A New Perspective
by Trey Barrineau
March 26th, 2015

WDMA Literally Knows its Way Around Washington

The Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) spring meeting and legislative conference that wrapped up this week in Washington, D.C., gave this fenestration newcomer more great opportunities to meet and interact with some of the top people in our industry.

But on Tuesday, I also got a fascinating glimpse into how groups like WDMA personally reach out to Congress to shape and steer the direction of legislation that affects doors and windows.

My guide was Ric Jackson, the director of external affairs and government relations for Quanex Building Products. (Full disclosure: He’s also a blogger for DWM.) On Tuesday, I accompanied Ric and others to the offices of Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a state that’s home to many companies that manufacture doors, windows and related components.

When I say that Ric knows his way around Capitol Hill, I mean it in every sense of the term: He’s not only very familiar with congressional members from both parties, he also literally knows the best ways into and out of the labyrinthine complex of congressional office buildings that surround the U.S. Capitol. For example, as we approached a long line waiting to enter the Hart Senate Office Building, Ric knew that we could walk a bit further, enter the Dirksen Senate Office Building via a much shorter line, and take an underground passageway back to Hart.

Once inside, Ric knew the quickest way to the senators’ offices. He also took the lead in speaking for the group and shaping his message to strike the right ideological notes to staffers for Brown (a Democrat) and Portman (a Republican).

If you’re envisioning dramatic House of Cards-style lobbying, think again. It was a measured appeal for lawmakers to consider common-sense proposals that really matter to the fenestration industry and everyday consumers. They mostly focus on energy efficiency and reform of a poorly executed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lead paint rule that’s proven expensive and burdensome for homeowners and remodelers.

In short, it’s the kind of lobbying that makes a real difference in the lives of real people.

I think Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who spoke at the WDMA gathering, summed it up best:

“When you meet with your member of Congress, it’s important to tell them real-life stories about your business and how federal policy impacts it. That can change the mind of someone who is going to cast a vote. This country, this government, needs your participation. We can’t do our job without people like you.”

That’s about as far from the world of Frank Underwood as you can get.

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