By Annette Odren, Sales Representative for The Energy Conservatory
Last February during the Mid-Winter Training conference several members of the NASCSP board and executive staff mentioned they had been discussing the idea of taking vendors to Capitol Hill. The hope was that hearing from businesses would strengthen arguments for continued support of weatherization and the networks crucial social support programs. As a test they invited me to join a group of CSBG and WAP members from several states. NASCSP staff shepherded us through a day of meetings with the Legislative aides assigned to gather information regarding these topics. As the odd duck vendor I had the opportunity to speak briefly at each stop we made. Participating in our government was fascinating, but I wish I’d been wearing comfortable shoes; the halls of marble hurt.
It went well enough that in November NASCSP arranged to send a contingent made up exclusively of WAP vendors. Our group included Danielle Amasia from Hancock Software; Al Cesceehini, Stephanie Hodson, PhD and Sarah Lejeck from Libera, David Bassion and Loretta Modiri of DBA; me from The Energy Conservatory and key NASCSP staff. Our personal political leanings included Democrats, Republicans and stubborn independents, like me. Well in advance the staff members had arranged meetings at five Senate (morning) and five House (afternoon) offices being sure to include the companies’ home states. The visits began with NASCSP staff introducing our group and outlining the reasons we were there. Next up were the people from that legislator’s state followed by the remaining attendees, until each of us had briefly described our company and how the broader benefits of the WAP program affected that company, district and state. It was easy to find the words to explain why weatherization is important. The program works; providing valuable services that improve lives by helping save both green money for clients and the green planet, protecting the environment and resident health and helping our nation towards energy independence.
You may have been wondering how this relates to the title. Coming home from that first, unplanned trip to the Hill I talked about the experience with others. When promoting the idea that we could help the network retain as much funding as possible by speaking directly to Congress the response that I found most startling was “But wouldn’t that be seen as self-serving?” Well, we spend money on advertising to reach our private commercial customers. We spend money trying to expand into new markets and introduce new products. These expenses are part of the cost of business. Weatherization is a large chunk of our market. It makes good business sense to spend a little time, and some money too, explaining to OUR representatives from OUR states that these programs support jobs both in and outside of the network.
Across our nation and worldwide, economic times have been tough. No one with any sense wants to see our tax dollars wasted. If I had a magic wand and could reduce our nations’ energy use without spending a penny, I’d wave it all day long. But even though the fixing-up-houses method of energy conservation takes an investment, it is much less expensive than finding new energy sources. So, I invite, no I challenge, other vendors to show up and be heard. Call NASCSP and let them know that you are willing to come to the NASCSP Midwinter Training conference early. Come and let your government know that the folks who vote in their districts and states want them to support this network.