Report from America: The NAM Public Affairs Conference — Thoughts from Chuck Bunch

By March 21, 2006Report from America

Report from AmericaGreetings from the chilly, rainy Arizona desert. So much for global warming — it’s not hit us yet. Yesterday was actually OK, in the 60’s, but the evening before was in the 50’s and raining. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the bottom dropped out upon discovering that this hotel does not have HBO and thus we’d all have to wait ’til later in the week to see if Tony Soprano is alive or dead. Hardship, people, hardship.

Where were we…?

Ah, yes, the NAM’s Annual Public Affairs Conference, a gathering of the top public affairs professionals from our member companies, the best manufacturers in the world. And, as it turns out, both regular blog readers are here — who knew? It is tradition that the NAM Vice Chair (i.e., the incoming NAM Chair) addresses this influential group at this meeting every year. This year, PPG CEO (and fellow Soprano’s fan) Chuck Bunch kept the string unbroken, addressing the group at breakfast yesterday morning. Chuck’s a sharp guy and a great CEO, one who believes in involvement, in keeping employees informed about the issues that impact them and urging them to action. In short, he walks the walk. He gave the group a call to action to drive the NAM message on issues of importance to manufacturers.

He listed the array of issues: legal reform, asbestos, taxes, health care, skill shortages. But he spent most of his time on energy. Every dollar increase in the price of natural gas costs his company an extra $70 million dollars a year. That’s a blow to any company, no matter their size. He traced the history of the issue, that Congress and the regulators pushed this country away form nuclear, oil and coal toward natural gas. And, natural gas prices are set on a domestic, not global, level. So what has happened since being pushed into natural gas use? Policy-makers have kept the moratorium on tapping natural gas supplies. As it is, manufacturers use 33% of all the nation’s natural gas, so we are hit especially hard when the price spikes as it has in recent years.

He urged the troops to get engaged, to invite members of Congress into their plants as he has done). He said, “I don’t care which side of the aisle they sit on, I care about how they vote.”

Amen.

As you know. the NAM Award for Legislative Excellence goes to any legislator who votes with us 70% of the time or more, regardless of party.

As Chairman, said Bunch, he would focus on legislative results — results that maintain manufacturing in the US. He said he would be looking to what we can do to make to make manufacturing more competitive in the US. He is, as you might expect, an unabashed advocate for manufacturing, observing that manufacturing crates wealth in this country while other people, other sectors really just re-distribute wealth. He talked about the importance of keeping manufacturing here and creating a climate that allows manufacturing to prosper here in the US.

His message was well-received by this involved group. We look forward to his coming two-year Chairmanship, beginning next year. It’ll be a powerful one-two punch following as he does John Luke of MeadWestvaco, a guy who knows a thing or two about involvement himself.