In years past, IFMA representatives from across the USA would convene in September for Advocacy Day: a two-day meeting each year to learn about current political issues and meet with their state representatives. Typically, the first day was spent learning about specific issues concerning the Facility Management profession and the second day was spent in meetings with each attendee’s regional Congressperson. Jeff Johnson, External Affairs Counsel, IFMA leads the IFMA Government Affairs Committee and is co-chair of the High Performance Buildings Congressional Caucus, and coordinates IFMA Advocacy Day.
Current Covid-19 restrictions prevented that from happening this year. Members of the IFMA Government Affairs group felt that an annual gathering was important enough that it should be held virtually; and on September 16, one hundred and twelve IFMA members from across the country did just that.
GTC Past Presidents, Cris Karasek, Mike O’Brien, and 2020 GTC Vice President, Travis Dodson, attended this first Virtual IFMA Government Affair’s Advocacy Day, representing our chapter. It was Travis’s first time to participate in the conference. He commented, “While I don’t think the interaction was what it would have been in person, it was still a great learning opportunity to see how national-level politics shape the local environment in which our facilities are located. I appreciated hearing how IFMA has been able to lobby on behalf of their members to ensure those of us caring for facilities are considered essential workers and opening up additional opportunities under current legislation. I look forward to finding out how our chapter can be more engaged with advocacy that will support our members and the environment.”
Mike O’Brien is a long-time veteran of Advocacy Day. He says, “…when I was first involved in Advocacy efforts, we were introducing IFMA, who we were as FM’s, the importance of FM Training and accreditation to our national leaders. We raised these concepts (listed below) to them to establish their importance and gain their support! Through the persistence of IFMA and the group we can highlight the following (successes)”:
- The establishment of the Federal Buildings Personnel Training Act which affects 80,000 Federal employees and 100,000 Federal contractors
- Federal Asset Sale and Transfer Act which requires realignment of the federal civilian real estate portfolio
- The election of IFMA as the Chair of the High-Performance Buildings Congressional Caucus which continues to focus on further expansion of facilities-related improvements at the federal level.
The group concurred that, while it was timely and interesting to conduct the meeting remotely, it will be a common goal to meet in person next September. GTC members may contact Cris Karasek if they would like to learn more about attending Advocacy Day and learning how Congress creates and implement the laws that affect our profession.
In conclusion, Mike O’Brien makes a key point, “Overall, in this election time I think the best comment I could make is that our democracy does indeed work and we can play a role in its development. Be sure to vote!”