2014 Brings New Opportunity and Challenges
To read the headlines and watch the evening news, you might think that the negative rhetoric, partisan rancor and seemingly-endless political gridlock in Washington, D.C. is preventing the IFA from achieving our mission.
But I can assure you, we are driving growth in still challenging economic and public policy times through our targeted efforts to educate the public, the media and policy leaders about the increasingly-significant contributions we make to job creation and the U.S. economy.
As we ring in the New Year, while there are many challenges, there are many opportunities as well. In 2014, we will build upon the many accomplishments we made in 2013.
For example, over the past three and a half years, we have grown FranPAC, our political action committee, by 71 percent, finishing the 2011-2012 election cycle with over $1.2 million, placing our PAC in the top 25 trade associations in all of Washington. Last year, our pledges topped $650,000 and our 2013-2014 election-cycle goal of $1.3 million is right on track.
By having such a strong PAC, we expand and strengthen our voice among policymakers and are able to more significantly support candidates who have pro-growth legislative and regulatory agendas. This will be more important than ever in this critical election year. So I respectfully urge you to find out more about how you can participate in the political process with the IFA.
Why? Because we need your help and support as we continue to battle policies that would impede franchise growth and job creation at both the federal and state levels, respectively.
In Washington, we have steadfastly worked to fix the many flaws in the Affordable Care Act to make it more workable for our industry. Our grassroots efforts to educate members of Congress about the impact the new law is having on our industry led, in part, to the one year delay of the employer mandate. In 2014, we will build on the momentum we started last year to change the definition of a full-time employee from 30 hours to the traditional 40 hours within ObamaCare. There are several bills in Congress that would do this and with your support, we are hopeful we can get this done this year. A jointly-commissioned poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of the IFA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows that 27 percent of franchised businesses are already dropping health coverage and cutting worker’s hours.
We will also stay focused on our efforts to achieve meaningful immigration reform so that the franchise industry can access an affordable and available work force. We worked hard in 2013 to get a good, comprehensive bill and framework passed by the Senate and we will continue those efforts to get it passed in the House, whether it is done comprehensively, or most likely, piece by piece.
Another priority for IFA is comprehensive tax reform. I’m sure you agree that Congress could go a long way in helping businesses grow and create jobs if they would simplify the code, but as important, provide some sense of certainty about what our nation’s fiscal and economic policies are going to be. Our message has been that to be meaningful, reform must truly be comprehensive and include improvements in both the corporate and individual tax laws. Anything less than that would not be comprehensive, therefore it would clearly not be tax reform
At the state level, we have successfully defeated or delayed bills from advancing that would change the franchise model with devastating consequences for franchisees and franchisors, while championing new legislation that strengthens the franchising business model. To date, we have a 29-0 success rate defeating or tabling anti-franchising bills in 17 states and Puerto Rico.
Last year alone, IFA dealt with 16 threats to franchising, more than double the number of bills in 2012. We expect these challenges to be even greater in 2014, and with your help and support to demonstrate the unintended consequences of these efforts, we will continue to prevail.
One issue that is brewing at both the state and federal levels is the attempts by Congress and state and local governments to arbitrarily increase the miminum wage. So far, on the federal level, we have been successul in helping lawmakers understand that by doing this, they will only be hurting those that the bill is intended to help. But we fully expect more and more attempts to pass these bills in 2014.
To further support our efforts, we have increased our visibility in various news media platforms to demonstrate the importance of franchising to the U.S. economy, and why pro-growth policies are needed. IFA leaders appeared 27 times in 2013 on national TV broadcasts, and quoted in major print publications throughout the year, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, National Journal and POLITICO, among many, many others. Promoting this great industry will always be a top priority for the IFA.
To ensure that our industry and organization stays strong well into the future, the Franchise Relations Best Practices Task Force, a group of franchisee and franchisor leaders, worked throughout last year to identify action steps the IFA can take to enhance current franchise relations and to provide better information and tools to aid prospective franchisees in making the best decisions. We are aggressively implementing these initiatives now, and plan to provide more tools for prospective franchisees this year.
One very important community of prospective franchisees continues to be our nation’s veterans. Last year, our Vetfran initiative surpassed its goal of 80,000 veterans, military spouses and wounded warriors to enter franchising as employees or franchisees by the end of 2014 by 89 percent, reaching 151,557, including 5,192 franchisees. A record 610 companies are now participating in VetFran offering substantial discounts off the intial franchise fee, and even in some cases, waiving it. These results are phenominal and I can’t thank you enough for your help in achieivng this critically-important goal.
We are proud of our achievements on behalf of this great industry. And we believe they are a big reason we are seeing more and more people in the franchise industry getting involved in IFA. Membership revenue and the number of members across all three major categories (Franchisees, Franchisors and Suppliers) are at all-time highs. And we hit a record in attendance for our annual convention last year, more than 3,500, and we are on track for a strong showing this year in New Orleans.
We would not achieve any of our goals and objectives without the steadfast support from IFA members. Working collectively, we will continue to enhance this great industry that provides exciting opportunities for so many. Thank you for your membership and your support in these very challenging times and for your continued support in the years to come.