MIC raises the collective voice in Washington

Publish Date: 
May 23, 2014
By Mary Green Slepicka

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dealers have taken the lead – sort of – at the Motorcycle Industry Council. About 350 dealers are now members of the MIC, 80 more than the 270 non-retail members, President Tim Buche said during the association’s annual meeting this week in Washington.

MIC dealer members have limited benefits and no voting authority; however, the MIC Dealer Council plays a guidance role to convey the needs of the retail community to the MIC board. Voting MIC membership is reserved for vehicle manufacturers, aftermarket manufacturers and distributors, and allied trades, such as financial service and media companies. (Dealernews and its parent company, Advanstar Communications, are members of the MIC.)

Dealers are voters, and they're business constituents that can wield political influence in their home districts.

The association this year combined its annual meeting with a “fly-in” on May 18 and 19 to expand grassroots lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill. The roughly 35 MIC industry and dealer members attending this week’s event were dispatched on Monday afternoon and Tuesday for scheduled meetings with House and Senate member staffs to 1) make connections and 2) introduce Washington to the concerns of the motorcycle and off-road recreation industries, from the tax-paying businesses these industries support.

It’s a good idea. And it could be repeated next year, Buche told me. Instead of spending an annual meeting summarizing the activities of the association, the MIC recruited its audience to further its lobbying efforts on the federal level. If you have the members in town, make good use of them.

The industry realized dealers could wield substantial influence on regulatory issues during the lead ban years, when retailers rallied to help exempt youth ATVs, motorcycles and related vehicles from provisions in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. And it was MIC’s stated intention, when it developed the limited dealer membership offering in early 2013, to secure members from every congressional district in the United States for industry lobbying efforts – in Washington and at the state level. It’s now halfway to that goal, according to Buche.

It’s refreshing to see the MIC acknowledge the influence of the front line. The association, through its various organizations, interacts with thousands of enthusiasts every year, but it’s the dealers that know their customers best. More importantly, dealers are voters, and they're business constituents that can wield political influence in their home districts.

The Washington meeting was an opportunity for the MIC to shine the spotlight on its Government Relations office and its efforts to represent industry interests on everything from transportation funding to land access. It’s a pitbull team, laser-focused on broad issues and agency policies that impact the well-being of this industry.

“If the laws themselves aren’t restrictive enough, the [federal] agencies will finish the job,” Senior Vice President Kathy Van Kleek told the audience.

Given that the powersports industry is considered a niche economic market and motorcyclists and users of motorized recreation represent a small portion of the U.S. population, one would naturally think that the industry’s influence on the Hill would be limited. But Larry Smith says that’s changing.

“We now have members [of Congress] calling us” when issues arise, said the executive director of ARRA, and this “would have been unheard of six years ago. I think we’re making a difference. There is common understanding that we’re not going away.”

Once the MIC sets the date for the next Washington “fly in,” I urge the dealer members to put it on their calendar. Yes, spring is the high sales season at your store, but perhaps you can get away on a Monday or Tuesday to raise the collective voice.

Click HERE for a list of priority issues requiring industry action, as compiled by the MIC Government Relations Office.