CM Perspective: Making It Real - Plant Tour Furthers Relationship with Lawmaker

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CM Perspective: Making It Real - Plant Tour Furthers Relationship with Lawmaker

Last year during SBCA’s Open Quarterly Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, I took the train down to Washington, DC and met with staff members of my U.S. Representative, Bill Flores. After a productive meeting on Capitol Hill, I made sure to leave an invitation behind for the Congressman to tour our production facility in Lott, Texas. 

A few months later, the Congressman’s office reached out to schedule a plant tour while Congress was on break in August. He had to reschedule, but was able to tour our plant later in October.

Many elected officials understand that they really need to have a connection with the people who vote them into office. In a way, we facilitated that by inviting Rep. Flores into our plant, and I’m sure most other lawmakers would jump at the chance to tour a component manufacturing plant in their area as well.

During our tour, the Congressman was extremely engaged and interested in everything. We also hosted a meeting, during his visit, with other local business leaders, to give them a chance to meet with him.

We discussed issues that have been facing our industry for quite some time — labor, which feeds into immigration challenges. Cost of materials, namely lumber and the impacts of the lack of a softwood lumber agreement. Regulations from the recently implemented Electronic Logging Device mandate to others that make it difficult to do business. Luckily, Texas is a pretty business-friendly state, but there are things we can focus on that can make the business climate friendlier.

The real advantage of plant tours is that it makes everything real to individuals who are outside of the industry and unfamiliar with what we do. It’s hard to get anyone to understand our challenges if they don’t even know what a truss plant is. When you bring them in and show them the process, they get to see that it’s not just pounding a bunch of boards together. They see how it contributes towards the whole building industry.

While meeting with Flores in our plant, he mentioned that he built a house about four years earlier. He felt the framer did a good job, but had he known trusses were an option, he said he would have felt much better knowing he had an engineered product holding his roof up. It was a great testament to our products and the industry.

During the meeting, I asked him, if I come to Washington, will you see me? He did not hesitate to respond that he would absolutely meet with me.  So when I planned to attend SBCA’s 2018 Legislative Fly-in, I emailed his office and asked if he would have time to meet with me. It didn’t take long for his office to schedule 20 minutes while we were in DC. It was our initial meeting during the plant tour that helped break the ice, and led directly to being able to meet with him in his DC office, rather than just meeting with a member of his staff.

Even though I was swamped with work, I didn’t want to squander the opportunity to meet with Flores. He spent his time to visit our plant, so I needed to reciprocate. The only way to build a relationship is if both sides reach out.

The meeting in DC was a success. Flores had no idea about the issues impacting the component industry; he was unaware of the disparities over the softwood lumber agreement with Canada, lumber tariffs, and Canadian ownership of U.S. southern lumber mills.

A very important piece of all of this, is the thank you email I sent to his office. Maintaining a positive, ongoing relationship with him and his office is only going to be of benefit if I may need his help in the future. I’m looking forward to developing my relationship with Congressman Flores, it’s certainly something to cherish and not take lightly.

Chris Troyer owns Longhorn Truss LLC in Lott, Texas. For resources for how to host a successful plant tour, visit SBCA’s website.