The Washington Summit is right around the corner. Our annual advocacy event will be held May 23-26, in Washington, D.C. It is, without a doubt, the most effective and reliable tool we have for making the priorities of utility and excavation contractors a reality and combating government and regulatory overreach. The importance of putting our faces to the issues, detailing our struggles to our members of Congress and presenting realistic opportunities to better our industries and our nation are integral in fostering a government landscape that promotes growth and freedom. This is one of the primary objectives of NUCA, and its importance to our vitality simply cannot be overstated.
I’m proud to be able to say that since I joined NUCA in 2012, every facet of the Washington Summit has improved. Attendance and participation is up, which means more members of Congress hear our message and take notice of our strength. Our program has improved to give you, the attendee, access to lawmakers, thought leaders on the issues and experts on our policy priorities, arming you with information. Last year’s Congressional reception held on Capitol Hill was attended by more Representatives and staff than ever, giving attendees unfettered access to build the relationships we need to move our priorities through Congress.
We’ve also seen an increase in first-time Summit attendees, and their response couldn’t be more positive. Since I took over the program, being welcoming to first-time attendees has been a goal of mine. I understand how intimidating it can be to walk into a Representative’s or Senator’s office for the first time with the intent to lobby for priorities. I know Washington sometimes feels like another world, which is why I want to take meticulous care of our first-time attendees. Quite frankly, growing our army of advocates is essential to the success of our advocacy and lobbying priorities. We must have new, energetic and motivated individuals involved even if they feel they don’t know the first thing about lobbying or the priorities. Basic advocacy skills and the information can be taught; what is essential is the drive to take advantage of the opportunities that arise.
This year’s Washington Summit will be one of those opportunities our industry cannot afford to squander. In previous years, we’ve timed the Summit perfectly with activity on the Hill. In 2015, the Senate was voting on a Highway Trust Fund package the day NUCA stormed the Hill. In 2014, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and the Water Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act (WIFIA) were being debated on the floor. This year, however, the stakes are bigger than legislation.
With the constant news reports of the calamitous water infrastructure situation in Flint, Mich., water infrastructure is a part of the national conversation. As is evidenced by Flint’s disastrous response to the maintenance and repair of its water infrastructure — and countless other communities across the nation taking notice — we must emphatically insist our lawmakers take action to avoid and mitigate similar disasters from taking place. As utility and excavation contractors, we understand the real state of our water infrastructure and it’s time our lawmakers do the same. They need to understand the disastrous risks that come with doing nothing and the rewards infrastructure investment brings to our cities, our public health and our economy. Our country cannot afford to turn its back on our nation’s infrastructure struggles any longer, and attending the Washington Summit is your opportunity to get off the sidelines and make a difference.
Top 3 FAQs about the Washington Summit
What can I expect when I attend the Washington Summit?
First and foremost, you can expect to make a meaningful and obvious impact. You can expect to learn a lot about our industry’s priorities from some of the best experts in town. You can also expect to meet with your Representatives and Senators and/or staff to share what matters to you and your business. Remember that they work for you!
It will be my first time, how will I know what to do?
Detailed instruction for what you will need to do in advance will be sent directly to you about six weeks ahead of the Summit. You’ll need to follow those instructions to schedule meetings with your state delegation. We will take care of all the rest of the planning for the event. During the Legislative Issues Conference, you will see exactly what to expect in your meetings and learn some tricks to stay calm, on topic and make your point. You will also be paired with a Summit veteran who can guide you on Capitol Hill and sit in meetings with you while you get the hang of it. You can always reach out to me directly with questions and concerns (firstname.lastname@example.org). My goal is to make it as easy and hassle-free for you as possible.
What will be our top priorities this year?
Every year, we cater our priorities for the Summit to what is happening in real-time. This year will be no different. Though specific details are still being ironed out with consideration of what the House and Senate will be considering, I can tell you with confidence the broad issues that will be covered: federal investment in infrastructure in both dollars and financing flexibility; workforce development and training initiatives; and legislation aimed at curbing the gross overreach of construction-related regulations. The Summit handbook will be produced and shared electronically about a week before the Summit to give you an opportunity to review the specifics, but your best tool is and will always be your personal experience.
Will Brown is NUCA’s Director of Government Affairs.