OPINION: OIA wants you to become a citizen lobbyist for the outdoor industry

As outdoor industry leaders gather in Washington, D.C. this week to speak with members of Congress, sponsors of the Outdoor Industry Association's Capitol Summit tell SNEWS why policy matters to them. Today, we hear from Craig Mackey, director of recreation policy, Outdoor Industry Association.
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As outdoor industry leaders gather in Washington, D.C. this week to speak with members of Congress, sponsors of the Outdoor Industry Association's Capitol Summit tell SNEWS why policy matters to them. Today, we hear from Craig Mackey, director of recreation Policy, Outdoor Industry Association.



With lobbyist ranking just below used car salesman, you may wonder why 50 outdoor industry executives are descending on Washington this week to lobby Congress for the annual OIA Capitol Summit.

Often cited and variously attributed, the answer is simple: “In Washington, if you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” Stated another way, it is far easier – and more productive – to play offense than defense.

The outdoor industry is on a roll. Our industry is an important economic driver, producing quality, sustainable, American jobs in every community in this country. We have a good story to tell and we need to tell it. For our industry to survive and thrive, we need places for our customers to get outside and play. And the American government – federal, state, local – plays a major role in providing and managing the public lands and waters that are the foundation of those outdoor experiences.

Yet, despite our industry’s success, outdoor recreation is seen as a “nice to have” rather than a “must have.” In Washington, state capitols, and city halls the scenario is the same: times are tough, revenues are down, and budgets are being cut. And, in today’s world, policy makers are inclined to cut funding for parks before funding for education or public safety. We need to make them understand that, not only is our industry driving $88 billion in federal and state taxes, our nation’s public lands and waters are the foundation of an industry that is providing more than 6.5 million jobs, and the heart of healthy, vibrant communities. 

Industry leaders from Will Manzer, CEO of Eastern Mountain Sports to Bridgette Rouleau, vice president of Morsel Munk, are sitting down with members of Congress and the current Administration to push the policies that can move our industry – and your business – forward. While in Washington, OIA members are presenting Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA-8) with the 2012 Friend of the Outdoor Industry Award for their leadership and support of the outdoor industry. It’s this constant dialogue with policy makers and recognition of support that is critical to ensure the growth and success of the outdoor industry.

Outdoor Industry Association is working with our members across the country to build relationships with policy makers and to weigh in on issues important to the industry. There is no more positive, more powerful message for policy makers today than jobs and the economy – and our industry has great stories to tell on this front. If you aren’t already, get engaged and tell policy makers why it’s important to support the outdoor industry. Here are tips to help you lend your voice and influence to support the outdoor industry.

Lobbying 101:

1.) Get involved – and it doesn’t matter where: In D.C. or in your community, follow the issues and be a voice for your business, your outdoor passions and the places your customer play.

2.) It’s all about relationships: Get to know your elected officials. Invite them to tour your company. Include them in a service project. Team them with kids on an outdoor adventure. Make phone calls, send an email. Make a political contribution directly or through the OIA Political Action Committee (OIAPAC). When they know you, they will listen.


3.) Be Specific: Remember, you are the expert. You know your business and what drives it better than anyone. Talk about the jobs you support, and the benefits of outdoor recreation in your community. Do not defer to conceived “power.” You, the voter and constituent, hold the power.

4.) Speak their language: In dealing with elected officials, hone your message, be concise. Be clear about your "asks." In any meeting have no more than one or two asks. Be respectful at all times. Focus on the benefits of your ask, not a threat if your ask is not fulfilled. For years, green groups have talked of "saving" a local river or forest. To some policy makers, "saving" equates to locking up the resource. Instead, demonstrate how "investing" in that same resource produces quality of life, economic activity and jobs – as well as a great place to play.

5.) Think win/win: Remember that they care about jobs and the economy. Tell them how investing in parks, waters and open spaces supports your local community and your business. For instance, outdoor recreation supports 6.5 million jobs and $289 billion in sales and services to the U.S. economy every year – more than the housing industry! That matters. Yes, we need energy solutions for our country, but we must also make room for the outdoor recreation economy. Activities like hiking, hunting, fishing and mountain biking will be here long after the oil and gas are gone.

OIA can help you become an effective citizen lobbyist for your business and the outdoor industry – all you need to do is take that first step.

Craig Mackey

Director of recreation policy, Outdoor Industry Association

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