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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

The Most Important Industry Event

Shedding light on the value of LEAD


If you paid attention to social media last week and are in the branded merchandise industry, then you likely are aware that Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) held one of its signature events in the North American Leadership Conference (NALC). 


Aside: as an industry, we really love our acronyms, but I digress.


If you're unfamiliar with NALC, it's a three-day event featuring fantastic education and networking opportunities in beautiful locations. I've had the pleasure of attending several NALCs over the years, and the event always delivers. By all accounts, the event held in Salt Lake City last week was a smashing success, with many people feeling that the annual conference is the preeminent event in the industry.


While it's a genuinely phenomenal annual experience, another event coordinated by PPAI this week is far more important and significant than NALC: LEAD.


LEAD, or Legislative Education and Action Day (like I said, this industry loves a good acronym), takes place this week in Washington, DC, and has a wide-ranging impact on every single person in the promotional products industry. If you're unfamiliar with LEAD, let me explain why I feel it's the industry's most important event. Today and tomorrow, approximately 65 industry volunteers will be speaking with senators and members of Congress to advocate for the value of promotional products – and will do so expecting nothing in return for the investment other than the betterment of our shared industry.


As we walk the hallowed halls of the capitol, we will be sharing with our elected officials the following:


  • Promotional products work—period. Anytime an elected official contemplates how a policy affects small businesses, please consider the promotional products industry as well. Our industry is comprised of 98% small firms processing an average order size of under $550, which collectively generates annual industry revenues of over $26 billion. Costly tariffs and bewildering labor policies disproportionately impact small businesses in our industry and stifle job development and economic growth.

  • Independent Contractors. Applying the totality of the circumstances analysis in an uneven and distorted way will devastate tens of thousands of jobs and small businesses in the promotional products industry, depriving them of their livelihoods. Our goal is to develop a standard that respects independence and entrepreneurship.  

  • Tariffs. Congress needs to assert its traditional authority over trade-related matters and work with the administration to implement a practical approach that changes our trading partners' unfair practices while avoiding harm to American workers and businesses


As I mentioned earlier, LEAD addresses some crucial topics that deeply impact every single person in our industry. It's not just about the present, but also about shaping our future. Every industry volunteer, from suppliers to distributors to service providers, invests their time and money to advocate for the overall branded merchandise industry. This is why LEAD is not just my favorite industry event, but also the most significant one. This year, for the ninth time, I'm honored to be part of the contingent in our nation's capitol.


Just as you did last week, I would ask that you follow your social media feeds to not only see the LEAD group in action, but to encourage us. Your simple like or supportive comment truly means the world to us as we race from the Rayburn House Office Building to the Dirksen Senate Office Meeting to advocate for the value of small businesses through the unique lens of branded merchandise. Your support is invaluable and deeply appreciated.  

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