Connect with Washington

March 1, 2008 By    

As owners and operators of mostly small-to-medium-size businesses, we tend to focus first on matters that are specific to our marketing footprint. Because our customer base is local, we have an immediate vested interest in local affairs. For our own self-interest, we become actively engaged in organizations like local fire protection or city, county and township government agencies.

Carl Hughes
Carl Hughes

Then, because of the relative proximity of our businesses, we can visibly see and touch the impact of the larger state or regional actions. Our state houses are accessible; our state representatives are our neighbors. We relate to the statewide issues and know whom to call to get our voices heard.

The federal government is another matter altogether. We are cynical of most things that the federal system creates, manages or regulates. How it works makes little sense to us. Washington, D.C., seems very distant. Quite frankly, we don’t connect to D.C., or “the Hill,” at all. We stay distant and – as a result – cynical.

Make sense and connect

I have a partial solution to this issue. Because we clearly see the importance of our involvement in our local governmental affairs, it stands to reason that becoming engaged in national legislative and regulatory matters also will help our businesses.

The legislation and regulation from Washington is the most influential body affecting your business. The solution is to attend the National Propane Gas Association’s Propane Days on June 9-11 in Washington. Before you dismiss the rest of my thoughts as pure advertisement for the event, let me explain how you will benefit by booking your trip.

Remove the confusion

Just as in your local legislative affairs, interacting and observing the mechanics of how the federal legislative process works will improve your understanding and diminish your cynicism. I can’t guarantee that some of your cynicism of the system won’t remain, but why things happen like they do will make more sense.

Washington, D.C., does not operate in a vacuum. We tend to view all issues from our perspective only. In our simplistic view of the way the world works, we don’t understand why the federal government does not do exactly what we want. You will learn firsthand that, in addition to those who work on your behalf, others with opposing views are active for their interests as well.

Have an influence

It is a shocking but true fact that few constituents call on their congressman at their place of work. But if you make the effort to come to D.C. for Propane Days, your voice and opinion will be heard over all who do not come.

This will be your chance to meet eye-to-eye with those in the most senior-level positions who represent your interests. Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives want to know what is important to you.

Hear from analysts, policymakers

Speakers for Propane Days include MSNBC anchor Tucker Carlson, who is one of the most entertaining political commentators and someone who has an opinion on everything of importance in the city. Newt Gingrich also will address us at a time when the current presidential election – one of historic and monumental proportions – will be in full debate.

Experience a great city

Ask anyone globally which city in the United States is the first on his list to see. The answer more times than not is Washington, D.C. – for good reason.

The U.S. government is the most significant organization on the planet. It works out of a few buildings, all within walking distance to the other. Add the mix of memorials that will move you with a deep sense of history, and museums and art galleries that are unsurpassed. Plus, there are many quality restaurants where deals of importance are introduced, negotiated and closed.

Carl Hughes is senior vice president of business development for Inergy LP. He can be reached at or 816-842-8181.

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