The more things change, the more they stay the same. As the new government prepares to tackle a number of issues challenging our country this year, more than 90 new members of the House of Representatives and Senate come to Congress. Our country faces a number of issues unique to this point in history. While we have certainly seen recessions and economic hardship before, this recession on top of the debt and an anemic economy is a new complexity. Never has our country’s infrastructure been as deteriorated and in drastic need of repair with as few resources, and America has never seen her superiority challenged quite as it is with the emergence of the Chinese and other world economies. And yet, a lot is familiar.
Politics are still as polarized as ever. Action still moves at a snail’s pace, and political posturing remains as prevalent, if not more, than ever. Despite the vocal outrage by the general public to get along, some of the most polarizing incumbent lawmakers will still win re-election by overwhelming majorities.
At NUCA, the same old adage is true. Despite the political landscape, prognosis for success and winds of change that come across our bow, we continue to strive to represent utility contractors and excavators in ways that make sense for their businesses in the pursuit of our mutual goal to improve America.
NUCA’s Government Relations Plan for 2013 focuses on relationships; relationships with our industry partners and colleagues; relationships with our government, House, Senate and Executive Branch; and relationships with our member contractors, equipment manufacturers and leadership. In order to cultivate these relationships, you will see one theme emerge more than any other: communication.
NUCA has a reputation within the infrastructure community of being a small, but effective, force in Washington. This is a testament to the hard work of the collective NUCA family, especially during trying economic times that have seen the fall of more than one trade association. In 2013, NUCA must continue to expand and broaden these relationships. We, as an organization, must define both what we are doing to ensure our actions reflect our priorities and in what areas we can effectively find in-roads. In this regard, the new Clean Water Council (CWC) website (www.cleanwatercouncil.org) and blog (www.cleanwaterweekly.com) are integral to facilitating industry and issue partners surrounding NUCA priorities.
The CWC website is intended to be a clearinghouse for federal and state water infrastructure news and information. Overhauled and re-launched in Fall 2012, the CWC website has already generated industry interest, and as the site continues to grow, so will industry support. This will create more opportunities to develop relationships, advocate on Capitol Hill and share news stories. One day, we hope to commission studies and white papers in addition to the many informative studies already on our site, for use by advocates in conjunction with any party invested or interested in water infrastructure.
Our relationships on Capitol Hill have the potential to change every two years, and every four years with the Executive Branch, so it is important we continually maintain and facilitate these relationships. This task is shared by the whole NUCA family. Our lobbyist team spends a great deal of time communicating and meeting with members of Congress, their staff and officials who can affect the outcomes in NUCA’s favor, but the most effective voices are those of each lawmaker’s constituencies.
To that end, the government relations team plans to facilitate a two pronged attack to each issue. NUCA will seek out the most effective individuals who could have a measurable impact toward our goals and educate them on our issues. We will then facilitate communication between our contractors and federal officials to advocate for our most important issues. Having spent several years as congressional staff, I have sat through hundreds of meetings. I can tell you there is no one better to deliver information and make requests than a constituent.
Further, NUCA/PAC is an integral component to building relationships with federal lawmakers. It will have a measurable and drastic effect on our ability to cultivate relationships with government and elected officials. However, due to federal election rules, NUCA must have a signed approval from individuals who would like to be informed on NUCA/PAC activities and plans. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to stay informed about NUCA/PAC.
NUCA’s contractors, national partners, associate members and chapters are the backbone of this organization. The government relations team is committed to facilitating close communication among NUCA chapters. We will start by conducting a survey asking members, contractors and chapters to share their goals, priorities and areas of greatest struggle so that we, at the national level, understand what is most important nationally, as well as specific priorities by region or state. Doing so will better facilitate our communication and help us tailor our information and modes of communication.
Growing NUCA’s many relationships will help facilitate the progress of our national priorities. To achieve these priorities, NUCA will need to utilize all of its relationships. Politics is a contact sport, and getting anything done requires constant exposure. First, NUCA will continue to strive to increase funding opportunities for water, wastewater and utility infrastructure projects through appropriations, legislative alterations to funding sources and grant opportunities. Second, NUCA government relations will work to positively impact, and when necessary, curb business regulation implementation by the administration. In doing this, our goal will be to create, work toward and maintain an environment conducive to business operations and growth. Third, NUCA government relations will strive to recruit, follow and support political leaders nationwide. Good ideas come from everywhere and there is no monopoly on viable options and ideas in Washington. The search for strong leaders both in Washington and nationwide who support infrastructure must be cultivated and protected politically, financially and logistically if NUCA and our partners expect to succeed in any of the aforementioned goals. Finally, NUCA must foster innovation and creativity in all phases of infrastructure in order to remain competitive with the rest of the world, or risk being left behind or left out. We must keep a watchful eye and a tuned ear to both our opposition and our supporters to find innovative ways to implement our priorities, creative ways to craft our agenda or legislation and new angles to pursue success.
If we work together, NUCA will not only strengthen its position as a leader in the infrastructure community, we will expand and grow our association and garner even more opportunity to succeed. We must continually strive to improve the condition of our economic environment, legislative effectiveness and financial longevity. If we continue to improve and strengthen our relationships, our goals become easier to achieve. It will take a collective effort. I’m in. Are you?
Will Brown is NUCA’s Government Relations Manager.