The International Franchise Association's 11th Annual Public Affairs Conference drew more than 500 franchise leaders to Washington, D.C. in September to advocate for sound regulatory and legislative policies that would improve the economic atmosphere for the industry. The franchise representatives conducted meetings with legislators and congressional staffs of 47 states during more than 200 meetings.
Over the course of the two-day conference, attendees prepared for their visits to Congress with briefings on important public policy and political issues, including the need for access to capital, repeal of IRS Form 1099 reporting provisions, extension of pro-growth tax relief and encouraging veteran entrepreneurship. The conference was something akin to a family reunion, allowing opportunities to get re-acquainted with franchise-friends from around the country.
IFA members were also briefed by such media experts as NBC News Political Director and Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd who described the nation's political landscape, noting that Republicans have good odds of taking control of both the House and Senate when results of the mid-term elections are tallied. Looking ahead, he said that the driving issue next year for lawmakers will be the federal deficit.
Special congressional speaker Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, who chairs the Senate Republican Policy Committee, also praised the attendees for participating in the Franchise Congress program and getting involved in the political process. He added, as the association has shared with its members on numerous occasions, individual franchise business owners have the most influence with legislators because they are key constituents and represent communities and local economies.
Franchise Congress, IFA's elite advocacy group, hosted its annual member meeting Sept. 13. Led by Co-Chairman Stuart Mathis, president of MBE, a UPS company, and Saunda Kitchen, owner of Mr. Rooter of Sonoma, Calif., the more than 100 attendees shared best practices and training tools, and the group's 2011 goals were finalized.
Franchise Congress attendees also welcomed special guest Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) who spoke with the group about his background in franchising (The UPS Store, Subway), as well as his experiences transitioning from a small-business leader to lawmaker. He reinforced the importance of being active in politics back home, commended Franchise Congress leaders for their efforts, and offered his insights on how to be even more effective in building relationships with elected officials, especially during such a critical election year.
Franchise Congress leaders were a key factor in the success of this year's Public Affairs Conference. This educated, motivated and effective group helped to lead the rest of the conference attendees in learning the key franchise political issues, answered questions in preparation for the meetings on Capitol Hill and reported great feedback on how effective the IFA was in communicating with congressional offices on Sept. 14.
Overall, the Franchise Congress initiative has grown impressively since 2009 and the strength of IFA's advocacy efforts took center stage during the association's largest advocacy event. In addition to IFA's Franchise Congress activities, all conference attendees contributed to effective communications on Capitol Hill. Here are some examples:
* The Texas delegation met with Sen. John Cornyn to discuss key franchise issues. Approximately 45 Texas attendees attended the conference.
* The Virginia delegation received a special treat when they met with the off-ices of Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb in a joint coordinated event to discuss small-business concerns. More than 40 franchise leaders from Virginia traveled to Washington for the event, and Sen. Warner conducted a very frank and thoughtful discussion with the group.
* More than 20 franchise delegates from Georgia came to meet with both that state's Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson.
The efforts paid off. A few days after the IFA Public Affairs Conference, the Senate passed IFA's top legislative priority, a bill improving small-business credit access. IFA members have lobbied on this issue for nearly two years, including a final push during the conference. As part of the Small Business Jobs Bill, loan limits for Small Business Administration 7 (a) loans will increase from $2 million to $5 million and the 90 percent SBA loan guarantee would be extended through 2010, which IFA believes will encourage banks to start lending again. The bill headed to President Obama's desk where he signed it Sept. 27.
In addition to successfully lobbying on credit access, other key events took place during the conference. For example, echoing the conference theme, "Franchising Counts," the U.S. Census Bureau released the results of its 2007 Economic Census Franchise Report that for the first time included detailed data showing the economic impact of franchising (see page 41 for a complete report). IFA has worked closely with the Census Bureau to enhance its understanding of the broad scope of franchising that crosses many industries in the United States and its impact on the U.S. economy and advised the bureau about which industries would likely be important sources of franchising data.
This new economic data will help support IFA's ongoing public awareness campaign that was initially launched in 2008. The latest advertisement in the campaign appeared during the conference featuring BrightStar franchisee Pat Luers and company founder Shelly Sun, CFE. The ad explained that Pat Luers, of Centerville, Ohio, who opened his first BrightStar franchise last year, created 40 new jobs in his community and would like to open more locations. However, he has had trouble accessing additional credit to make that happen. The ad states that with access to credit and sound regulatory policies, franchise businesses like Luers' can create new jobs and help to get America back on the path to economic recovery.
Another long-standing priority for IFA is to support efforts to help veterans transition into civilian life after their military service. IFA members worked to advance the Help Veterans Own Franchises Act, H.R. 2672, which would establish a tax credit for franchise businesses that offer qualified veterans a discounted franchise fee. After IFA members urged their representatives to co-sponsor this bill, commitments poured in. At press time, the bill had more than 45 sponsors, and the industry was expecting the introduction of Senate legislation with as many as four co-sponsors.
To further support veterans, during the conference, IFA signed a Certificate of Partnership with the U.S. Army Reserve to help broaden employment opportunities for reservists by including franchise ownership as new career options. The initiative will help funnel franchise prospects from the Army Reserve toward IFA's Veteran's Transition Franchise Initiative, VetFran. In addition, VetFran participating companies will gain access to men and women who have expertise in executing systems gained from their military training.
Among the many highlights of the Public Affairs Conference were presentations of the coveted IFA Legislator of the Year Award. Two long-time franchising proponents received the honor: Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). IFA Chairman Ken Walker, CFE, (Driven Brands chairman and CEO), commended the two legislators for their "commitment to policies that create a sound business environment for franchising, especially during these tough economic times." Others honored were the 46 IFA Franchisees of the Year who represented 32 franchise brands. A complete list of these outstanding franchise owners...