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Engage With Us so You are at the Table – Not on the Menu

Ask a SOCMA member why they joined the organization, and most likely they will mention the opportunities we offer them to address mutual issues that impact them and help them stay ahead of developments before they happen. Companies join and volunteer for associations because they want to work together on a common cause or interest. SOCMA members are no different. Indeed, government relations is a major focus for most trade associations in Washington (4,600 strong), and SOCMA provides numerous opportunities for companies to engage with one another and with policymakers throughout the year on many common causes.

Member engagement is key. In order to succeed in effecting positive change for your company—and succeed in getting the value you expect by joining the association—you must participate at some level. Therefore, to understand the value of what government relations provides to any organization, its members must engage in its activities, programs and forums. These offerings are often designed by members for members to benefit members. After all, that’s what a portion of your annual dues goes toward. Association members who fail to engage, or companies that choose not to join in the first place, benefit little, if at all.

For example, SOCMA members who participate in any of the four government relations committees know in advance about new regulations being discussed inside various agencies. They are on the front-end of these changes aimed at our industry. In fact, they often hear about them directly from top regulators who are planning them. As a result, these companies can share their expertise with their SOCMA peers to help influence a positive outcome and  plan ahead by preparing necessary resources. If having the ability to prepare in advance or, better yet, change the course of a new law is important to you, then there’s no reason not to engage in SOCMA.  

Similarly, SOCMA members who participate in our annual “fly-in,” a one-and-a-half-day visit with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, establish “business” relationships with elected officials in Washington. These officials are the same ones who create laws that can help or hurt our industry but who can also be called upon to help with company-specific problems. Are you more likely to visit your congressional representatives alone or through your association, which makes your experience seamless and efficient? Frequently, SOCMA members who have participated in the fly-in tell me later their member of Congress personally contacted them after their DC visit to get the company’s point of view before he or she casts a vote in Congress. There is zero chance of this happening without prior contact. Engagement matters.

Your engagement benefits not just your company but also your customers. Because SOCMA represents manufacturers upstream from the end product, our advocacy includes a strong focus on issues that impact front-end development of these end-use products. If EPA decides to ban or restrict a specialty chemical in an application used by your customer, how is your customer going to manufacture or sell his product? If OSHA requires you to substitute a ‘safer alternative’ rather than using the chemical or formulation your customer demands, will your customer stick around or turn to a foreign competitor?

Mark Twain said there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. I’ll add a third: an eagerness in Washington to regulate your business. The uneasiness this certainty provides is quite apparent among SOCMA members, too. In a 2014 survey of specialty chemical manufacturers conducted by United Business Media and SOCMA, 52 percent of respondent said federal and state regulation was a significant barrier to growth in 2014, and an equal number believe federal and state regulations will continue to be a barrier to growth in 2015. Furthermore, 20 percent said they expect to spend more money on regulatory compliance in 2015 than in 2014, and 25 percent say they would need an improved regulatory environment before deciding to expand their manufacturing business.

There is an effective way to influence what Washington does. If you are a member of SOCMA, what reason do you have for not engaging? After all, if you are not at the table, then you are on the menu. The more SOCMA members who engage, the louder our message, the more visible we are, the more policymakers that can be influenced, the more benefit that you can derive from your membership. Be the one at the table. Don’t simply take my word for it. Discover members like yourself engaged in SOCMA, benefitting from their engagement, by visiting SOCMA.com/GovernmentRelations.

If you are interested in learning more about how your company can benefit from being engaged through SOCMA’s government relations, please contact me at (202) 721-4122.

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