As exciting as 2017 was for IP’s Global Government Relations team, 2018 already shows that we must be ready for any challenges that come our way. IP Chairman and CEO Mark Sutton’s first round of Capitol Hill visits in Washington, D.C. for 2018 were almost derailed by the January federal government shutdown. Fortunately, a deal was reached and Mark was able to highlight key issues important to our business which included transportation infrastructure investment and trade agreements. With a federal infrastructure package in development and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) under negotiation, Mark’s visits were well-timed.
Mark had an all-star lineup of meetings, which included:
· Senator Lamar Alexander (Tennessee-2,990 IP employees)
· Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (New York-1,050 IP employees), the Senate’s top Democrat
· Senator Joni Ernst (Iowa-450 IP employees)
· Senator John Barrasso (Wyoming), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, who is leading the Senate’s effort to develop an infrastructure package
· Alex Herrgott, White House Council on Environmental Quality, Associate Director for Infrastructure, architect of the White House’s infrastructure package.
In addition to advancing these critical company priorities, these meetings often present the invaluable opportunity for us to make hometown connections with elected officials. For example, Senate Democratic Leader Schumer and Mark, were able to connect about the Ticonderoga, NY mill since he has visited the mill many times.
We are a major player in the transportation space, and my role is to position IP as a leading stakeholder in these policy debates. That’s where Mark’s leadership comes in. If legislators don’t understand the perspective of manufacturers who are shipping freight across the country, they might support new fees on the value of our freight or unworkable supply chain changes that could impact our operations. Mark’s efforts put a strong marker down with leading senators, and now it’s Government Relations’ job to work to ensure our views are reflected in upcoming legislation. Since transportation is in my issue portfolio, I can’t help but share a few high level messages that we consistently use to talk about IP’s transportation leadership:
· We are a leading shipper across major modes of transportation, spending more than $2 billion annually to ship goods in the U.S. IP supports efforts to make serious investments in our nation’s transportation infrastructure.
· We have a unique perspective for this debate and will support proposals that improve the efficiency of the supply chain network through highway, port and rail investments.
· IP is the #1 U.S. box car shipper by railroad, the #3 U.S. exporter by volume via cargo ship and we send 1.5+ million truck shipments of product to customers and facilities each year.
· IP supports investments that will increase the safety and efficiency of freight corridors and for rural infrastructure projects that serve a critical role in connecting U.S. manufacturers with global markets.