Members Conquer Hill During 2012 Annual Conference

During The ESOP Association’s 2012 Annual Conference, members made trips to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress and discuss ESOPs and employee ownership. We’re going to re-cap the stories shared with the Association here on the blog. If you had the chance to visit your member or hosted a Congressional company visit, send us an email at media@esopassociation.org and tell us about it.

John P. Jamar, CEO of CCI Systems in Iron Mountain, MI shared this with the Association: I am from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I met with Congressman Dan Benishek (R-MI). He toured our offices last month and understands ESOPs. I referred him to the pending pro-ESOP bill and made a special note of Congressman Sander Levin’s (D-MI) ESOP support over the years. I asked him to co-sponsor H.R. 1244.

I also met with aides for Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). They were interested in how our ESOP works and in the history of our growing company. We also talked about Dodd/Frank as I am involved with a bank.

I stopped to meet with Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) as well. He is an intelligent man and is clear on the value of ESOP. I noted the pending bill (S. 1512) and asked that he support it. His aide was also there.

I was given enough time in all visits to tell the 27 year story of success at CCI Systems. I explained the value we have generated and distributed to retirees, deaths, and disabilities that have made live better for many. They also know that we continue to grow and add jobs and tax base to the state.

From left to right – Sayward Masselter, Congressman Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), Jodi Lamb.

From Jodi Lamb of Big G Express located in Shelbyville, TN: After being inspired by a speech given by Michael Keeling at the Tri-Chapter ESOP Conference in Pinehurst, NC, along with other blog posts and YouTube videos shared by The ESOP Association, I decided to take advantage of my time in DC for the National ESOP Conference and visit with my Senators and Representatives. The process was not as intimidating as it may seem and the staff members were more than happy to take time and meet with us. It probably helped that I had a few friends from college who work on Capitol Hill and were able to get me in touch with the right people, but overall everyone was very willing to schedule a time to hear our “ESOP story.” Donna Walseth, our Chapter administrator, was more than helpful during the process and got me in touch with other members from our Chapter who would be at the Conference. Sayward Masselter, President of The New South Chapter, and Donna came along for the meetings, which was an added bonus. When talking about ESOPs, we were able to share our company stories, how the ESOP was formed, and the benefits we had seen. It was nice to have a different perspective as we each brought a unique story to the table.

From left to right is Evan Sharber (Corker), Lindsey Ward (Alexander), Jodi Lamb (Big G Express), Darlene Rosenkoetter (Corker), Sayward Masselter (Atlanta West Carpets).

The Advocacy Kit, provided by The ESOP Association, was an excellent tool and made it easy to speak intelligently about ESOP legislation. There are even handouts to leave for Congress! Everyone was receptive to what we had to say and seemed to genuinely enjoy hearing about how ESOPs have been assets to our companies and helped us remain strong even during the economic downturn. This was a great experience and I would recommend that anyone that has the opportunity take the time to make visits with your representatives in Washington.

From a press release from Rex-Cut Abrasives of Fall River, MA: Employee owners of Rex-Cut Abrasives met with U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), U.S. Representative William Keating (D-MA), and U.S. Senator John Kerry’s (D-MA) Legislative Correspondent on May 10, 2012 in Washington, DC to discuss the importance of employee ownership through ESOPs in America.

As an ESOP Company, Rex-Cut Abrasives advocates to keep these unique business models on the minds of business leaders, educators, and elected officials. ESOP companies have a very positive 35 year track record of providing locally controlled jobs that provide significant benefits in high performing companies. For example, during the recession of 2009, employees of employee-owned companies were four times less likely to be laid off than employees of conventionally-owned companies (General Social Survey, February, 2010).

Individuals from Rex-Cut Abrasives with Senator Scott Brown (R-MA).

Founded in 1928, Rex-Cut Abrasive is a manufacturing company that provides the Metalworking Industry with high performance, non-woven cotton fiber and other premium abrasive products offering time saving solutions for our worldwide customer network. In 2008, Rex-Cut became an ESOP company. The ESOP has had a very positive effect on the company, as it created broad-based ownership among employee owners, and fostered an environment in which everyone understands his or her role in helping the company improve its bottom line and achieve the company’s objectives.

During the visit to Washington, DC for The ESOP Association Conference, Rex-Cut Abrasives along with other members of the New England Chapter, asked Brown, Keating, and Kerry to advocate on the behalf of ESOP companies by supporting two bills currently on the table; H.R. 1244 the Promotion and Expansion of Private Employee Ownership Act of 2011 and S. 1512 the Promotion and Expansion of Private Employee Ownership Act of 2011.

“The enactment of these bills would continue to allow Congressional policies to encourage employee ownership through an ESOP,” said Maria Prado, Vice President, Human Resources. “We are counting on members of Congress to stand up for ESOPs and employee ownership in America.”

From Sandy Paavola, Chair of the Government Relations Sub-committee for the Association’s Wisconsin Chapter; Ms. Paavola is Enterprise Services, Inc. located in Delafield, WI: During the national ESOP Association Annual Conference in Washington, DC, members of our Wisconsin Chapter visited Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress and their staff.

During these visits we achieved our main objectives:

  • Educate about ESOPs and the benefits of employee ownership.
  • Discuss the current pro-ESOP legislation that encourages the creation of ESOPs (H.R.1244).
  • Raise awareness about the possibility of the DOL re-proposing regulations re-defining the definition of fiduciary.
  • Strengthen our relationship and rapport with Congressional leaders, so that they know us and our cause.
  • Reinforce our position with Congressional members and their key advisors to make our voices heard (particularly in the case where tax law is drafted that negatively impacts ESOPs).

This was our fourth annual organized effort as a Chapter, and we made a total of four visits, one for each of the House members that represent those ESOP companies in attendance. A brief recap on our visits follows; the individuals who attended either one or multiple Hill visits include:

  • Park Manor, Ltd: Sharon Schultz, Debbe Klatkiewicz, Karren Balzar (WI ESOP Company of the Year)
  • Sentry Equipment: Mike Farrell, Sherri McDermott, Rich Gaffney, Dan Hentges, John Ivans,
  • Marcease Warren
  • Realityworks, Inc.: Timm Boettcher, Mary Stenvig
  • EMCS: Annette Mueller
  • Priority Sign: Lance McTrusty (WI Employee Owner of the Year)
  • IEWC Corp: Lou Ann Brown
  • Enterprise Services: Sandy Paavola, Craig Olinger
  • ESOP Partners: Aaron Juckett, Kevin Rusch
  • Principal Financial: Renee Stadtmueller
Sharon Schultz, Deb Klatkiewicz, Karren Balzar (Park Manor); Congressman Sean Duffy; Sandy Paavola (ESI).

Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI) – Our Chapter met with Congressman Duffy and his Legislative Assistant, Jon Hoelter. Leading the visit was Park Manor, Ltd., the Wisconsin Chapter ESOP Company of the Year. The Congressman was interested in hearing how Park Manor was doing and discussed healthcare and Medicare/Medicaid funding issues with the group. We also discussed current proposed legislation, explained ESOPs, and shared employee ownership culture issues. We asked for the Congressman’s support on issues relating to ESOP companies, particularly as tax revenue policies are advanced. We also requested for his support on H.R. 1244; he indicated he would review it. Congressman Duffy expressed his interest in visiting Park Manor in Park Falls this upcoming October during Employee Ownership Month.

Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) – Our Chapter met with Congressman Kind and his legislative assistant, Rachel Stanley. The Congressman is a strong proponent of ESOP companies, as evidenced by his initial co-sponsorship of H.R. 1244. Serving on the House Ways and Means Committee, he is in a key position on tax and finance related legislative issues. Congressman Kind was gracious in his time with us, openly discussing educational issues that impact Realityworks (constituent from Eau Claire) as well as ESOP related issues. We thanked him for his ongoing support, and asked that he discuss H.R. 1244 with other Wisconsin House members that have yet to sign on to the bill.

Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) – Our Chapter met with Congressman Sensenbrenner and his legislative assistant, Matt Bisenius. Congressman Sensenbrenner is supportive of ESOPs, and made sure that we knew that we should have as many pro-ESOP friends as possible on the House Ways and Means Committee, as tax revenue policies will be decided there and will likely come to the House floor for vote without the ability to modify the bill. We also discussed our hope to have the Congressman visit an ESOP company when he is back in the state sometime this year.

Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) – Since Congresswoman Moore was not available, we met with her Legislative Counsel, Sean Gard. We discussed current ESOP legislation, our concern about tax legislative changes, shared employee ownership statistics and benefits, and asked that he pass along our thanks for the Congresswoman’s support for H.R.1244. This was our second official contact with Congresswoman Moore’s office; we hope to build on our visit and continue dialogue with her. We asked for her to visit one of our ESOP companies when she is back in Wisconsin so she can see the power of employee ownership at work.

Conclusion

Overall, we were excited about the visits, garnering support and awareness of our cause. The time spent was a critical reminder that we must not take the current legislation benefiting ESOPs for granted. We need to constantly remind our representatives in Washington how great employee ownership is for their constituents, keeping this issue on the top of their minds as debate continues about deficit reduction and tax law changes. It is up to all of us to advocate the issues that impact the ESOP community, and we must all make a commitment to create opportunities to talk about the benefits of ESOPs with our Congressional leaders.

We hope to continue this effort each year in connection with the Annual ESOP Conference in DC, expanding on the number of Congressional members visited. In order to do so, we look for more member companies to join us in Washington next year to talk ESOP with their district’s representative.

We also want to encourage you to host a Congressional visit at your ESOP company. The Chapter officers are here to help you with the details! Together we can continue our goal to educate and advocate for ESOPs and legislation that promotes employee ownership!

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