By John Chwat
ESA Director of Government Relations
One of the major reasons for belonging to a trade association is to affect government legislation and regulations that would enhance business operations and profitability, as well as to prevent efforts to eliminate marketplace offerings to customers. ESA seeks to achieve this goal through government relations projects at state and federal levels.
ESA approaches government relations – whether at the state or national level – with three priorities:
- To be vigilant and monitor all bills and actions of government at every level and inform the industry on whether these efforts help or hurt businesses.
- To initiate new opportunities through legislation that might prove useful in marketing to new residential, commercial or government customers.
- To be able to implement projects to completion, whether it’s opposing negative initiatives or passing positive ones on behalf of business members.
One example is school security, which is a top issue for state and congressional legislators. In a recent appropriations bill, which provides
funding for a number of government agencies through Sept. 30, 2014, Congress
allocated $90 million to the Department of Education as a part of a grant
program for safe and drug-free national activities. The funding will give local
school districts the ability to purchase, install, and maintain school security
Congress provided an
additional $75 million to the Department of Justice under the Comprehensive School
Safety Initiative. This new program will help to ensure school safety, as well
as provide aid to investigate motives for school shootings.
ESA members should take advantage of these opportunities. Presentations to school officials in anticipation of state and federal funding for security technology are a vital part of outreach and marketing.
Video surveillance opportunities
Another example relates to state (and possibly federal) legislation providing for voluntary installation of video cameras to prevent abuse in elder-care facilities. Several states, including Virginia and Oklahoma, enacted laws last year, and ESA is seeking to amend the elder abuse provisions of the Older Americans Act in this Congress.
Video surveillance legislation and funding also present a marketing opportunity for ESA members. The association constantly tracks efforts by legislative bodies to provide for video surveillance in businesses, public buildings, streets, and many other locations.
Many government agency actions supported by ESA activities have no immediate legislative impact, but they result from government policies that would have a major impact on members.
For example, one project relates to a Presidential directive to identify and encourage retiring servicemen and women to engage in occupations that require licensing and specific experience. The Pentagon has already identified truck drivers, nurses’ assistants and other occupations that require credentials and licensing, and are working to expedite efforts to transition retired military personnel into these professions.
ESA will be working with its members and the U.S. military at the highest levels to identify electricians or electronic security military professionals to transition to civilian jobs, potentially providing a valuable source for a well-trained workforce.
Strength through coalitions
Working with industry leaders, ESA is at the forefront of identifying state and national legislative or policy initiatives that relate to changes in technology that will vastly impact businesses in competing for customers.
As an active member of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) –composed of major monitoring and alarm/video companies – ESA is joined by industry groups such as the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) and Security Industry Association (SIA). ESA is bringing groups together to review state legislation that could impact licensing and regulation laws; to enhance consumer protection; and to provide a level playing field for ESA members in offering their products and services.
Five ways to get involved
Here are some ways ESA member companies can benefit from the legislative and governmental process for marketing and business:
- Get involved in ESA, as well as your Chartered Chapter. If there is no state chapter, ask ESA how to set one up in your state. Keep track of information that could be used for marketing purposes at the local level.
- Identify a market (or any idea that protects the public) that you would like to pursue for your business operations. Perhaps ESA or your chapter might consider a bill or policy recommendation to officials to pursue the objective. Don’t wait for elected officials or staff to act, but consider being proactive instead. Implementing a project can require assistance, so feel free to contact me if you have questions.
- Monitor events that would lead to new marketing or business opportunities through legislation or policy initiatives. For example, the President has mandated that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proceed with expansive new broadband policies that will have a considerable impact on the industry. Read and know what is going on in your "neighborhood," and ask questions. ESA or your chapter can be an excellent resource.
- Network with allied groups who are involved with ESA or a Chartered Chapter to determine how you can identify issues before they become a law or final regulation. This includes any changes to your licensing or regulation policies. For example, the National Association of State Fire Marshals’ Board of Directors will be joining more than 80 attendees at ESA’s Day on Capitol Hill on April 28-29.
- Support the ESA and your Chartered Chapter on all requests relating to legislative and government policies. Visiting your state capital and meeting with legislators and staff is critical during the legislative session. If you are asked to send a company letter to a legislator or government official on a bill or regulatory policy, please take the time to send it. Also, become involved with your employees, family and friends (especially customers and neighbors) to expand this communications network to support our industry.
State and federal government actions can provide opportunities to build your business. Not all legislation and regulations have a negative impact, though some do. But you can be proactive, working with ESA and its chapters to protect the industry, expand sales and marketing, and increase your profitability.