A New York State of Mind

SEMA News—September 2013

FROM THE HILL
By Dan Sadowski

A New York State of Mind

SEMA Member JR Products Hosts Empire State Congressman

 

From left: JR Products Director of Purchasing Doug Roba, Director of Sales/Vice President Brian Roba, President Susan Carpenter, Rep. Chris Collins, Director of Finance Sally Moore, and Director of Operation Chris Carpenter.
From left: JR Products Director of Purchasing Doug Roba, Director of Sales/Vice President Brian Roba, President Susan Carpenter, Rep. Chris Collins, Director of Finance Sally Moore, and Director of Operation Chris Carpenter. 

   

Members of Congress stand for re-election every two years, which often leads to quick turnover among the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. In upstate New York near Buffalo, voters recently elected a new legislator with a career in small-business growth and development. Given this background, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) was thrilled to visit JR Products and showed interest in learning how SEMA-member companies contribute to the local economy.

Rep. Collins was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 to represent New York’s 27th Congressional District. From 2008–2012, Rep. Collins served as Erie County Executive, having spent the previous 34 years as a business owner and entrepreneur. A mechanical engineer by training, Collins began his professional career with Westinghouse Electric. He was subsequently the president and CEO of Nuttall Gear Corp. in Niagara Falls, New York, a company that specializes in power transmissions for heavy-duty machinery.

Rep. Collins serves on the House Agriculture, Science and Small-Business Committees. For the latter, he is the chairman of the Small-Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology, which is currently examining how the cost of health care is impacting small businesses across the country. As a result of his visit to JR Products, Collins joined the SEMA-supported Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus, a bipartisan member organization that pays tribute to the automotive specialty-equipment industry.

 

Rep. Collins chatting with staff at the product facility.
Rep. Collins chatting with staff at the product facility.

   

Rep. Collins’ background created a natural fit for him to visit JR Products, a growing company headquartered in Clarence Center, New York. Founded by John Roba (retired) as a family-owned and operated business, JR Products offers a full line of retail products to restore, accessorize and repair recreational vehicles (RVs) and campers. JR Products President Susan Carpenter is active in SEMA volunteer councils, including the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network.

During the facility tour, Collins learned how JR Products employees manage more than 1,200 stock-keeping units and the processes used to acquire and distribute products throughout the United States and Canada. Given his business background, Rep. Collins was interested in learning how products were acquired, branded, packaged and distributed to clients in both the RV industry and the automotive aftermarket. He was pleased to learn that JR Products would begin an expansion of its facilityshortly after his visit.

“Having our local congressman visit our facility was invaluable in opening lines of communication with Representative Collins’ office, both in Washington and in our hometown,” said Susan Carpenter. “My staff and I were able to discuss current issues important to my business directly with my Congressman, including health-care costs and business tax rates. I encourage all SEMA members to host a Congressional District Site Visit and take full advantage of this important member benefit.”

After the tour, Rep. Collins joined the JR Products leadership team for a roundtable discussion and conversation about his first few months in Congress. Noting the differences and similarities between serving as Erie County Executive and as a U.S. Congressman, Rep. Collins discussed applying his personal experience to his service on the Small-Business Committee and as an advocate for small-business owners in Washington.

 

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) makes a point with employees during a site tour.
Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) makes a point with employees during a site tour.

   

He also answered questions from JR Products employees regarding SEMA legislative priorities such as ethanol content in gasoline, tax reform and health-care solutions for small-business owners. He noted that the House Science Committee approved legislation to place a hold on the sale of gasoline with 15% ethanol content. Collins vowed to continue his work as chairman of the Health and Technology Subcommittee to identify how small businesses can more easily comply with new health-care requirements.

“As a small-business owner, I am keenly aware of the challenges and opportunities facing companies like JR Products today,” said Rep. Collins. “We must continue to provide the tools necessary for small businesses to adapt, grow and flourish in today’s economy. As a new member of the Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus, I am grateful for the opportunity to visit JR Products and witness firsthand the continuing growth of the automotive aftermarket not only in my hometown, but also throughout the country.”

The Congressional District Site Visit Program is administered by SEMA’s government affairs office in Washington, D.C. The program pairs SEMA-member companies with their members of Congress for facility tours and business roundtable meetings in their home districts. These visits provide an opportunity for SEMA members to meet face to face with their congressional lawmakers and discuss issues impacting the companies and their workers. They help establish working relationships that can eventually translate into legislative successes in Washington.

With so many new faces in Congress, now is the time to plan a visit and begin building relationships. Member companies interested in hosting an event at their facilities with their federal elected officials should contact Director of Congressional Affairs Dan Sadowski at dans@sema.org.

 

Dennis Overholser of Painless Performance Products with his “Truckster.” Designed by Thom Taylor, the “Truckster” is a hot rod built from a late-model truck.
Dennis Overholser of Painless Performance Products with his “Truckster.” Designed by Thom Taylor, the “Truckster” is a hot rod built from a late-model truck.

   

SEMA PAC President’s Club: Dennis Overholser

Dennis Overholser is the co-founder and executive vice president of Painless Performance Products, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas.

Overholser is a charter member of the SEMA PAC President’s Club and previously served as chairman for SEMA’s Hot Rod Industry Alliance council.

“I believe that SEMA PAC is vital for steering Congress in the right direction and protecting us from damaging regulations that can hinder our businesses,” Overholser said.

“I have been blessed by our industry, and I want to give back and ensure our continued success.”

For more information on SEMA PAC, please contact the SEMA PAC Manager Christian Robinson by phone at 202-783-6007 x20 or by e-mail at christianr@sema.org.

 

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