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The Next Generation of Advocacy

By Eric Elgin

September 12, 2019


As you can see elsewhere in this issue, the AICC Chair’s Emerging Leaders (EL) Field Trip, hosted by Joe Palmeri in Cleveland, was a big success. Yes, there were networking opportunities. Yes, there were plant tours. Yes, fun was had by all. But as most of you know, there is an educational element to most AICC events, and the EL Field Trip was no exception.

As we have addressed often and hopefully shown in these pages, AICC advocates for the independent converter and the industry in many ways, directly and actively. Directly through the AICC Legislative Summit, of which there have been 13 to date. Directly through AICC’s letter writing and editorializing on through the years. Actively through AICC’s membership in the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Small Business Legislative Council. All that said, we still feel that the best, most passionate advocacy program that AICC supports is the one undertaken by the individual members and owners with their local, state, and federal officials.

Hopefully, the activities of individual members and owners can be demonstrated to the next generation of family members active in the business—learning by doing.

While AICC cannot “teach” advocacy, as that has to come from the passion of the individual, we can and did find resources to educate the ELs on the importance of advocacy and what it can look like in action. That was the program for Friday, July 19, the second day of the field trip.

More than 40 ELs listened to Tim Ross from the office of Congressman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), who represents the state’s 7th District. Ross shared the process of how are heard, received, and acted upon—or not—by Congress.

Steve Young discussed with the group the importance of paying attention to what is going on in the political process at all levels. Especially if you are in next generation leadership of your family’s life’s work, you need to be aware at all times of the forces that can be working for or against you. You need to know how to be out in front on these .

Todd Shelton of NAM shared the perspective of his organization, one that spends much human and financial capital advocating at all levels of government on behalf of manufacturing concerns that touch labor, safety, regulations, the environment, competitiveness, and much more.

Sometimes the that exist go beyond the political and can be put to practical use to improve the reputation of your company with your customers and in the local community. Sustainability is one such issue. Paper-based packaging has such a great story to tell on this topic. Mary Anne Hansan of the Paper & Packaging Board shared the “As Life Unfolds” campaign for corrugated, paperboard, and fine papers.

There is a message for all the veteran members in the industry from the program put on during the field trip in July: It’s never too late to get involved. The political process is unforgiving to those who approach it passively.


Eric Elgin is owner of Oklahoma Interpak and Chair of AICC’s Government Affairs Subcommittee. He can be reached at 918-687-1681 or