Taking Government to the People

SEMA News - July 2009

By Brian Duggan

ARMO Hosts Senate Staffer at Collector Car Event

 

SEMA NEWS-JULY 2009-FROM THE HILL  

Spring Carlisle Collector Car Swap Meet, a gigantic gathering of auto enthusiast, provides the perfect setting to show Congressional staff the economic impact of the car hobby on Pennsylvania and on our country.

 
Not all of SEMA’s work with the United States Congress takes place on Capitol Hill. Sometimes the best grassroots relationship-building occurs when SEMA members invite members of Congress and their staff to meet on the home turf.

The Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO) took up this mission during the Spring Carlisle Collector Car Swap Meet & Corral in southwest Pennsylvania. Erin Beck, deputy director to Senator Arlen Specter, was ARMO’s special guest. Specter is recognized as a seasoned, independent-minded voice in the Senate by his friends and critics alike.

The event was held in late April on 102 acres of land spread over the Carlisle Fairgrounds in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The swap meet welcomed 110,000 visitors and 2,600 exhibitors. It featured 1,700 vehicles on display in the famous Car Corral.Beck was given a grand tour of the enormous facility by Jim Barber, ARMO chair and president of Classic Automotive Restoration Specialists Inc., and Jim Vinarski, Carlisle Events’ director of business development. “Spring Carlisle is the perfect setting to display the depth and breadth of the specialty and restoration business for
   
  SEMA NEWS-JULY 2009-FROM THE HILL
 

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania has supported efforts to reduce small-business health care costs. Now, representing his state as a democrat, he will continue to press for health care reform as a part of the majority in Congress.

residents of Pennsylvania and thousands of enthusiasts who travel hundreds of miles from neighboring states,” Barber said. “ARMO was very pleased to have the opportunity to show a U.S. Senate staffer who we are and what we do. We demonstrated that the restoration hobby and its legion of enthusiasts make enormous contributions in business sales, technological innovation and historic preservation.”

There were many opportunities for Beck to talk with ARMO members and enthusiasts during her tour and to discuss pending issues in Congress that impact the industry. A primary topic was ARMO’s desire to contain industry damage from a potential accelerated vehicle-retirement program, also known as “Cash for Clunkers.”

“Vehicle scrappage legislation hurts our businesses and our hobby—there is no way around that,” said Barber.

“If Congress feels that they must enact Cash for Clunkers, then Congress should also set an expiration date for the program. Safeguards to prevent the crushing of cars and parts of special value to the hobby ought to be written into the rules and then enforced.”

ARMO also used the opportunity to ask for Specter’s support for a national day of recognition for the collector-car hobby, as is done for many other important events. Earlier this year, ARMO launched an initiative to designate June 1 as a national “Collector Car Appreciation Day” and make it an annual event. Like “Take a Kid to a Car Show,” the Collector Car Appreciation Day is a great way to build awareness and gratitude for collector cars.

“Getting official recognition at the national level would help us spread the word and educate young people about our country’s history of building great cars and trucks,” said Vinarski.

ARMO members also discussed broader political issues with Beck throughout the day.

“Whenever SEMA members meet with Senate staff inside or outside of Washington, we raise the pressing need for Congress to enact meaningful health care reform to get costs under control for small businesses,” Barber said.

A recent SEMA survey found that insurance premiums rose at an annual rate of 10% and beyond last year for more than 50% of respondent companies. For those companies that provided coverage, 27% of respondents paid an average premium of $3,000–$5,000 per employee per year, while 36% paid more than $5,000 per year.

In the past, Specter has cosponsored legislation that would have given companies access to affordable insurance through “small-business health plans.” As Congress attempts to craft comprehensive health reform legislation this year, Specter will remain active and committed to addressing the needs of small businesses.

SEMA’s Washington, D.C., staff will be organizing more opportunities to meet with elected officials and their staff at events across the country. If you are interested in getting involved, contact Stuart Gosswein.