SEMA Holds First Town Hall Meeting of 2012

  auto business, auto legislation
  The SEMA Town Hall volunteer panelsts (left to right): Kyle Fickler, Chairman of the Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council (MPMC); SEMA Board Members Jeep Worthan and Chris Thomson; and SEMA Chairman Scooter Brothers.
  automotive business, automotive legislation
  SEMA Town Hall Meetings provide the opportunity for members to ask questions regarding how the association can better their businesses and the programs in place to tackle challenges facing the industry.
  automotive business, automotive legislation
  Congressman Randy Hultgren joined the first SEMA Town Hall of 2012 and spoke candidly to the crowd about key issues impacting the industry.

Until now, it had been a mild winter in Illinois. But, only hours prior to the first SEMA Town Hall Meeting for 2012, a storm rolled in and dropped four inches of snow. Luckily for the SEMA staff and 130 members within a 200-mile radius of St. Charles, the inclement weather didn’t deter attendance one bit, and the SEMA Town Hall Meeting went off without issue.

As SEMA planned for this Town Hall, a suitable location was sought to kick-off a three-event schedule in 2012. Thankfully, Jim Bingham, president of Winner’s Circle Speed & Custom and member of the SEMA Board, approached the association about co-locating the event at the site of the Race & Performance Expo. The end result was a three-hour event that seamlessly weaved itself into the Pheasant Run Resort and the Expo program.

The Town Hall was as much a crowd pleaser as the four meetings SEMA hosted in 2011. The same goal will guide this year's program—to reach out to the SEMA community one geographic region at a time for the purpose of listening to those who make up the specialty-equipment industry. In St. Charles, the SEMA staff and volunteers got an ear full as the audience peppered the panel of industry experts with a variety of questions, ranging from legislative concerns to youth engagement to money-saving tips.

The program started with a special guest representing the 14th District of Illinois, Congressman Randy Hultgren. Congressman Hultgren is a member of the Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus, which recognizes the important impact of the industry on the American economy and now includes more than 90 members. The congressman spoke candidly to the crowd about a few key issues impacting the industry, such as the government's role in business as well as taxation.

Once the Q&A was complete, SEMA Chairman of the Board Scooter Brothers gave a pitch for the SEMA Political Action Committee (PAC), asking the participants to complete the PAC approval form so that the association can seek their support in this ever-important election year. His threat to lock the doors until everyone had completed a PAC approval form got a hardy laugh from the crowd.

Following the Congressman, SEMA Senior Vice President of Operations Bill Miller welcomed the audience and introduced the panelists. There was a wealth of knowledge and experience within the panel, which included SEMA Board Members Scooter Brothers, Jeep Worthan and Chris Thomson, as well as Kyle Fickler, Chairman of the Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council (MPMC).

Panelists shared with the crowd how they and their companies have benefitted by being involved with SEMA. Miller opened up the floor to questions from the audience, and the tone was quickly set with several legislative questions cropping up from the crowd. Both Wortham and Thomson were quick to respond to concerns about issues related to Nexus and Internet tax. With representatives in the audience from manufacturing, retail, distribution, education and media, it was a lively debate that focused on what should be done by the organization and government.

Where the panelists shined was in how they tackled questions about the best approach to getting involved in the organization and use the benefits provided by SEMA. The SEMA Businesswomen's Network (SBN) was well represented by Debra Fickler, a devoted SBN supporter, volunteer and SBN Select Committee member.

One of the topics that garnered the most attention was youth engagement. Several educators were in the audience and addressed the need for more support at the high school and post-secondary levels to create more automotive programs for students. It's no secret that "auto shop" programs have been all but eliminated from the high school curriculum, and the specialty-equipment industry has many fired-up supporters calling for more funding. Many in attendance thanked Jim Bingham for all that he is doing with his Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge.

The SEMA Town Hall in St. Charles, Illinois, was the first of a series of three town hall meetings in 2012. Upcoming Town Hall locations include La Grange, Kentucky, being held April 13; and Brooklyn, Michigan, scheduled for May 18. For more information about the SEMA Town Hall series, visit