SGMA plans fitness advocacy event in D.C.

With the emphasis on fitness being an answer in part to the growing obesity and healthcare issue faced by the United States, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association will announce this week a new event in Washington, D.C., just for the fitness industry.
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With the emphasis on fitness being an answer in part to the growing obesity and healthcare issue faced by the United States, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association will announce this week a new event in Washington, D.C., just for the fitness industry.

To be called "Fly-in for Fitness," the advocacy and lobbying event will be March 1-2, 2005, incoming SGMA President Tom Cove told SNEWS®.

"We want to talk about what's happening" in the government, Cove said, as well as how it affects the industry and what suppliers and retailers can do.

Other industries have had such events in the past during the busy spring lobbying season in Washington, D.C. They included SGMA and PE4Life's "National PE Day" in late April or early May, which has also attracted fitness leaders, for example from Strive Smart Strength (see SNEWS® story, May 12, 2004, "PE Day lobbying puts fitness on legislative forefront"), and IHRSA's "Legislative Summit," normally in May (see SNEWS® story, May 26, 2004, "IHRSA lobbyists position clubs as solution to obesity crisis"), which suppliers Matrix and Precor have attended. Although both events touch on fitness and its importance, each also has its own agenda related to specific goals: The National PE Day focuses on the importance of daily PE in schools, while the Legislative Summit spends its time talking to club leaders and to legislators about bills and issues that benefit for-profit clubs.

The Fly-In will focus purely on the broader fitness industry, including manufacturers and retailers. According to Cove, it will include lobbying on "The Hill" and meetings with legislators, but will go beyond that. It will also educate attendees about opportunities as fitness grows to play a larger role in public policy and will allow attendees to network among themselves.

"Fitness is a big and a growing part" of the government's public policy, he added.

Cove, who will take over formally as SGMA's president on Feb. 1, 2005, from his current role as vice president of government affairs, said speakers could include members of Congress to talk about policy, journalists to talk about how and why fitness is covered, and others that can tie the issues of health insurance and taxes to fitness. He also said he expects to add a small international component among speakers as well as attendees since the obesity problem is a "growing international concern."

Information will be available soon from SGMA as details, hotel headquarters, schedule and speakers are decided.

SNEWS® View: We have attended many spring lobbying and educational events in D.C. in the past years and have advocated that many more in the industry concerned should go. Not only do you learn a lot about how the government and the lobbying system work from inside legislative offices, but you realize that lobbying -- especially en masse with a targeted message -- really can and does make a difference in the formation of public policy. Although we have seen fitness as a side theme at outdoor recreation events in D.C., as well as at PE and health club events, a separate fitness-focused one will allow for true penetration as well as the best networking among attendees. SNEWS® will be there. It's in our calendars in pen, mind you, not pencil. Put it in yours too -- as a way to boost your company's business but, even more importantly, as a way to boost the government's view on fitness and what the industry as a whole can do.

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