If you would have told me at the end of Week One in DC that it was a warm up for Week Two, I would have broke down and cried. It took the full weekend between Part 1 and Part 2 to recuperate and get ready for the home stretch. As it turned out, we were just getting started.
Every year the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce organizes its “Access DC” event/delegation in which a bunch of folks from LA descend on DC to push their collective/individual agendas. It’s a huge undertaking in which numerous tracks (e.g. “homelessness, “energy”, etc.) are scheduled to meet with various congressional and federal agency leaders. It’s a big deal and we were lucky to be invited to attend this year’s Access DC event. In fact, clean energy and specifically LACI were on the official initiatives the Chamber was lobbying for.
- Twenty-two (22) meetings/receptions/lunches attended in three days
- Senators met with/listened-to: 3
- Representatives met with/listened to: 5
- No. of Senate/Representative staff under the age of 25 met with: too many to count
- Heads of agencies met with (DOE and SBA)
- Agencies in which we met with more than two different departments (DOE, SBA, EDA)
- No. of taxis taken between federal buildings: too many to count
- Buildings visited: Executive Office Building; Commerce; SBA; DOE; Rayburn; Cannon; and Longworth House Office buildings; Dirksen-Hart and Russell Senate Office buildings, the National Gallery, and the Senate chamber of the the Capitol.
- Best thing about DC: high penetration of Starbucks
- Worst thing about DC: high penetration of lobbyists
By the time we got to Week Two, Team LA were a practiced crew. While we hadn’t been in sessions with other folks, we were way ahead of the curve because we’d spent the previous week “practicing.” Format was basically the same, each person in the session (most were 3-5 people, a could got up to 30 when it was someone “important.) We learned not to be shy and to launch into our pitches as soon as possible and from whatever opening presented itself.
As with Week One, these sessions could take place anywhere from the hallway outside a Representative’s office to a fancy conference room to pitching with a cocktail in hand at a reception (my favorite).
Week Two’s Highlights
- Spending nearly two weeks in the halls of government impresses on one just how big our federal government is. Huge buildings house huge agencies, which have countless (literally) departments, which all receive huge numbers of people like us — all of which are fighting tooth and nail for appropriations. Added to this “ecosystem” are the organizations/associations/firms/consultants/lobbyists who all have impressive buildings surrounding Capitol Hill and the White House and one quickly realizes this is government on a scale that us local folks aren’t use to.
- Our best meeting was with the head of the SBA, Karen Mills. It was one of our largest meetings with about two dozen of our delegation in attendance and clamoring for attention. Sean Arian and I took control and got our message across in a powerful manner.
- While the ancient Greek writer Aesop wasn’t talking about DC when he said, “After all is said and done, more is said than done” he could have been. We talked so much that I lost my voice during the last evening. People’s first question about the trip is something to the affect, “Did you get something done?” I think, boy they’ve never been there! Here’s the net of our trip: Getting assistance from federal programs is a marathon, not a sprint. People have to know who you are, respect what you’re doing, like you as a person, and give you the benefit of the doubt when there is doubt (which is always). Before we went, it was surprising how little our federal government knew about Los Angeles’ efforts to build a green economy and a cleantech innovation hub. This trip was just the start…
Here’s Week Two in pictures.