Welcome to the inaugural FIA’s Public Policy Watch column. This new feature of FORGE magazine will report on the issues and activities of the forging industry in the public policy arena, primarily the U.S. Congress and the Executive branch in Washington, D.C. We hope you enjoy it, and we look forward to your feedback.

In future columns, we’ll discuss specific issues in more detail, but for this initial effort we thought it would be useful to explain the FIA’s public policy efforts and how FIA members get involved in the process.

Most business people would like nothing more than for government to leave them alone. Fat chance. As an early political mentor of mine once said: “Either get involved in politics or get out of business.”

Said another way, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. Forging operations are affected by legislation and regulation every day. Unfortunately, Congress often legislates and government regulates things they do not understand, and often they do so badly.

Readers of FORGE don’t need to be educated about forging or the forging industry in North America – you likely are involved in the industry in some way already, and you’re reading the magazine to learn about the latest technologies or the state of the industry.

Unfortunately, that’s not true for most members of Congress or other policymakers in Washington, D.C. Few of them have any idea what forging is, let alone that forgings are critical components in every major weapons system and virtually every segment of the economy – if it moves on land, air or sea, it contains forgings.

For the past few years, the FIA has been working to change that, and the effort is paying dividends. In 2003, the FIA Board of Directors recognized that decisions by Congress and the Executive branch had dramatic impacts on forging and the forging industry, and they were being made with little or no input from the experts.

Beginning in 2004 with the first annual FIA Lobby Day, the FIA has undertaken a concentrated effort to help the industry understand how decisions are made by Congress and the Executive branch, to educate Congress and regulatory agencies about forging and the forging industry and to build a capability to influence those decisions when necessary and appropriate.

In addition to annual Lobby Days, we monitor proposed legislation and regulations, identifying issues or proposals with potential impact on the industry. The FIA Public Policy Committee meets regularly to analyze those issues and proposals and to recommend positions and actions to the Board when necessary. Once approved, those positions guide our day-to-day advocacy activities on behalf of the industry.

In the last few years, proposed legislation and regulations have been issued with little opportunity for public input. As a result, the FIA has established a “Rapid Response” team made up of technical experts within the membership to help analyze such proposals and formulate positions more quickly. That enables us to communicate those positions to the appropriate people early in the process, which maximizes our ability to be heard.

The most important component of any public policy effort is involvement of individual members. In addition to submitting FIA comments on proposals, we engage the FIA membership with Action Alerts when an issue of concern is being considered so that they can communicate their views to their Senators and Representatives or submit comments during a public comment period.

Speaking of membership involvement, FIA’s 8th Annual Lobby Day was held on June 14 and it was the biggest ever, with attendance by 26 representatives of the industry from all over the U.S. Meetings were held with the offices of 13 Senators, 21 Representatives, leadership offices in the U.S. House of Representatives, and staff from the House and Senate Small Business Committees to discuss issues of concern to the industry.

Key issues at this year’s Lobby Day included:
  • The need for adequate supplies of affordable energy, including natural gas, because forging is an energy-intensive process.
  • Concern over continued U.S. EPA regulations of greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas.
  • The growing burden of over-regulation on the competitiveness of the U.S. forging industry.
  • Support for comprehensive tax reform that will improve U.S. manufacturers’ global competitiveness.
  • Supporting strong employer-employee relationships by protecting the secret ballot in union elections and ensuring that employers can communicate with their employees openly and transparently.
The FIA’s public policy effort is working. Far more Members of Congress now understand what forging is and its vital role as a building block for manufacturing. FIA is recognized as a credible source of information on issues of concern to the industry, which resulted in FIA being asked to testify in March before a U.S. House of Representatives committee on the impact of regulations on the competitiveness of the industry.

We look forward to providing FORGE readers with more information on public policy issues affecting the forging industry in future columns.