Making the Most of Hill Days

May 1, 2024 | ARA Leadership, Industry

By Brian Bachand

ARA Hill Days is an exciting event coordinated by the Automotive Recyclers Association that culminates in meetings with our House of Representatives and Senators. A carefully crafted and strategically planned series of meetings are scheduled between ARA member constituents and ARA staff with corresponding state legislators.

A lot of time, effort and communication goes into setting up this event. The ARA staff works tirelessly in order to prepare for Hill Days and maximize its purpose. From reaching out to Legislators’ staff and scheduling times and dates for meetings, to reserving space and lodgings for ARA members, and developing a game plan as to what is trying to be accomplished on the Hill.

Then, throw in some organized meals and fun and creative group events, and the ARA staff does not miss a beat. A huge shout out to Emil Nusbaum, Kim Glasscock, Sandy Blalock and Vince Edivan, just to name a few, who do a lot of the heavy lifting to get this thing going smoothly. I believe all of those individuals tasked with organizing such an event have really gone above and beyond and should be recognized and thanked immensely for all their hard work.

In an industry where we pride ourselves on showing up to work each day and working hard throughout the day, the hard work does not end when everyone sits down to review the purpose of Hill Days. Once all who have managed to attend this series of meetings congregate in the conference room, our metaphorical congress is in session.

Agenda with High Purpose

Navigating the meeting’s agenda was done this year by Slater Shroyer and Emil Nusbaum. Both were very well prepared and have incredible knowledge in multiple and crucial aspects of this process. Each has their own expertise, but both did extremely well in coaching those in attendance on how to express the message we all are trying to convey.

Each member sitting in this room has great input and impactful ideas. We are all unique, for we each own and operate within different styled and sized businesses, and come from different locales and schools of thought. However, these differences have come to strengthen the purpose of the common goal we all share – a goal proudly portrayed by all to educate and re-educate the public and regulators and also those in our industry and all impacted by it.

This is a goal achieved through spreading awareness that the ARA is a leader in the auto industry and leads by example through certification and compliance. It also illustrates that we advocate for fair regulation and for our voice to be heard as a well-informed and hands-on type of advisor in the matters in which we will bring to Hill Days.

To quote Aaron Burr from Hamilton, “I want to be in the
room where it happens.” And I was there.

Looking around the room was and is always a true spectacle to behold. Going to conventions and summits, and meeting with the impact players in our industry, is always educational and beneficial for all in attendance. To see the people you do business with, and others whom you look up to within the industry, all in the same room, brainstorming and spitballing, is, in my opinion, typical fangirl or fanboy euphoria. To quote Aaron Burr from Hamilton, “I want to be in the room where it happens.” And I was there. Amongst the major movers and shakers of our association, discussing the major issues and challenges we all faced, in the room where it happens. With a folder full of detailed and precise information to absorb and elaborate on, along with a “to the point” PowerPoint presentation that helped follow up the facts and talking points, we were all dialed in. Emil and Slater set the tone for the task at hand and set forth the expectations for the coming meetings.

As representatives of ARA and our local state affiliates, we were given a concise yet detailed layout of what our agenda was to be for these meetings and what we were hoping to get out of them and what we aimed to achieve. Those who attended Hill Days previously joined in with pointers and “pro tips” as to how to conduct ourselves and “read the room.” We had the tools, we were given the resources to pass along in case our words did not hit the mark.

There were a mix of feelings about the upcoming meetings. But speaking for myself, I was excited and optimistic. Slater adjusted the expectation so that we went into the following day with a good game plan and had a good focus on how to get our “asks” across to the legislators and or their staff. Emil also reminded us to have fun, to be excited and I believe the combination of these two leadership strategies really prepared us well for a successful advocacy opportunity the following day.

Venturing Up the Steps

The next morning we met in the lobby before grabbing a Lyft over to the Hill. Everyone looked sharp and eager to begin the day. Dressed for success, my fellow recyclers and I embodied what it is we do and how we conduct ourselves. That is being clean, certified and compliant! I had a good idea what to expect and I was prepared.

However, upon reflection of these meetings I should have foreseen that our agenda aside, we would be doing what we do daily, just in a different arena. Nonetheless, I was jazzed up, ready to run through a wall, with Tony Robbins ringing in my ears, “The Path to success is going to take massive, determined action!”

Rolling up to Capitol Hill, regardless of how you feel about those who work in this outfit, is quite a wonder to behold. If the cause does not resonate enough for you, the scenery of Hill Days undoubtedly will. Taking in sights was definitely a treat, sometimes inspiring.

If the biggest gripe of the whole thing is how many times I had to take off my belt or that maybe Dr. Scholl’s might be onto something, then I would say it was quite an enjoyable, albeit rigorous event. We got straight to it with our first meeting scheduled for 10:30 a.m. However having Scott Robertson in the group as a seasoned vet definitely helped move things along by stopping in early and making things happen.

Educating the Influencers

Each meeting was its own entity, a different kind of animal compared to the next. You do not know, unless you are assigned before, whether you will be meeting with your legislator or representatives of their staff. The biggest issue is you do not know what they know, unless you ask. The group that included Tom and Ben Andrade, Scott and myself started out our meetings with introductions and a brief advocacy of what we do and who we are as an Association.

From there we put the ball in the court of who we were meeting with, asking if they have any questions about us or who we are or what we do. It was a mixed bag of those we met with. We spoke to Legislative aides, staff and constituents of, or on the behalf of our legislators. Half of them knew exactly what we do, and who we are and about the issues we spoke of and the reason we were there. The other half did not know about “junkyards”, VIN numbers, or the legislation pieces we had come to speak about.

So our team had to make in-meeting adjustments. I felt that we were compelled to either quickly educate or re-educate our audiences as to our origin of being junkyards and that is how we are searched and even seen. Yet we are creating awareness that there is a difference between a junkyard, an unlicensed and uncertified dismantling outfit, and a certified and compliant professional auto recycler.

We explained how we are leading the way through policy, training and procedure; that we operate in the manner of doing what is right and not what is easy; paving the way towards sustainability, viability and progressing of our industry. With all this being condensed and communicated, our group was able to redirect on the fly and convey our focal points of our mission and get across what we were there to ask. I thought all of our meetings went very well and I am hopeful that we will be able to reconvene with Congressman Bill Keating at a later time, since no one at his office was able to meet with us at the time. I believe we made the most progress when meeting with Congressman Richard Neal and Senator Edward Markey. There, our audiences were well informed on not only the issues we spoke of, but also on our industry and who we are. This allowed us to get more to the point of our meetings and spend more time on achieving our main initiative.

I Call It Success

I would go as far as saying that all meetings were a great success in the scope of things because of how we conducted ourselves and how we were able to create a hopefully ongoing dialogue. When we were briefed about the day’s goals, I thought this had a chance of being a transactional and or a “hit or miss” series of meetings.

There is always the chance that our shared information or our asks will not be communicated, lost in the shuffle, or not acted upon. But after talking with Zach Dupont, Advisor in the U.S. House of Representatives Office of Rep. Richard E. Neal, within the first few minutes of our first meeting, I realized these meetings are more about creating and cultivating relationships with clients. It flows both ways.

We each have things to offer the other and both have major roles to play and strenuous jobs to do. What we were there to speak about, impacts our audiences personally, as much as it does our own customers at home. So, like a good working system, business, and/or relationship, communication and bi-partisan efforts are key to moving toward shared goals and positive outcomes.

I have finished a few of the follow-up emails to those with whom our team had the privilege of meeting, and I have reflected on the Hill Days event from start to finish. Overall, I think it is a great way to meet and greet with the Legislature, while being a very empowering and educational experience.

“All work and no play makes me a dull boy,” was not the case here. ARA catered to those in attendance with fantastic food and great accommodations. I definitely enjoyed the after work hours as much as the planned tour and an evening event that had us all … schwinging the night away (pun intended… the place was called “Schwingers”).

Hill Days is time well spent away from your business and the daily grind to really see what is and to get involved in the big picture – a picture where our voice should be heard and where we, as an association, shall continue to lead and be the change that we are trying to create in the world.

It is an honor and privilege to represent the State of Massachusetts, the Auto Recyclers of Massachusetts and the ARA, and to do so at Hill Days was something I will continue to tell about and always remember. I highly recommend signing up and getting involved – from planning and preparation, to being a representative and making the hike up and around Capitol Hill.

This event is a catalyst to continued advocacy of our Association, our way of life and operation as auto recyclers. It is a chance to put our heads together and with one voice, advocate for how we create the future within our industry. What we do and discuss at Hill Days and how we communicate that to the legislature, will ultimately affect our daily operations in one way and or another.

Staying in tune with what is going on in our local auto recycling chapters and the national association is the best way we can make our voices be heard.

Overall, five stars on Yelp for Hill Days! Please continue fighting the good fight and keeping up the great work to all currently involved. To those not yet involved, get involved, email staff@a-r-a.org.

Do not miss the next chance at participating in Hill Days. Your meet and greet with legislators is a great opportunity to continue our hard work of advocacy for our industry, and to make yours, mine and our voices be heard.

Brian Bachand is a second-generation auto recycler, who helps own and operate Westover Auto Salvage in Belchertown, MA. He is on the Board of Directors for the Auto Recyclers Association of MA and a proud ARA Member. Brian has a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and paired with almost 25 years of auto recycling experience, will continue to implement ARA Advocacy for being a leader in the auto industry.

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