The SEMA Town Hall Feedback Loop
Throughout this spring and summer, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of you through our regional town hall meetings. These informal meetings allow industry members to have personal interactions with SEMA senior leadership, to share information about business concerns, and to learn more about the association’s programs and objectives.
We started the town halls in 2011, with the most recent concluding just a few weeks ago in Auburn, Washington. To date, more than 2,300 SEMA members and prospective members have attended 22 meetings in 16 different states.
In many ways, these events are listening tours for the SEMA leadership team—an opportunity to hear and share perspectives on big-picture issues. While the top issues may vary somewhat region by region, we see a fair amount of consistency from one town hall to the next, as evidenced from the questions that are asked.
The single most-asked question this year revolved around vehicle emissions regulations and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Members wanted to better understand EPA regulations that might affect them, and how to stay competitive.
In addressing issues such as these, our recommendation is to take full advantage of SEMA resources, which have been developed to help member companies position themselves to be in compliance with EPA regulations. First among these would be the SEMA Garage, which offers an affordable emissions lab that is staffed by experts who can help member companies understand the requirements and develop and certify products that do not conflict with the Clean Air Act.
At the same time, SEMA’s Washington, D.C., staff is also very active in advocating against burdensome regulations on both local and national levels. SEMA has led a national campaign to support passage of the RPM Act, which would protect Americans’ right to modify street vehicles for use in competition. The campaign has rallied the industry, race-sanctioning bodies and enthusiasts, resulting in 129 lawmakers co-sponsoring the RPM Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and 38 co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate. (You can find additional information on SEMA’s legislative and regulatory work on p. 48.)
Our team in D.C. is also working to build relationships between our industry and federal and state lawmakers and can help arrange meaningful meetings with legislators. By inviting a legislator to visit your company, you can convey our industry’s importance to an elected official who is in a position to support your priorities. SEMA’s D.C. office can also be a resource on many other issues, such as helping to clarify the maze of state regulations that affect our industry and enthusiasts.
Another frequently asked question revolves around a long-term challenge: connecting with younger generations so that the automotive lifestyle industries continue to grow. Directly related to this challenge is the matter of career paths and making sure that our industry has a pipeline of qualified and interested young people to help move our companies into the future. Town hall attendees have been eager to learn
about SEMA’s newest tool—our online Career Center—which helps match employers and job seekers.
Employers and potential employees actively use the Career Center job board. The Career Center also allows for the posting of internship opportunities and serves as a hub for periodic virtual career fair events that allow job seekers to connect with SEMA employers in real time. Links to these resources can be found at www.sema.org, along with others aimed at helping member businesses to recruit quality employees.
To help build interest in the automotive lifestyles and all the cool ways to enjoy cars and trucks, SEMA has been working on a broader scale, fueling traditional and social-media access to exciting images, videos and TV programs. The Battle of the Builders competition alone has been instrumental in generating a social-media surge that has communicated the excitement our industry offers to millions of enthusiasts—and potential enthusiasts—for the past three years. Looking ahead, we are currently launching additional initiatives that will continue to introduce automotive experiences and knowledge to younger audiences.
SEMA’s town hall series will resume again next year, bringing new opportunities for SEMA to hear about your concerns and thoughts on new opportunities. We’ll also share news about some of the SEMA initiatives and tools available to help your business succeed into the future. We hope to see you there!