Convergence of Progress
ARA's Mid-Year Meeting, Hill Day, and the Legislative Summit Merge into Several Days of Industry Advancement
On March 14th, ARA members representing 25 states flooded the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. to make over 80 visits to their Senators and Representatives. ARA’s Annual Hill Day provided even more opportunities to educate legislators this year, by hosting a Congressional Staff briefing following a day of ARA arranged visits to members’ Congressional delegations.

The first ever ARA Educational and Policy Briefing provided a forum for ARA leadership to educate staff members of Senators and Representatives on the professional automotive recycling industry. ARA President Chris Wright opened the briefing with “Recycling 101.” Wright covered full-service facility issues; Steve Levetan, Pull-A-Part, LLC spoke on the basics of self-service facility operations; Safety Committee Chairman Doug Reinert educated attendees about the definitions of parts; followed by Gold Seal Committee Chair Eric Schulz who explained the importance of Green Recycled Parts™. ARA Educational Foundation President Fran Reitman informed attendees about ARA’s educational programs and foundations, while Certified Auto Recycler Committee Chair Shannon Nordstrom provided an overview on ARA’s certification process. ARA Past President Sandy Blalock ended the presentation by outlining the challenges and barriers facing the profession, many of which were discussed during the earlier individual congressional visits.

All of these presentations reinforced the profession’s ongoing efforts to educate policymakers about today’s automotive recycling industry – an industry whose members adhere to the highest professional business standards, while supporting the environment and providing quality parts to consumers.

“This first ever ARA congressional staff briefing was a tremendous start and an excellent foundation for what we plan to do annually,” said Delanne Bernier, ARA Director of Policy and Political Affairs. “Several staffers told me later that it was one of the better briefings that they had attended.”

Visiting Congress

ARA member visits to their Congressional delegations also played a key part in educating legislators about the industry. During their meetings, Chris Wright and Steve Levetan illustrated to their Georgia Congressmen exactly what a salvage yard looks like, armed with a short slide presentation on their i-Pad as well as photographs. Both said they felt a visual description immediately paints the picture of a professional and vibrant automotive recycling industry.

“I start my visits by showing them a picture of our operations because a picture speaks a thousand words,” said Wright. “I go in with a short presentation because it helps them to understand the issues we are talking about better,” agreed Levetan.

First-time Hill Day attendee, Cheryl Rash, Blue and Gold Auto Storage of South Carolina, says she came along this year to get more practice meeting with legislators.

“I attended this year because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and learn how to interact more easily with legislators,” said Rash. “I can meet with my local politicians when I’m following an agenda but I wanted to get more practice with congressional legislators. I thought this was a good opportunity since ARA arranged the visits and provided us with a brief on some issues to discuss. It’s a great way to learn!”

Becky Berube, United Catalyst Corporation, saw this year’s Hill Day as a good opportunity to re-connect with ARA members.

“I worked as Commercial Manager for Umicore and spent nearly two years working for their Automotive Catalyst Recycling division,” said Berube. “I’m in a new role now and wanted to come to Hill Days to reconnect with ARA members and to support the industry as well.”

The group from the Automotive Recyclers Association of New York (ARANY) reported that their meetings with legislators were successful.

“I’ve been to meetings at the state level where the staffers haven’t even bothered to look at the material we’ve given them,” said Richard Wilbert, ARANY’s President.

“In all of our visits during Hill Day, however, the members and staffers seemed genuinely interested in our issues. I feel like it’s very important that we help educate our legislators. Changing their perceptions about our business so that they are correct is vital,” he said.

ARA Director of Policy and External Affairs Betsy Beckwith was thrilled with this year’s participation in Hill Day. “The feedback from several meetings reinforced existing contacts and began to lay the framework for new relationships – most of those who we visited were very interested to learn more about the profession and our issues,” Beckwith said. ARA will continue to educate those Congressmen throughout the year.

The Senator from the Great State of North Carolina Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) kicked off Hill Day by speaking to ARA members on the future of the economy and what must be done to continue to have a solid and prosperous future.

ARA Second Vice President/Treasurer Ricky Young introduced the senior senator from N.C., and noted that Burr had been in business operations for 17 years with a lawn products wholesaler prior to being elected to public office so he has a unique understanding of small business issues.

Senator Burr discussed the on-going budget debate from a real insider’s perspective having been one of 12 Republican Senators who were invited to dinner by President Obama during the March budget negotiations. While basically optimistic that a budget “grand bargain” will be reached at some future point in time, the Senator described the frustration of negotiations and the critical need to address the fiscal dilemma. Senator Burr is a true friend to the automotive recycling industry and ARA staff, as well as a lawmaker with whom ARA will continue to work as our issues develop.

Keynote Speaker Rep. John Shimkus

During lunch, ARA Past President Jim Watson introduced Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL), from his state, who shared with the group that he’s not a politician but a businessman at heart – he got involved in politics to make sure the private sector stays profitable.

Rep. Shimkus shared about his recent visit to an ARA member in his district, Kelly Roepke of Y-Yard Auto & Truck, Inc. in Effingham, IL. He is very interested in the professional automotive recycling industry because of that visit and the fact that he is the Co-Chairman of the House Recycling Caucus. Shimkus is also Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Environment and the Economy Subcommittee.

Rep. Shimkus has in-depth knowledge of recycling issues and an interest in working with the profession, particularly on environmental regulation issues.

In fact, in late March after Hill Days, ARA attended a function for Rep. Shimkus during which he expanded on ARA staff reports and told the automotive-related industry group more about the professional automotive recycling profession.

Mid-Year with a Mission

While Hill Day is a major focus of the regular ARA Mid-Year Meeting in Washington, D.C., this year it shared the spotlight with the Legislative Summit, a meeting whose agenda focused on grassroots efforts at the state level. The summit is usually held in Nashville in July, but this year was held the day after Hill Day and provided a great conclusion to the Mid-Year event.

New also this year was a joint meeting between ARA board members and board members from the Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC) to discuss ways in which the two associations could work more closely together on issues related to membership, education, certification, and branding.

This session was followed by the open portion of the ARA’s Mid-Year meeting during which the committees gave updates on their activities.

“The joint session between ARA and ARC, as well as the committee reports, illustrated just how innovative and involved the profession is on the many different issues facing professional automotive recyclers,” said ARA CEO Michael Wilson. 

The afternoon meetings ended with a Hill Day program overview.

Networking Receptions

The attendees spent networking time later the first evening, socializing Canadian-style. The Cana-
dian Embassy hosted ARA and ARC members and the group was addressed by Shelia Riordon, Minister of Political Affairs, ARA President Chris Wright, followed by ARA First Vice President Ed MacDonald, who hails from Canada. After the formal remarks, everyone enjoyed discussions on automotive recycling, small business, as well as policy similarities and differences between the two countries.

The evening of Hill Day, ARA members joined together for a reception on the top floor of the Hyatt and enjoyed a panoramic view of Capitol Hill, where attendees shared stories of their visits to over 25 congressional delegations.

Summit Peak

The next day – Friday – ARA members prepared for the 6th Annual Legislative Summit, convening for the first time as part of the ARA Mid-Year Meeting in response to requests from past summit attendees to address scheduling constraints.

“This year’s Legislative Summit was very well planned and helpful,” said Fran Reitman, Reitman Auto Parts. “We broke into regional groups and  discussed issues that we face and how we could improve them.” Summit attendees spent the morning hearing from their colleagues on a number of matters:

• In California, a new law requiring anyone other than licensed dismantlers, dealers, repairers and scrap metal processors who purchase salvage vehicles to pay sales tax at the time of purchase was discussed.
• Auto recyclers from New Mexico, Ohio, and Michigan also spoke about their efforts regarding requirements for those purchasing salvage vehicles.
• Initiatives to incorporate and enforce NMVTIS reporting through state statute were discussed in case studies from Texas, New Mexico, Mississippi and Alabama.
• Auto recyclers from Iowa and Georgia spoke about the important implications of scrap metal bills for the industry, highlighting recent examples from their states.

Summit attendees spent the second part of the day in small group break-out sessions organized by geographic region, during which they had the opportunity to dialogue with colleagues from neighboring states and discuss the political climate for each of the four legislative topics as well as identify any regional trends or themes. Information from each region was then shared with the entire group, including specific opportunities for pursuing legislative action this year.

This year’s Summit also focused on states without established state associations and/or ARA affiliate chapters, and attendees discussed specific outreach efforts to automotive recyclers in those states. “The attendees’ energy and commitment to the process made the program a resounding success,” said Jessica Thomas, ARA Director of State Government and Grassroots Affairs. She further noted that “ARA looks forward to supporting continued dialogue among the state affiliates on these issues.”

Michelle Keadle-Taylor is a freelance writer in Northern Virginia and a regular contributor to Automotive Recycling magazine. She also took the photos from this year’s meeting.

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