Raising a Unified Voice for an Advanced Manufacturing Economy
Almost every day, government officials weigh decisions that may affect the electronics manufacturing industry—decisions on issues like research and development, taxes, regulations, and the environment—decisions that can either help or hinder the competitiveness and financial success of companies across the global electronics supply chain.
IPC has made a long-term, strategic decision to up our game in government relations. We believe that presenting a strong and unified industry voice to government officials is one of the best ways to ensure our members’ future success in a global economy.
IPC is a U.S.-based, global industry association dedicated to the competitive excellence and financial success of its more than 3,600 member companies, which represent all facets of the electronics industry. We place a high priority on educating government officials about our industry and the policy issues that affect us.
The results from a recent IPC-member survey show that we are not alone in this belief. The IPC Government Relations (GR) team conducted a survey in November 2014 of association members in all geographies to gather input on priority concerns. When asked, “Do government decisions on matters like regulation and taxes have significant impact on our business?” 86% of survey respondents agreed. Issues of top concern included conflict minerals, environmental regulations, export controls and trade, and research and development funding.
It is evident that government relations matters both from the standpoint of an association and from the views of its individual members. It is important for us, and for any association, to implement a strong and well-developed GR strategy to best ensure the financial success of our members and our industry as a whole in the global economy.
Elements of a Good GR Strategy for an Association
As part of our commitment to public policy advocacy, the IPC GR team is implementing several strategies to make a difference for our industry and the overall economy. Our actions are aimed at educating key policymakers about issues affecting the electronics industry; connecting industry experts with policymakers for a direct dialogue on real-world impacts of policy decisions; and informing our members about policy actions that may affect their businesses.
For example, one of the ways we connect elected officials with industry leaders is through our “Meet the Policymakers” program, in which we invite elected officials to tour our members’ facilities. In 2014 we organized 12 of these visits across the United States, creating goodwill and a higher awareness of IPC and our policy priorities. These site visits give everyone from engineers to CEOs a chance to share their insights with their elected representatives.
In addition to meeting with policymakers at member facilities, we also meet with them in Washington, D.C. and other world capitals. For example, we schedule meetings year-round with various Members of Congress and Administration officials to keep them informed, maintain our strong voice on Capitol Hill, and inform them about important legislative and regulatory issues.
We also host an annual “fly-in” event—IMPACT: IPC on Capitol Hill—which brings industry executives from our member companies to our nation’s capital to meet with officials for meaningful discussions. At IMPACT 2014, we facilitated meetings for our members with more than 30 government officials. These meetings had a significant influence on the successful passage of the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act in late 2014. This landmark bill will establish a national network of public-private partnerships to promote specific areas of advanced manufacturing. It has the potential to be a game-changer for manufacturing in America and the world. It was one of the key policy initiatives we advocated for during IMPACT 2014, and something we continued our efforts on afterwards to ensure its passage.
IMPACT 2015 is coming up soon, on April 29 and 30, and we are aiming to build on last year’s successes and continue to solidify our position on Capitol Hill.
To ensure our members are well informed and engaged, IPC educates our members about GR issues via a blog on our website, as well as face-to-face workshops held across the country. In 2014, we held six workshops on how to comply with conflict minerals regulations, providing valuable information and serving as a resource to our members on this critical issue. These opportunities allow us to raise awareness of the policy issues affecting our industry and provide value to our members, who can then join us in our advocacy efforts.
U.S. members can also get involved in the IPC Political Action Committee (IPC PAC). Political Action Committees are transparent, legal entities in which U.S. citizens with common interests band together and make contributions to candidates for federal office. The IPC PAC supports pro-manufacturing candidates in both parties based on their positions on key policy issues. In the 2015–2016 election cycle, we are working to grow our PAC so that it can help elect more candidates who share our general outlook.
Yet another element of a successful government relations strategy is to reach outside the industry and the halls of government to raise awareness in the broader community. We do this with a pro-active media relations campaign, on top of our other advocacy efforts. For example, in 2014 we scheduled a meeting with the Bloomberg editorial board in Washington to share our industry’s views. We also work to place articles in the media when they can contribute to our advocacy goals. Last year this was highly important as we were advocating for the successful passage of the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act.
Global Policy Framework for 2015
Looking forward, we are focusing our advocacy efforts in the areas our members tell us are most important to them. Our Global Policy Framework for 2015 is aimed at promoting an advanced manufacturing economy that supports the entire electronics supply chain. The broad areas of that framework are:
- Driving technological innovation and advanced manufacturing
- Promoting a 21st century economy and workforce
- Advocating for smart regulation
- Supporting science-based environmental protection
Specific issues under these headings include public-private partnerships for manufacturing innovation, tax policy, education and training, and environmental health and safety policy. These will be the areas that we target in our advocacy efforts, as they are the current top priority issues for our industry.
We constantly monitor the policy debates that affect the electronics industry, and we update our policy agenda whenever necessary. This gives us a government relations platform that is always ready to take action.
Raising a Unified Voice
As an association, we understand that we are here for our members, to be a strong and well-heard voice for them and for the industry as a whole in the halls of government.
The electronics manufacturing industry is an important sector in the global economy, and it is our responsibility to advocate for policies that will help our members succeed. Together, with a unified voice and a clear strategy, we can influence the adoption of public policies that will advance our industry as well as the prosperity and welfare of billions of people.
John Hasselmann is the vice president of Government Relations at IPC—Association Connecting Electronics Industries®. Follow him on Twitter @john_hasselmann
California Congressman Mike Honda Discusses American Manufacturing
Barry Matties, Publisher of I-Connect007, sat down with Congressman Honda, who represents District 17 in the Silicon Valley, and talked with him about American manufacturing, infrastructure, education and some of the current thinking in America. According to Honda, "The policies we pass and the things we do in D.C. that negatively impact our economy...a lot of those guys who don’t support some of the positive things we want to see happen don’t really understand that it impacts their districts, their social services, health and business."