On May 9, 2017, Fire & Safety Services had two members of Senator Cory Booker’s staff visit their location at 200 Ryan Street in South Plainfield, NJ. George Helmy, the State Director, and Steven Fernandez, the Projects Specialist who focuses on DHS and First Responder matters spent a little over an hour visiting the shop and offices and discussing the impact of the current funding levels of the AFG and SAFER grants to both the departments we serve as well as on our businesses indirectly, as well as discussing matters regarding New Jersey business regulations and workforce development issues.
The plans for the visit started after a brief conversation with Senator Booker and Mr. Helmy during the NJ Chamber of Commerce event in Washington DC and was further discussed during the CFSI Hill Day on April 5th and 6th when David Russell, the President of Fire & Safety Services, called on the Senator’s office as part of the schedule of Congressional visits during those two days. In the days after each event, Mr. Russell reached out to Mr. Helmy to discuss opportunities to meet. Getting someone to come to your office will be much more successful if the staff is invited to your location rather than simply requesting the elected official. For example, when contact was originally made with the Senator’s office Mr. Russell was initially informed the Senator was very busy and wasn’t available until “possibly” in the summer. When he responded that he appreciated and understood the Senator’s time constraints, but offered to host members of the Senator’s staff in the interim, the tone shifted quickly to trying to find mutually agreeable dates for the visit.
The reason a visit Fire & Safety Services has been suggested is multi-fold. First, it offers the development of a “relationship” with that staffer, and indirectly with the elected official. Secondly, and possibly more importantly, a visit creates a lasting impression. Experience has shown that conversation without context, while important, doesn’t have the same impression as one where you can offer concrete and tangible examples of what you are discussing. If you can get someone from the elected official’s office to your location, the impact is much greater because there is a “personal” aspect to it. It also helps them to see that you are a business that is employing people and supporting your local community. They hear this all day long, but when they can see your operations in action and talk to people provides a much more lasting impression.
While it would have been a great opportunity if Senator Booker was able to attend, Mr. Russell was not concerned that he could not be there. Why? Sometimes it is as important, if not more so, to get staffers to attend, because the elected official is often looking at the big picture, or has a limited background at their fingertips on matters of importance for your business; whereas a staffer visiting usually is one who specializes in a particular field, much like Mr. Fernandez for the Senator and is able to quickly understand the impact certain programs can have on your organization.
The best benefit is now Mr. Russell can reach out to either of these two gentlemen in the future and have easier access to discuss issues or suggest a reason to have the Senator come visit for a particular reason.