By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA
Face-to-face meetings between ARTBA members and their elected representatives are more challenging with the social distancing precautions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, virtual meetings are common. Executives and employees are deploying digital tools to communicate with elected officials in Washington, D.C., and state capitals.
Appropriately, during an Oct. 20 virtual panel at ARTBA’s National Convention, HNTB Senior Vice President John Barton and CRH Americas Senior Vice President of Government Relations John Hay will discuss how they’ve been building support for increased federal transportation investment and conducting other grassroots advocacy in the pandemic’s “new normal.”
Another one or two ARTBA members are expected to join the panel, moderated by ARTBA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Lauren Schapker. The session begins at 11:15 a.m. Eastern.
Without the time and cost constraints of a trip to Washington, Hay estimates more than 1,400 CRH employees participated this spring and summer in nearly 100 virtual meetings with members of Congress.
“We found that providing the tools and talking points to prepare our employees got them excited to speak about the issues with their members of Congress,” Hay said. “We received very positive feedback from the congressional offices as well. They appreciated the opportunity to interact directly with their constituents.”
Barton said more Zoom meetings with legislators and more frequent emails to remind employees about their civic responsibilities, acquaint them with important transportation construction issues, and emphasize how important their contributions are to HNTB’s political action committee.
“Obviously it’s difficult to get in front of people in this environment,” he said. “But it hasn’t changed in terms of necessary frequency. Virtual meetings have actually given us all a window of opportunity because the availability to schedule meetings has actually improved.”