Brent Farrell – Proving the Importance of Relationship Building in Advocacy

May 7, 2015

Let me introduce you to Brent Farrell, the owner of Vitality Vending in the State of Vermont and someone who understands the importance of relationships when it comes to advocating successfully on behalf of the industry. Brent and I have worked on making the industry’s voice heard on legislation introduced in the Vermont legislature over the past few years and he has been a “go-to guy” for legislative testimony. Vermont is not a state with a large number of vending operators, so it is nice to have folks like Brent involved on a minute’s notice.

This year, a situation arose that proves the value of the relationships Brent has built during his volunteer advocacy work on behalf of the industry. Brent was recently informed about Vermont’s pending proposal to impose the rooms and meals tax on vending machines, and a sales tax on candy and soda from a relationship built over time through his advocacy efforts. Without this connection, Brent would most likely have never known about the State Senate Finance Committee hearing in time to testify on this important proposal.

His local connections were invaluable. With so many states and localities proposing legislation and regulations on a regular basis; it is difficult for our staff to always alert NAMA members in a timely manner about hearings in every state and municipality across the country. Because of successful relationship building, Brent was able to learn about the hearing, testify and inform the Finance Committee that the tax proposal was going to “[h]urt our business" and that if snacks are taxed in the vending channel, they should be taxed in other channels such as in convenience or grocery stores. In short, he argued that there should be tax parity.

Industry participation is contagious

I’m excited by the large number of Industry leaders, who like Brent, are “stepping up” all across the country to make the industry’s voice heard and built important relationships with lawmakers and their staff members from City Council’s to Congress. Just this year state legislative days have been expanded to include events at state houses in Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Minnesota.

While we don’t yet know if Brent helped win this taxation battle because Vermont’s budget is not completed yet, his excitement about making a difference in advocacy is invaluable. I urge you to follow Brent’s lead and get involved!

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