It’s been some time since we last checked in with ASCA Executive Director Kevin Gilbride to update us on the state of the professional snow and ice management industry as he sees it through the association. Kevin brings us up to date on recent accomplishments, the state of the association and what’s on the association’s agenda for 2017.
Since last fall, the ASCA has been busy spreading its legislative agenda from snow state to snow state. Bring us up to date on the highlights and where the ASCA’s model legislation stands in states where it’s under consideration.
We’ve made progress in a number of states. Once we gained our experience in Illinois, we expanded our efforts and now have made significant progress in more than a dozen states. Our Bill (S181) passed the New Jersey Senate unanimously and resides in the Assembly as A3656, where we are working to get it passed. In Pennsylvania, HB624 currently sits with the Insurance committee, where we are working with some opposition to come to an agreement on the legislation language. Hopefully, we can get it moving there. In Indiana, they have our Bill S131 under study to better understand its impact. Once that is complete, we will work to get it passed there. In New York S3703 is sitting in committee and we need to get it moving there. We have recently had positive activity in Colorado where we expect a bill in the fall. In Wisconsin and Michigan, we are working with the leadership in their respective legislatures to introduce the bill, which looks very positive.
When you meet with state legislators for the first time, how educated are they about snow and ice management issues?
They generally have very little knowledge of the snow and ice management industry. No one has ever talked with them before, so it is a very educational experience for them.
What sorts of questions do they typically have?
Understanding the complexity of the issue is generally the challenge. This is not as direct as some legislation. For example, passing a law that cuts income tax directly impacts the people of the state. Passing a law that restricts the passing of your liability through a contract does not directly increase safety and reduce insurance rates. However, the net effect of the law does exactly that. So, we need to spend a lot of time educating them.
How do legislators respond when you present them with the association’s model legislation and ask them for their support?
Once they grasp the issues we’re facing, and how this bill impacts the general public and our industry, they are very supportive. The bill did pass unanimously in both the Illinois House and Senate, and the New Jersey Senate. In each case, it took time to educate them. The bills we have in Pennsylvania and New Jersey each have five or more sponsors, with both Democrats and Republicans sponsoring the bill in each state.
As Executive Director, you’ve been focused on promoting legislative initiatives for nearly two years. What has been your greatest realization about the legislative process?
It is not hard to get in front of your representatives. Legislators have two jobs once they get elected. First, is to represent the people who elected them. Second, is to get re-elected. They only get re-elected if they listen to the people who can vote for them. They want to talk with those who are in their districts, especially those who are creating jobs in their district.
Has member involvement in legislative efforts evolved over the last two years?
It continues to grow. It’s an invigorating experience for member companies to be involved in the process. As they see, there is a solution their attitudes change. Instead of complaining about industry practices, they focus positive energy on a solution.
Are you noticing that as success and momentum builds from state to state, so does the interest of contractors to get involved in some way in their state?
ASCA largest memberships are from Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I think this is a direct correlation to our legislative success in those respective states.
What’s the greatest misconception contractors have about getting involved in legislative initiatives?
Most often it’s that they can’t make a difference. You absolutely can make a difference. And you may learn something along the way.
Education is one of the association’s pillars. Initially, the philosophy was to provide education through a web portal facilitated via the ASCA’s website, but with the advent of the Snow and Ice Show 2017 it seems the association has taken a new approach. Explain how this came about with launching a trade show.
Online learning is very successful for us. There is, though, tremendous value in face-to-face education where you interact with and learn more from presenters and experts. It’s an area we knew we could improve. So, we decided to establish an industry conference and trade show to facilitate that transfer of knowledge.
Can the industry expect to see more educational opportunities or programming coming from the ASCA?
We will continue to listen to membership, the industry, as well as customers, insurance companies and legislative representatives and react accordingly.
Aside from the creation of the Industry Standards, establishing the ISO 9001 /SN 9001 Quality Management System has had a huge impact on the industry with regard to perception and professionalism.
After those first few brave souls took the initiative to pursue ISO certifications, how have contractors’ attitudes changed about engaging the ISO process?
Initially, contractors seemed to overly complicate the program. Now that some of the leaders have simplified things, others are seeing it as less intimidating.
It’s a nice program that improves your processes, helps manage risk, reduces insurance costs and is very marketable.
How has ISO certification impacted the industry?
It is still in its infancy. I have heard positive feedback from companies that have gone through the process. I have been told, “ISO improved my processes and procedures,” “I saved 30 percent on my insurance policy.” It is a great marketing tool.
As contractors close the books on winter 2016-17 and head into this summer, how would you best describe the state of the industry?
Other than needing more snow, the outlook is more positive. Five years ago, people were down on the industry. Now, while the improvements being made take time, those conversations are more about solutions. And those solutions are not just big picture industry issues. They are issues within their businesses. Five years ago, on a low-snow year, there would be a lot of doom and gloom. Now, people have solutions for low-snow years. Whether it’s better budgeting, corrective pricing or finding an alternative financial solution, like snowfall insurance, companies are better managing snow’s unpredictability.
OK, with that assessment in mind, how will this influence the ASCA moving forward?
Star Wars has been very hot over the last year. When asked at the end of the movie Rogue One “What is it that they have sent us?” Princess Leia responds in one word – “Hope.”
There are solutions to the issues we are facing, and we are addressing them. The industry has noticed this, and as a result there’s a renewed sense of optimism about the future.
Folks have asked how we, as an industry, can get their faster. We will continue to work as fast as we can, but we’ll get there faster through involvement. Involvement in the ASCA starts with membership, which helps fund these initiatives. Once a member gets involved, especially in the legislative process, even if it is only sending letters to their representatives, they’re getting involved in the process of change.