How are you getting in front of legislators?
One way is the Congressional Composite Caucus. We’ve hosted caucus events to focus on opportunities for composites to solve important national problems. We want to focus on the positive message of composites such as how composites extend the life of bridges or how they make light-weight wind turbines that create renewable energy. The caucus is still very new; it’s only been around for about a year and a half. But we’ve seen a lot of successes and we’ve continued to set an aggressive schedule. This next year we have five House and one Senate events, which is ambitious. We’ve never been in the Senate before and it will be a good opportunity to talk about how composites can help in areas like renewable energy, infrastructure and protecting our troops.
What questions do legislators have about composites?
They’re really concerned about jobs. The major thing they want to know is what they can do to support job growth within their districts. If they can help us against unnecessary regulation, they want to. They want to know what they can do to support job growth in districts. They may not understand the industry, but once they do, they love us. We’re a small business intensive industry making interesting and important products, and that means they can sympathize with us and support us.
How can the industry get more legislators involved?
Like other industries, we can pay too much attention to who is a Democrat or Republican. I think it’s to our advantage to have people in Congress who are thoughtful and willing to understand issues in both parties. We need to find the representatives that are willing to understand complex industry problems, because it takes several pages to get to a solution and many don’t care to read that far! Are they willing to sit and listen? If they are not willing to, it doesn’t matter what party they’re in. In my experience, there are just as many Democrats as Republicans that are willing to listen and to help.
How can manufacturers help educate members of congress?
We are about to start a new campaign to get all industry members to be more active. We’ll give people a menu of options on how they can get involved, so each company can choose what they can do and how they can help the industry politically. Every company in industry needs to look at this menu and do something, whether that’s by writing letters, giving plant tours or contribute to the CAP.