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Tuesday
Jan052010

Get Out and Get Involved!

In my 12 plus years with CarterEnergy, I have made the attempt to get involved in many organizations that work to help you, our valued customers. From sitting on an Independent Owner Operators Community Committee with the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), to doing the same with the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association of Kansas’ (PMCA) C-Store Committee. The common theme with the organizations mentioned above is the desire to work to provide and improve tools to help you become better, and subsequently, more profitable operators. They also work to ensure that legislative issues that could have a negative impact on our industry are scrutinized and fought, along with introducing legislation designed to help you.

An example of Legislation that we have worked to get passed over the past several years is Single Strength Beer in Kansas. In 1985, Kansas raised the minimum drinking age for alcohol consumption from 18 to 21, leaving a very archaic law allowing convenience stores to sell only cereal malt beverages (CMB) versus the more popular “strong beer.” While the difference in alcohol is minimal, it is widely perceived that the CMB is “watered down” beer, thus making it difficult for Kansas c-stores to compete with Kansas liquor stores as well as c-stores in Missouri and other neighboring states where “strong beer” is the norm. Sadly today, due in part to lack of participation from convenience store retailers, we have failed to get this bill passed.

While some of you have worked tirelessly alongside members of these committees to help pass legislation such as Single Strength Beer, unfortunately, too few of our customers take the time and effort to get involved.

While getting more of our retailers involved to help pass positive legislation is important, it is just as critical to get more retailers involved to help curb the increasingly negative legislation that is introduced year after year. Examples include:

  • Federal/State excise tax increase on tobacco
  • Federal/State excise tax increase on motor fuels
  • Property/real estate tax increase

These are just a few of the challenges that are presented annually; there are many, many more—not only on a state level, but on a local level as well.

My question to you is this: Do you know who your State Congressman or Senators are? Do you know who your local County Commissioner, Mayor, City Representatives, etc., are? How involved are you? When I talk individually to my customers, the recurring theme is, “I can’t make a difference by myself.” I would like to set the record straight…if you are a registered voter and vote, you can make a difference!

I know both of my State Representatives and take the opportunity to talk to and/or meet with them to discuss our industry and get their views on where they stand with relevant legislation. I am here to tell you, they do care and they will listen.

Tom Palace, Executive Director of the PMCA, does a very good job in representing us in the State of Kansas. When I asked Tom for a quote for this post, he supplied the following statement: “As an organization, the PMCA is only as strong as its membership. If we want to be successful, every member of the industry must get involved. When you consider the fact that there are over 1500 retail locations in Kansas, we should have a strong position politically, but we don’t because too few retailers want to spend the time and effort to help. The PMCA has a number of legislative issues that could help your business this year. It would be great to see 100 retailers attend our Day at the Capitol on February 4th  to show legislators that we really do care if they pass laws that could eventually put us out of business.”

For the sake of your business and our industry, please get out and get involved! Be sure to support the organizations that support you, such as MPCA, PMCA, NACS, etc. Attend industry functions and network with other retailers. Ask to participate on the various association committees in your area; they are all looking for additional members and support. As a single store operator, you may not feel like you can make a difference but together, there is strength in numbers. Call or email your Local, State and Federal Representatives….know where they stand on all issues; hold them accountable. Today, all governments, from local all the way up to federal, are experiencing shortfalls in budgets and where do you think they are going to turn to in an effort to make up the shortfalls? I will give you one guess, and rest assured, it will have something to do with our local, neighborhood convenience stores!

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