Bakers to make a statement on Capitol Hill

by Dan Malovany
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It seems Democrats and Republicans or conservatives and liberals can’t agree on anything. But no matter what your political persuasion is, most Americans share the common perception that little — or nothing for that matter — seems to be happening in Washington these days.

In the end, however, that might not necessarily be a bad thing.

“In many ways, a stalemate can be a good thing for our industry,” especially if Congress is trying to pass legislation that is detrimental to the baking industry, noted Morgan Murphy, assistant vice-president of sales, Mother Murphy’s, Greenboro, N.C.

So why head over to the nation’s capital to participate in the American Bakers Association’s Executive Leadership Development Committee (E.L.D.C.) Public Policy Forum, which runs from Sept. 17-19? The committee has been organizing visits to decision makers on Capitol Hill for about 20 years, and the forum allows the entire industry to view the work being done on its behalf.

Mr. Murphy, who serves as E.L.D.C. co-chair with Jesse Amoroso, vice-president, Amoroso’s Baking Co., Philadelphia, acknowledged that many people may feel disheartened by the lack of progress in the nation’s capital, but sitting back and being a do-nothing bystander would probably be the worse of two evils.

“If the policy makers don’t have the baker’s insight, then the ripple effect is so huge because of the total dollars that the baking industry represents,” Mr. Murphy said. “It’s like the saying, ‘If you’re not at the dinner table, you might be on the menu.’ We have to be involved, or they’ll put us on the menu.”

The allied trades have a stake in this, too. Mr. Amoroso suggested that it’s not only important for bakers but also for vendors to the industry to have a voice in Washington. He acknowledged, however, it may not always seem that way.

“I feel a lot of frustration — I hear about it and have it as well — it seems there is a lot of double talking on the Hill,” Mr. Amoroso said. “There is the push to create jobs and invigorate the workplace, and at the same time, a lot of the regulations and decisions being made on the Hill make it difficult for employers to hire and to implement many of the positive things that government is preaching.”

Mr. Amoroso noted that talking the talk is one thing; walking the walk is another. Getting lawmakers to understand how decisions — as few as they are — made in Washington can have a dramatic impact in a bakery’s operations.

“Even if key decision makers on the Hill do have the information, maybe they don’t realize how their decisions affect bakeries on the ground floor,” Mr. Amoroso said. “It’s easy to put pen to paper, but it’s another thing to make things happen in the real world and, especially, on the production floor.”

He added many decisions made in Washington touch not only bakers but also consumers.

“There is only so much bakers and vendors can absorb before they have to pass on those costs to the American consumer,” Mr. Amoroso noted. “We have to be mindful on how these decisions affect people on a ground level. It’s one thing to have a great theory or mindset about something; it’s another thing to make it happen. Hopefully, we can make (Congress) realize how their decisions affect us and put us in certain predicaments.”

Mr. Murphy observed that he got involved in E.L.D.C. to understand the political landscape, and how everything in Washington influences his family’s business on several different levels.

“As I have gotten more involved, it’s eye opening how various companies have different vantage points, yet they can come together with a uniform message to fight the same causes in Washington that affect our companies individually,” he explained. “It’s neat to see people who compete with one another or who are in different parts of the supply chain come together and still fight the same issues.”

For Mr. Amoroso, E.L.D.C. provides networking opportunities and the ability to learn from both senior executives and peers in the industry.

“What is spectacular about E.L.D.C., in particular, is the ability for younger members of the baking industry to interact with industry executives, to build on their experience and to learn how they have handled different situations over the years,” he said. “It gives us a great support system. For me, it is an opportunity to interface with industry leaders and get their perspectives on important trends.”

In all, Mr. Amoroso said, E.L.D.C. provides the building blocks for the next generation of leaders.

“Ideally, we’re sowing the seeds for the future growth in our industry,” he said. ”E.L.D.C. gives people the chance to join the conversation, to interface with executives that they would not have the opportunity to otherwise. E.L.D.C .is particularly personal and intimate in that regard, so you have the opportunity to rub elbows with some major decision makers in our industry.”

For more information on the event, visit www.americanbakers.org. The hotel deadline is Aug. 26.
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