Out of the bike shop and on to Capitol Hill

April 03, 2015

Mitch Marrison, retail program coordinator + James Moore, owner of Moore's Bike Shop

Fly-In Group Photo
Attendees of the PeopleForBikes Executive Fly-In, including James Moore of Moore's Bike Shop (third from right)

On March 25th and 26th, PeopleForBikes and the NBDA (National Bike Dealers Association) hosted a group of bicycle retailers from all across the country in Washington, D.C. for an Executive Fly-In. PeopleForBikes' quarterly Executive Fly-Ins are designed to show Congress the how the bicycle industry creates jobs, supports small businesses, and makes contributions to tax revenues. James Moore of Moore's Bike Shop in Hattiesburg, MS (who we previously profiled here) spoke with us about his history on Capitol Hill, the importance of these fly-ins and how they help local bike shops demonstrate their value to our nation.

Moore: About ten years ago I started attending the National Bike Summit at the urging of a few enlightened bicycle retailers. I had never been to D.C. before and felt ill-prepared for interacting with our nation’s decision makers. Thanks to the Summit's effective seminars and the wrinkled suit I keep on hand for funerals and weddings, the meetings went surprisingly well. Being the sole delegate from Mississippi in those earlier years meant I typically made all six visits to our senators and representatives. In some cases I met with the elected member and in others I met with the staffer assigned to transportation policy, but what stands out is that, in all cases, when I returned the second year, those I had met with the first year remembered me.

After almost a decade of repeating these annual visits I now know that I was remembered not because I made a stunningly compelling presentation but because I was associated with bicycling, an activity that both staffers and congressional members all have in common and all have fond memories of their first set of wheels. Given a chance, everyone can share a bicycling story. Even as I boarded the House and Senate elevators on my way to my next meeting, strangers would comment on my neon colored bicycle lapel pin and would smile like a young child when I reached in my bag and offered them one of their own.

Some of the group during a meeting
Part of the Fly-In group during a training session before meeting with elected officials.

This past week I was privileged to participate in my first PeopleForBikes Executive Fly-In in Washington, D.C. and I must say, three important take aways stood out. First, for the first time I actually got to meet with congressional offices outside my state who held strategic positions on committees overseeing the issues. Because of the position their bosses held on these committees, the staffers were truly interested in our opinions.

Second, I got to leave my yellow Lycra advocacy shorts at home and instead wear my pin striped business owner’s suit. I can wear either but some elected leaders listen much better when the messenger represents jobs, increased tax revenue and is tied into a network of other local business owners. Having been an elected official, the most frightening moments in local government are those moments just before the city council walks into a board room packed with local business owners. And that fear and respect of local business owners seems to follow the locally elected leaders as they become nationally elected leaders.

Other part of the group
Bike shop owners during the training session

Third, I really liked knowing in advance that I was taking the pro-bike message into an office that was either against our mission or on the fence at the moment. While it feels good visiting those offices that are already our friends, it gives one a great sense of “I can make a difference” going into an office where an effective discussion can change key minds.

We know bicycling is good for the planet and good for the health of our citizens and a healthier populace is a direct benefit to our future economy. But the message last week was that an investment in bicycling delivers a sound return on investment through increased employment and increases in state and local tax revenue. Overall, the PeopleForBikes Executive Fly-In allowed me to participate some very effective meetings that were highly efficient both in terms of time away from my business and money invested. 

A big thanks to James and the rest of those who attended this quarter's PeopleForBikes NBDA Fly-In.

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