- The DFW Delegation from the Dallas Regional and Fort Worth Chambers pose on the steps of our nation’s Capitol before the day’s briefings.
The Fort Worth Chamber’s bi-annual Congressional Summit put a delegation of Fort Worth Chamber members face-to-face with elected officials and other policymakers in Washington, D.C., last week.
Discussions covered a wide range of issues. While the Chamber group arrived with priority concerns, they placed a premium on briefings from policymakers.
“We have always left it to the legislators to talk candidly to us,” said Brinton Payne, the Chamber’s vice president of Government-Urban Affairs. “We wanted a sense of what’s happening in Washington and how it may translate and affect our members.”
Andrew K. Johnsen, assistant vice president of Governmental Affairs for BNSF Railway, said the trip was important because “competition occurs not just in the marketplace but among states and regions of the country.”
The trip demonstrated that “our community is united and committed to the priorities of a bright future,” Johnsen said, adding that he was looking for “a confirmation that we have alignment with our congressional delegation on the region’s priorities.”
Fran Eichorst, vice president of public affairs for Fidelity Investments, agreed, noting: “Fidelity welcomes any opportunity to meet with policymakers to discuss issues of interest or concern to them and to serve as a resource for them whenever possible. Likewise, we appreciate the chance to raise and discuss issues and concerns of the business community with Members of the Texas Congressional delegation and explore ways in which we may work together.”
Pollard Rogers, managing partner at Cantey Hanger, said the trip facilitated “a better understanding of the issues affecting our region and businesses.” Rogers said he wanted to gather “concrete ideas for creating support for political initiatives on a local level” and then communicate those ideas to clients.
Summit sponsors were Lockheed Martin, Cantey Hanger, LLP, North Texas Commission and TXU Energy.
For the first time, the Fort Worth Chamber’s summit trip was carried out jointly with members and staff of the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce and Dallas business leaders.
“The joint trip came out of a relationship that formed around shared interests related to water issues two Texas legislative sessions ago,” Payne said.
“Going to Washington together made sense in light of the importance that regionalism has attained as we all address matters of common interest, such as infrastructure and other growth-related priorities. Together, we created an opportunity to hear from a multitude of legislators and strengthen our relationship with our neighbors to the east.
“For the most part, the chambers have the same goals.”
Another first involved the Chamber’s use of social media to give members real-time reports.
“In addition to reporting the trip in our newsletter, the ‘virtual DC experience’ was communicated in real time via Facebook and Twitter to Chamber members and fans who are on those networks,” said Andra Bennett, the Chamber’s director of Communications.
“This allowed those followers to give immediate feedback to the staff and member delegation while they were in D.C.”
Members of Texas’ congressional delegation and Texas Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison met with the Chamber groups April 21. An international dinner that night was keynoted by Ambassador Ron Kirk of Dallas.
On April 22, the Department of Defense briefed the Chamber delegations at the Pentagon, followed by a tour of the memorial there. They also visited Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors and received a private tour of the USS Fort Worth model.
Prior to the trip, the Fort Worth Chamber conducted an informal poll of membership to get a general sense of issues that were top-of-mind among members.
More than 400 responses focused primarily on energy, transportation, labor policy, economic policy, health care, national defense and tax policy.
Economic policy was the leading priority among more than 32 percent of respondents followed by taxes and health care, which were both identified as top priorities among more than 23 percent of respondents.