry members.
“In the past NetworkASA was dominated by the ‘show’ aspect,” Jones states. “We now have a full agenda which offers us many opportunities to network.”