From May 17 to 19, two important events will take place in Washington, D.C.: a carefully planned, combined meeting event that could have an important impact on the future of all of our businesses.

The first portion of the meeting is the combined Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting, which begins Monday, May 17, at 10 a.m., and extends through noon Tuesday. The second segment of the event is the Congressional Fly-In that begins Tuesday afternoon and concludes Wednesday evening. HARDI is also offering an intense, one-day Sales Manager Boot Camp (concurrent with the regional meeting's Monday schedule) to be led by Texas A&M's Norm Clark; HARDI members from any region can attend. (A second boot camp will be held June 7 in Chicago concurrent with the Central/Great Lakes Regional Meeting.)

I highly encourage your attendance at these events, because we design them to provide an integrated and comprehensive educational and advocacy opportunity for all members. I cannot express more emphatically the importance of HARDI member involvement in this year's Congressional Fly-In. The issues that are driving the present administration and being deliberated by our elected representatives are perhaps the most detrimental to independent businesses that have ever occurred.

As evidence of the seeming disconnect between the administration and independent business is a “Jobs Summit,” which was held at the White House this past December. Present were 135 leaders from every sector of the economy — government, labor, academia, nonprofits and businesses of all sizes. Interestingly, the two organizations that represent the majority of businesses in the United States and whose members collectively embody the most jobs — the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — were intentionally excluded from the meeting. I personally find that inexcusable. The problems for the independent businessperson are exacerbated even more by the administration's 2010 budget, recently unveiled in the State of the Union message. If passed by Congress, here are some issues we will be facing:

  • Repeal of LIFO, the Last in, First Out accounting method that will wreak havoc on countless companies with large inventories.

  • Health care reform and cap-and-trade, which, contrary to what you may have read, are not gone by any means.

  • Major tax increases for most private businesses.

In all fairness, everything in the budget is not bad for our businesses. Congress could also approve major funding for energy-efficiency programs. Congress also holds the keys to an extension of residential energy-efficiency credits, which a recent survey of HARDI equipment distributors reveals has driven double-digit increases in qualifying equipment sales and turned many members' 2009 from a net loss to a gain.

Fortunately, there is a solution. Take your company's message to elected representatives in Washington at the Fly-In. There you will have the opportunity to tell them the changes are not acceptable and relate firsthand the potential effects they will have on our businesses, your employees and their families.

See you there.