Advocacy Takes Front Seat at RCI

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August 17, 2018
By Jeffrey L. Taylor and Kristen Ammerman

There are thousands of industry associations like RCI, Inc. (RCI), working every year to affect public policy in Washington, D.C. in a manner that positively impacts their members and their industries.

RCI Leaders and Congressman Price
Key participants at RCI’s recognition of Congressman David Price for championing responsible construction procurement on federal projects. Left to right: RCI President Mike Clark, Congressman Price, CEO Lionel van der Walt, REI Engineers, Inc. Executive Vice President and CFO Ken Tyner, and Advocacy Committee Chair Tom Gernetzke. Photo by Chris Barnes.
With so many associations, interest groups, companies, and constituents vying for the ear of each elected leader, the best way to push ahead with a serious legislative and regulatory agenda is to have a significant and vibrant advocacy program that is well-organized, efficient, and substantive.

Following that roadmap, earlier this year, RCI began the hard work of changing U.S. public policy by advocating for a pro building envelope consultant member agenda in Washington.

It began with an effort to educate Capitol Hill and officials of the Trump Administration on the drawbacks of cooperative purchasing in federally funded construction projects.

To RCI members familiar with the issue, this is an easy subject to grasp, but when explaining it to a senator who has 50 other competing issues to manage, construction procurement can often be a tedious and time-consuming subject to comprehend. RCI Advocacy Committee Chair Tom Gernetzke, RBEC, FRCI, notes, “One staffer told me, ‘I’ve lived under a roof all my life, but that’s about all I understand about what you do.’” So RCI took a methodical and steady approach to educating the powers that be in our national capital.

During this process, RCI met with members of Congress and their staff, walked through the many elements of construction procurement, asked them to support our position by proposing pro building envelope consultant legislative language, and worked to guide that language through the full appropriations process on Capitol Hill.

Lionel van der Walt and Congressman Price
RCI CEO Lionel van der Walt presents a plaque to Congressman David Price in recognition of his help in including positive language on cooperative procurement practices in construction in the U.S. House Appropriations Financial Service and General Government bill. Photo by Chris Barnes.
In July, RCI’s hard work was rewarded.

The U.S. House of Representatives included our legislative language within the report that accompanies the U.S. House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government bill—language that speaks to “Cooperative Purchasing and Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) Agreements” and that directs the General Services Administration (GSA) to ensure that cooperative purchasing and MAS agreements involving federal funding do not result in higher costs, abuse of taxpayer dollars, noncompliance with building codes, or questionable quality of work. (See the germaine text of the bill in this earlier RCI Newsfeed article:

In this instance, U.S. Rep. David Price (D-NC) was our chief champion, taking the lead on supporting this important language.

On August 10, RCI was proud to host Congressman Price at an event at Central Elementary School (CES) in Hillsborough, NC, coordinated by Orange County Schools Chief Operations Officer Patrick Abele. CES is currently engaged in a renovation project that was involved in an open bidding process, so RCI was able to show Representative Price a real-time example of how his legislative language affects real projects. Present were RCI staff, President Mike Clark, Past President Tom Gernezke, Past President John Willers, other local members of RCI, and school officials.

REI Engineers, Inc. Executive Vice President and CFO Ken Tyner (also an RCI member) presented a PowerPoint discussing how his company was chosen for the roof replacement at CES through a qualifications-based selection (QBS) and how the project took shape. While Orange County Schools do not use cooperative purchasing in renovations, Tyner showed what could have happened if the school district had taken that route. School COO Abele also expressed his support for the open bid process for construction projects.

RCI, represented by CEO Lionel van der Walt, was very pleased to present Congressman Price with a plaque of appreciation for championing the development and inclusion of this important language in the appropriations bill.

“Even though the RCI staff, leadership, and the Advocacy Committee look for ways to advocate for our core members every day, I believe that it is up to all members of RCI, Inc. to work to further the association’s goals whenever the opportunity arises,” President Clark noted. “The report language, as well as this meeting with Rep. Price, are examples of how our advocacy efforts, at long last, are starting to bear fruit.”

Localized Advocacy

With RCI on a roll in advocating for the association and its members on the federal level, leaders encourage RCI regions, chapters, branches, and individuals to reach out to elected officials, from their local school board members to members at the state and provincial levels in Congress and the Parliament to advocate for promotion of the building envelope consulting industry and its members.

With that in mind, RCI will hold special informational sessions at the upcoming RCI Leadership Workshop on October 4-5 in Raleigh, NC, providing ideas and tips on how to advocate for our members’ interests at the local, state, federal, and international levels. Special sessions will be presented about RCI’s lobbying activities, influencing governmental action in Washington and Ottawa, and grassroots action. They will be:

  • “RCI Federal and State Advocacy: Going on the Offense, Getting Engaged,” by RCI’s lobbyist and strategic advisor on advocacy and industry affairs, Jeff Taylor of Government Relations; and RCI Director of Industry Affairs Brian Gardiner
  • “RCI Chapter Advocacy: A Grassroots Approach,” by RCI Advocacy Chair Tom Gernetzke and RCI Secretary/Treasurer Ted Sheridan.

Chapter and region leaders are encouraged to take ideas back to their locales and share them with fellow members so that they can mobilize quickly and take action if called upon.

Look for more articles about RCI’s advocacy efforts in future articles on the RCI Newsfeed.