The Budget and American Opportunity

A guest blog by Seth Barnett, PPAI Government Relations Manager

This month the House and Senate began debating the many variations of the FY 2016 budget proposals. Though there are billions of dollars in variants and hundreds of proposed changes to balance the budget, the commonality in these is a strategic approach to ensuring economic growth, middle class opportunity and a reduced deficit. Members of Congress are pushing for the first balanced budget since the Clinton administration and have said they believe that, for the first time in many years, an agreed-upon plan is likely. The Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Management and Budget, and the President agree that in order for any of the proposals to have validity, it will have to ensure bipartisan support with special attention to deficit reduction. It is now up to the new Congress to create compromise that ensures economic stability.

In 2014 the U.S. GDP grew more than it had since 2010, helping the economy to somewhat resemble the prosperous late 1990s. In addition, the world economy is doing better as a whole, contributing to American opportunity. Due to the higher-than-projected year by the European Central Bank, Europe has increased its estimated economic growth from 1% to 1.5%. This small adjustment could mean than in just a few years Europe will be back to its own pre-2008 economic levels. Europe’s powerhouses–Germany, the United Kingdom and France–remain economically more stable than over half of the EU. Still, the U.S. economy thrives when Europe does as we are their largest export partner and third largest import partner. In order to keep this relationship constant, the U.S. will need a long-term growth plan for economic success.

The most significant threat to economic opportunity at this point comes down to the critical budget proposals. On May 15 last year, the U.S. reached its debt ceiling but avoided an immediate shutdown. Thanks to some clever accounting by the Treasury Department, the U.S. will not run out of money until sometime around October 1. If this limit is reached without a balanced budget or without a continuing resolution we could experience another government shutdown. When the government closed for 16 days in 2013, it is estimated that the U.S. lost .3% of its estimated growth. Another blow like that could set our GDP back even further.

The House- led Rules Committee has struggled to come to the table with a cooperative budget plan. Earlier last week they announced that there would be two unique votes on the current budget proposals. One budget proposal would have defense levels at a specific point while the other would slightly modify those levels. The House and Senate passed budget resolutions last week just before recessing for the two week holiday. The deficit is the most significant difference between the President’s budget proposal and the plans passed in Congress. The President’s plan would maintain current debt levels over a period of ten years before then beginning to drop off whereas the Congressional plan would slightly reduce deficit over the same time period. The interesting component of the budget plans is that they each allow for a similar reduction over FY 2016.

Congress will continue to strive for a balanced budget with all sides winning. However, it will be up to steady compromise to ensure the budget is agreed upon in time and without economic causality.

To read more from PPAI LAW, see this month’s GR Today.

PPAI Responds to The Oklahoman’s Report on State Spending on Promotional Products

Oklahoma Take Action: Tell your officials and representatives that you support responsible spending and the effective use of promotional products to promote essential government programs – and urge them to do the same.

Write your representatives now.

The Oklahoman MastheadA few days ago, The Oklahoman editorial board published the article, “In attacking Oklahoma state budget hole, every little bit of savings helps,” on wasteful government spending on promotional products.

PPAI answered the report with a response supporting responsible spending and the effective use of promotional products to promote essential government programs. Thus, allowing readers to consider the facts for themselves.

I encourage you to write your representatives to share how extensive industry research demonstrates that promotional products deliver the highest rate of reach, recall and response making them one of the most effective advertising and marketing media for all advertisers, including federal, state and local governments.

Thank you for your support.

Paul

Enhancing Your Stage Presence

A guest blog by Kirby Hasseman, owner of Hasseman Marketing & Communications

I recently had an opportunity to catch up on some social media, blog posts and columns I’d been stashing away for those extra long flights and extended delays.  We are very fortunate to work with a number of terrific industry writers and contributors that provide noteworthy advice and strategies to their peers and customers.

I was particularly impressed with a post from Kirby Hasseman, owner of Hasseman Marketing & Communications.

In addition to being a published author, blogger, videographer, PromoKitchen Chef, and an awesome promotional consultant, Kirby has become a friend and supporter of our efforts to grow the professionalism of our industry. He puts his money – and his time and energy – where his mouth is.

Thank you Kirby for allowing me to re-post your column to my Connections blog.  I am glad you enjoyed the show!

5 Business Lessons from Garth Brooks

Author, blogger, videographer, PromoKitchen Chef, and an awesome promotional consultant, Kirby has become a friend and supporter of our efforts to grow the professionalism of our industry.

My awesome wife (yes my wife is the best) bought me tickets to go see Garth Brooks in concert for Christmas.  So I was lucky enough to be among the thousands of fans to see him in Pittsburgh recently.  The show was truly outstanding.  Whether you are a fan of his music or not, Garth puts on a show to remember.  What an entertainer!

But it got me thinking, “What can I take away from this?  What can I learn?”  So here is what I came up with…5 Lessons to Learn from a Garth Brooks Concert!

The Power of the Wink:
  Gary Vaynerchuk actually talks about this concept.  Garth understands that there is a huge amount of power in making each person in the stadium feel special.  He runs around the stage so he spends time really singing and engaging with each section.  He waves at individuals, slaps hands, and spends real moments that will create raging fans for life.  Lesson:  Each customer matters…do you make them feel special?

Do More:  The show was amazing.  At the end of the event, I was tired!   We had gone on a journey and stood and sang along.  We had laughed and cried and screamed.  And all I could think was, “He is going to do this again…tonight!”  Garth scheduled two shows at 6:30 pm and 10:30 pm.  Now that is ambitious.  Lesson:  Want to grow your business?  Do more than most people think is reasonable.

Bring The Energy:  The reason I was so amazed that he was going to do this twice was the level of energy he brought to the show was off the charts!  He ran around and sang and screamed and (it seemed) had a great time.  The audience responded to his passion by screaming louder (which I am sure fed his energy again).  Lesson:  Your energy can really be contagious…is yours worth catching?

Play The Favorites:  Garth actually talked about this during the show.  He said when you come to see your favorite entertainer, it’s okay to hear the “new stuff.”  But you bought the ticket to hear the old favorites.  He’s right.  The same is true for your customers.  If you won them over with fantastic service, don’t change that model if you grow.  Do what you do best!  Lesson:  Don’t lose sight of what makes you special.

Let Your Team Shine:  Around the middle of the show, Garth brought out his wife Trisha Yearwood to the stage.  She is a talented entertainer in her own right and she did several great tunes from her career.  In addition, both Trisha and Garth took the backseat as they welcomed one of their back-up singers to the front of the stage.  She had written one of the songs Trisha was performing so they let her sing lead (and she was awesome).  It was a cool moment for her and it made you like Garth and Trisha even more.  Lesson:  Don’t be afraid to let your team members take the spotlight sometimes!  It makes you look good.

What a show!  If you get the chance to see it, I recommend it.  And if you do (or if you have already seen him) let me know what lessons I missed!  Remember…Sail Your Vessel!

The 114th Congress

A guest blog by Seth Barnett, PPAI Government Relations Manager

All Things Election

With the 2014 midterm election now in the history books, Congress is working diligently to ensure a smooth transition before the conclusion of the current session. The election resulted in the Republicans taking a majority in both the House and the Senate creating the first truly divided government between the legislative and executive branches since the 104th Congress under the Clinton administration. There is a chance that while Congress may be very productive over the next two years the President could use his veto power to stall bills approved by Congress. During the 104th Congress President Clinton implemented similar tactics, which caused the government to shut down once beginning in November of 1995 and again beginning in December of 1995. However, after that time period faith was swiftly restored in Congress and the next few years resulted in the best national economics in decades. Today those on the Hill hope that compromise can be found quickly.

I. The End

December 12 will mark the conclusion of the 113th Congress, one of the least productive in American history. The much anticipated lame-duck session that began on November 12 has so far been uneventful. Those in the House spent nearly a week preparing and passing a bill that would fund the Keystone XL Pipeline only to have it stall out in the Senate by one vote. Senators have been working to reorganize their leadership responsibilities for after they turn control over to the Republicans in January. Presently both houses are recessed until December 1 when they will have just shy of two weeks to conclude any major action.

II. Across the Map

The 114th Congress will have 69 new faces from nearly every state. As of now there are still a few elections to be decided including one Senate runoff race in Louisiana, which will take place on December 6. In the Senate the Republicans will now hold 53 seats and caucus in 2 independents, the same ratio that Democrats had in their majority control over the past two years. Pending the outcomes of the five remaining undecided races, the Republicans will hold at least 244 seats in the House. This is the largest majority control by that party since the 70th Congress began in 1927. In addition to their victories in Congress, Republican governors picked up three seats, bringing their majority seat count to 31.

For a complete list of new membership in the House and Senate, follow the link below.

114th New Member Guide

III. Leadership

One of the initial agenda items from Congress after reconvening in November was to determine leadership responsibilities for each party and in each chamber. It was not long after the election that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the current Minority Leader, and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the current Majority Leader, switched roles for the 114th Congress. In another move, the Republican committee has nominated Congressman John Boehner (OH-08) to remain in the role of Speaker of the House. This nomination will go to a vote in the House at the beginning of the 114th Congress but resistance is not expected. In the House, Democrats will stay with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) as their Minority Leader, and the Republicans have selected Congressman Kevin McCarty (CA-23) to hold the position of Majority Leader previously held by Congressman Eric Cantor (VA-07), who lost his reelection primary earlier this year.

These leadership changes have the potential to create more of a challenge for legislation being passed. The same players in different roles may inevitably create stalemate situations. This is particularly true in the Senate where the majority control is very slim.

IV. Committees

As advocates of the promotional products community our focus for legislation remains centered on business productivity, product safety, tax reform, protection of our industry, wasteful spending, and promotion of our medium. With those goals we as an association focus strongly on key leaders in specific committees on the Hill. Of the committees we as an industry communicated with this past year the two most active were the Senate Finance Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The Senate Finance Committee has been a focus for us since former Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) released a tax reform discussion draft suggesting that the current advertising expenditure be changed. At the time we had candid communications with the chairman’s staff that include statements about our place within advertising. In February of this year Chairman Baucus was appointed as the Ambassador to China, at which time Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) took the gavel. It is now assumed that the current ranking member Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) will take the leadership role from Sen. Wyden when the party shifts in January.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been a reoccurring group in our communications with the Hill throughout the 113th Congress. The committee, headed by Congressman Darrell Issa (CA-49), has spent the majority of its time going after wasteful and abusive spending by government agencies. This has left the promotional products industry vulnerable to harsh and unnecessary criticism. The industry has communicated thoroughly with Chairman Issa and many members of the committee to educate them about the usefulness and benefit of promotional products. This will have to continue into the 114th Congress. Chairman Issa’s term at the gavel will conclude in December. On November 18 it was announced that Congressman Jason Chaffetz (UT-03) will take the helm for this committee in January.

In total, 11 House committee chairmanships are open to appointment. Chairmen for most committees are picked by the controlling party’s House Steering Committee with the chairs of the Intelligence Administration and the Ethics Panel chosen by the Speaker of the House alone. The Small Business Committee will welcome Rep. Steve Chabot (OH-01) as its new chairman and the Budget committee will be headed by Rep. Tom Price (GA-06) beginning in January. Still up for grabs is the Ways and Means chair position, for which Rep. Paul Ryan (WI-01) and Rep. Kevin Brady (TX-08) are top contenders.

The 114th and Us

In the wake of the midterm election there is a sense of unease among many in D.C. With tax reform still a top priority for Congress, advocates are concerned that reform proposals may happen too quickly and not give time to properly lobby for inclusions.

In our industry we are still focused strongly on two key tax reform agenda items. The first is to ensure that advertising deductibility as it is does not change. There are firm proposals in both the House and Senate that would change advertising deductibility making it a less favorable business option. Potential incoming Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Paul Ryan (WI-01), has said that the proposal to change advertising deductibility is still on the table and will have to be debated among the committee.

It is imperative that our industry act to combat any harmful legislation that would affect advertising deductibility. Use the link below to send a letter to your member of Congress about the industry’s place in advertising and the usefulness of this deduction.

Advertising Expenditure

The second key item pertaining to tax reform is independent contractor legislation. We as an industry will continue to advance our messaging to attempt to be included in the tax code. This will protect those that are independents in our industry should the Safe Harbor clause that many of us work under ever be taken away. While the industry has done extensive work to develop partnerships with legislators who agree with our independent contractor language, the recent election has eliminated some of those allies. Congressman Tim Griffin (AR-02), who offered to co-sponsor legislation that included the industry’s language, will leave D.C. in December to assume his new role as lieutenant governor of Arkansas. We as an industry must continue to press forward with the goal of specialized independent contractor legislation.

We need your support. Use the link below to send a letter to your member of Congress about the need for independent contractor legislation. Together we can make an impact!

Independent Contractors and the Promotional Products Industry

Important Dates

December

Beginning in December, several key dates will affect the operation of Congress in the near future. The first is the much anticipated end to the current continuing resolution which the government is operating under that will expire on December 11. In order to fund the government and avoid another damaging shutdown, a spending plan or continuing resolution must be decided on by the second week in December.

January

In January the official employer mandated healthcare law begins; companies with 50 or more full-time employees must provide insurance options for their employees. Next up is the beginning of the 114th Congress. Constitutionally, Congress would come back to work on January 3; however, because that date falls on a Saturday, Congress will have to act to legally change the start date. Inevitably the start date will be sometime during the first full week in January.

February

In early February the President’s budget is due to Congress. Two weeks after that time Congress must submit a report on spending.

March

On March 16 the current debt limit will reset. If Congress does not act to raise the debt limit it is estimated that funds will run out sometime during the summer.

April

Two key budget dates will happen in early April. The first is the deadline for the Senate Budget Committee to report a budget resolution. The second is April 15, which is the deadline for the rest of Congress to issue action on a budget resolution.

October

October 1 will be one of the more anticipated dates during this next year. That will be the day that Congress must pass appropriations with the President’s approval or the government will shut down. This will be one of the more major tests of cooperation between the divided legislative and executive branches.

To learn more about all of PPAI’s political efforts visit www.ppailaw.org.

PPAI Debuts ‘Product Persona’ Industry Branding Campaign

Earlier this week, PPAI announced a new buyer outreach branding strategy, ‘Product Persona’. The campaign gives voice and personality to promotional products and is designed to inspire and engage buyers while forging connections with promotional products consultants. The campaign’s ads star popular promotional products and will increase traffic to PPAI’s buyer-facing website, (PromotionalProductsWork.org), educate buyers and drive business referrals to promotional products consultants.

We debuted the campaign earlier this month during Advertising Week in New York. The campaign was also showcased at the American Marketing Association’s (AMA) Annual Conference in New Orleans and the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) International Conference in Washington, D.C.

Read the ‘Product Persona’ announcement published in PPB Newslink earlier this week.

This past Wednesday morning I had the opportunity to speak directly with hundreds of promotional consultants, suppliers, buyers and marketers about the power of promotional products during the Michigan Promotional Products Association’s (MiPPA) Promotions That Roar event at Ford Field in Detroit. My presentation focused on the compelling research supporting our industry’s products and the value of working with promotional consultants. Presentations like this, along with the new Product Persona campaign, are small but important parts of our overall strategy and intent to position promotional products at the forefront. By raising the profile of promotional products and directly affecting the buying process, the industry can begin closing the opportunity gap and achieve unprecedented growth.

We will soon be announcing other initiatives supporting these goals and opportunities for co-op and industry partnerships.

All of us at PPAI are committed to bringing the promotional products industry out of the shadows and into the spotlight while gaining the share of market and share of voice we deserve.

LDW 2014 Is Fast Approaching

The RAC Leadership Development Workshop for 2014 is just a couple weeks away. For those not familiar with this event, PPAI brings leaders from 27 regional associations together for a few days of high-level planning, sharing and discussion. One of the conference’s primary goals is to help prepare each regional to be successful in the coming year.  When regionals succeed, the entire industry benefits.

This year’s LDW content focuses on a first-of-its-kind benchmarking survey that shows each regional where they are succeeding, where they need to improve, and who to look to for guidance. It took a lot of courage for the presidents and executive directors to participate in this study and share the inner workings of their association. This unprecedented collaboration marks the start of a new spirit of cooperation among regionals.

If you want to know more about LDW and how it benefits attendees, regionals and the industry, I highly recommend you contact your local association to get involved. The local, grassroots-level participation is so vital to our industry’s well-being even a few hours of collaboration a year can have a positive impact.

Paul

The State of the States

A guest blog by Seth Barnett, PPAI Government Relations Manager

Last month, PPAI’s government relations manager Seth Barnett traveled to Minneapolis for the annual State Legislative Summit produced by the National Coalition of State Legislators. This event brings in more than 2,000 state legislators, their staffs, trade groups and nonprofits from across the country and all over the world to discuss ways to improve politics for the citizens of each state. This was PPAI’s first time to participate in the event. With the continuation of PPAI’s growth on the state political scene, the legislative summit was the obvious next step for industry government relations efforts.

Of the many subjects that were part of the conversation at the summit, a few stood out as potential benefits for the promotional products industry. These included an overview of small-business health within the states, the status of state economies and an interesting look at the views of American politics held by voters.

Small-Business Health

We work in a fickle and sometimes unstable economy. It is good to understand how our state governments perceive business within our states. Sometimes we overlook the role that state government plays in the workplace. While the federal government has come to numerous standstills over the past several years, the states are continuing to look at what makes their respective economies successful.

Of the small businesses in the U.S., more than 90 percent operate with fewer than five employees and generate less than $5 million in annual revenue. That is significant when considering how much small businesses contribute to the GDP. It is also good to know how our industry, with its 97 percent small-business operation, compares to other industries.

Most state legislators can agree that they want to encourage entrepreneurship and small-business development. In fact, most cities across the country have seen increases in entrepreneurs in the current economy. There has also been a sharp increase in the number of people transitioning from being regularly employed by someone else to becoming independent and creating an S-Corporation, C-Corporation or sole proprietorship. This can be seen as the result of state and local governments efforts to promote the entrepreneurial spirit among residents.

The states have also gone to great lengths to identify what small-business success looks like. Essentially, of the states with the most successful small businesses, less state tax on business reflects better business operation and less government involvement, but more competition regulation keeps the market moving and simplistic tax regulation makes it easier for small businesses and independents to stay profitable.

The states can all agree on one truth, which is that small business is the engine that drives state economies. Still, small businesses face uncertainty and challenges that often stem from poor and misguided legislation at the state level. The unique opportunity here is that state legislatures need input from the business community to be able to create and pass effective legislation.

State legislatures continue to want to hear from constituents about what they can do to better serve businesses. PPAI has a tool specifically designed to help industry professionals to look up their state legislators contact information. Follow the link below to find your state representatives and tell them what you do in the promotional products industry and how they make you more successful.

Who Represents Me?

State of the States

State politics have continued to stay slightly more effective than the federal government in the creation and passage of solid legislation. State politicians are proud of the job most of their colleagues across state lines are doing for constituents. The states are working independently of the federal government to bring back trust in the government after the recession.

Some states are doing a better job of recovering from the recession than others, but all have essentially experienced a return to theirpre-2008 economic status. The majority of states have worked to reestablish their economic bases that will defend against future recession. Many states have created plans to provide more constituent services specifically those which promote business within the state. This includes training programs through government agencies, job readiness programs, business planning programs, and so on.

Politics: What Do Americans Really Think?

The view of American politics by the American public has not been this negative in many decades. Americans as a whole are unimpressed with the direction of government, and while state governments look better in the eyes of the public, they are still not completely immune to negative feedback.

We are currently experiencing the longest period of pessimism regarding the federal government than any other time in history. A mere 14 percent of Americans approve of the job that Congress is doing and only 19 percent approve of the American political landscape as a whole.

The economy continues to remain the centerpiece of American politics at all levels. Nearly half of all voters believe the economy is the number one contributing factor to government uncertainty. While economists believe that the economy is in an upward swing, the American public remains cautious. It is important to understand the place we each have as part of the political system. Government cannot work without us. PPAI encourages industry leaders to take action to maintain stability of the industry in front of both federal and state governments. PPAI will continue its government relations push on state and local levels. To learn more about all of PPAI’s political efforts visit www.ppailaw.org.