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Belonging to NAW Is More Important Than Ever

Chairman's Column - May 2008

Chip Hornsby, Wolseley PLC
2008 NAW Chairman of the Board

Especially now while we’re enduring an economic slowdown in the United States, I believe it’s more important than ever to join or—if your company is already a member—remain a member of NAW. In fact, I encourage all of us who are members of NAW to get the word out to our colleagues in the industry about why it’s so important today more than ever to belong to NAW.

The value that comes from a member—someone like you and me—encouraging peers in the industry to join NAW is that by doing so, we collectively enhance and enrich the information exchange that we ourselves receive. And this is, after all, one of the hallmarks of NAW. The more people involved in NAW, the more valuable and powerful all of our individual experiences become.

There are two primary reasons that companies join NAW: government relations advocacy for us in Washington, DC, and the numerous opportunities NAW provides for networking and benchmarking with noncompetitors across our industry.

  • Government and the Electoral Process

By engaging the policy-making process, NAW connects our industry with leading Federal policy makers whose decisions often impact the everyday operations of our companies. Our businesses need NAW’s direct lobbying, grassroots lobbying, and leadership of coalitions to advocate for our industry in Washington.

Some key issues that our companies should be very concerned about this year are on the tax front. Repeal of LIFO remains a real threat, and the pro-growth tax cuts enacted since 2001 will expire in 2010 if Congress doesn’t act to extend them. All of these massive tax increases are included in House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel’s (D-NY-15) self-named “mother of all tax reforms”—a $3.5 trillion tax hike if enacted.

And we need to be very worried about the misnamed “Employee Free Choice Act,” or as it is better known, “Card Check Bill.” This bill would eliminate secret ballots in union organizing campaigns, allowing unions to automatically become certified collective bargaining agents if they collect signatures of a majority of workers on cards—an organizing method that invades worker privacy, subjects them to possible intimidation, and denies employers the ability to engage with their workers on the issue. The legislation could also force employers into binding arbitration if a card check campaign succeeds. Card check would also subject small businesses to union- organizing campaigns because a card check campaign is quick and cost-efficient.

NAW’s Wholesaler-Distributor Political Action Committee (WDPAC) is fully engaged in this year’s election cycle in which races for the presidency, 35 seats in the Senate (23 Republican and 12 Democrat), and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives will take place. WDPAC’s goal remains unchanged: Elect a President and a Congress that lead on, promote, and enact pro-business legislative and regulatory policies. Some say this is the most important election cycle of our lifetime. It’s clear that American business will face a devastating setback if the elections result in the loss of a significant number of pro-business Congressmen and Senators. NAW can’t fight these pro-business battles without resources from each of us in the wholesale distribution industry.

  • Networking and Benchmarking

Unlike any other organization, NAW is able to bring together executives from many lines of trade and match them with peers—not competitors—for the purpose of free-flowing networking. NAW events, such as at an NAW Billion Dollar Company CEO Roundtable, Large Company CEO Roundtable, and the Executive Summit, provide the entrée for wholesale distribution executives to join together and exchange benchmarking ideas with like companies from different lines of trade. That’s the key. We are able to discuss challenges common to wholesale distribution with other companies that are like us but that don’t compete with us. From these meetings, we take back ideas to our companies for implementation, and we begin to realize significant productivity improvements, cost reductions, and enhanced operations. Time and time again, executives report that they and their companies receive measurable and tangible value from attending an NAW event. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, networking and benchmarking with like companies through NAW is probably the most important value of my membership with this organization.

So, whether you value the government relations aspect or the networking and benchmarking aspect of your membership in NAW, or both, I strongly encourage you to tell your colleagues within your company, as well as your peers both within your line of trade and in other lines of trade, to either join NAW this year or renew their membership this year. NAW provides invaluable products, services, and information that we need and use everyday in our businesses. The peace of mind in knowing that NAW is working on our behalf in Washington allows us to focus on our companies’ continued growth and profitability. That’s true value in my estimation.