Posted on Dec 12, 2009
John M Grau
I spent last weekend in Miami at the newly renovated Fontainebleu Hotel, which re-opened only three weeks ago. I was there for a meeting of the Associations Committee of 100, representing the CEOs of the most influential national associations in the country. The meeting was actually an educational event — an introductory course, of sorts — as various speakers prepared us for issues and legislation expected at the start of the Obama administration and the incoming 111th Congress.
The two biggest agenda items are likely to be first out of the box in January — a stimulus package and health care reform. Both will be important to our industry, so it’s a good idea for industry leaders to learn about them. I took a copy of an 89-page paper on health reform by Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus with me for airplane reading.
I also used my networking time during coffee breaks to form a coalition of construction associations interested in promoting building issues for the stimulus package. The existing infrastructure coalitions are more focused on highways and bridges. We think some of the stimulus should be spent on building construction as well.
One interesting observation noted during our discussions is that the Obama economic team is mainly composed of individuals with PhDs in economics. That’s considered a positive sign for business groups because economists, whether conservative or liberal, believe in markets and market solutions. We were told that our arguments on domestic issues will have their best chance of being accepted if they are supported by economic data and principles.
A special treat during our meeting was a briefing by General James Jones, nominated to become President-Elect Obama’s National Security Advisor. General Jones is currently CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy and a member of our group of 100.
We first crossed paths three years ago when I was one of a dozen association executives invited to Brussels for a briefing by our United States missions to the European Union and NATO. After our visit to NATO headquarters, General Jones invited us to SHAPE headquarters in Mons, Belguim, where he then served as SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander Europe — a post also previously held by Dwight Eisenhower and Wesley Clark). We were briefed on NATO’s changed military mission around the world.
For the past year, General Jones has headed up a coalition to develop and promote energy policy recommendations for the United States. NECA fully supports the coalition’s recommendations. It was good to hear General Jones say that he truly believes in the policy positions they helped develop and will be an advocate for them within the White House.
Just being at the meeting in Miami confirmed that NECA is recognized as a highly influential organization. Now, as a result of the education I received there, I feel better prepared to help lead NECA in influencing the major legislative initiatives we’ll face in the next few months.