Q&A With Greg Sidwell, Incoming Board Chair Of NAMA, About The NAMA Fly-In & Advocacy Summit

June 20, 2019

Q: Why do you think it's important for NAMA members to attend the Fly-In Summit this year?

A: The same reason as every year — to help our industry. I take my hat off to NAMA for what they've been able to do, and a lot of that was driven by Eric Dell, who heads up government affairs for NAMA. The very first year we had the Fly-In, NAMA prepped us by explaining that members of Congress didn’t really know who we are, and they didn’t know our industry. They told us that it was going to take a while for us to make a presence there.

And the first year, that was very evident. But by going back and letting elected officials see us trying to get more engaged with the government, they're starting to recognize who we are. We're getting more and more meetings because we've kept coming back and showing them that we're sincere, and that we want to be an ally and work through issues. They’re getting to know our industry and our issues, and they're making more time for us.

I think people should go to help our industry, to help their own individual businesses, and to make sure Capitol Hill knows who we are as the convenience services industry, and that they're hearing our voice. Because of how important government regulations are to everyone in our industry, the event is attracting the largest manufacturers and operators, so it's become a very good networking event.

It's also one of the few things you can get involved with where there's no registration charge. Obviously, it will cost you something to get there and it will cost you a hotel room, but to be part of the event is a worthwhile cause.

Q: This is the fifth annual Fly-In. What have these events accomplished in previous years?

A: One of the big things we were able to do is to work together to postpone what was going to be a mandatory rollout for front-of-pack labeling. The result: Elected officials worked together with manufacturers and operators to develop a solution that worked for all, including consumers. 

NAMA has led the charge in terms of standardizing the definition of a micro market given that the concept broke new ground – it’s unattended retail. This was a win-win for our industry, and for government and consumers.

Q: In your opinion, what are the key issues impacting the convenience services industry right now?

A: As in the last couple of years, one of the main topics is around public health, as there is more pressure for offering non-GMO and organic products, and for reducing sugars and offering healthier options. We need to talk about what we need to do as an industry to have a public health commitment, and we will start laying the groundwork for that.

Q: The NAMA Government Affairs Committee enhanced the agenda with a day-long Advocacy Summit. Can you explain what these discussions will involve?

A: The Advocacy Summit really brings elevated value for Fly-In participants. Panel discussions featuring experts from federal agencies – from the Department of Energy to EPA, to USDA, CDC and the U.S. Mint and more – will examine the most important issues for the industry.  Leaders from DOE and EPA, for example, break down vending machine refrigerants and energy requirements … and that’s just one of five panel discussions scheduled. It’s going to be a very productive, engaging and informative day.

Q: If somebody is attending the Fly-In for the first time, what should they know about how NAMA members and members of Congress can work together?

A: NAMA does a good job of reminding everybody about this, but the main thing is to understand that the members of Congress — and all the members of government — they're all just people like the rest of us. They are looking to hear from the industry to know what is really going on; that is where they get their information. Otherwise, they're just reading something that's in a bill that someone is trying to pass.

Be prepared to go in and meet with a senator or congressman and explain what this means for your business. It’s encouraging and empowering to see the political system work the way it should — to see that someone listened to what you had to say about your industry and what your industry needs. It’s encouraging to see them take action on it, and to see that you’ve made a difference.

The Fly-In has grown every year in the number of attendees because when people go back home, they feel like they've made a difference. And then they tell other associates, and the next year we have an even bigger turnout. That's what we need to keep that momentum going. 

The NAMA Fly-In & Advocacy Summit will take place in Washington D.C. July 15-17


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National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA)

May 7, 2009
Executive Staff Carla Balakgie, FASAE, CAE, President & CEO Dan Mathews, NCE5, CCS, Executive Vice President & COO Bill Meierling, Senior Vice President, External Affairs...