At a small political gathering last weekend, a Society of American Florists board member had a substantial one-on-one conversation with an influential congressman.
On Friday, Sept. 7, Nick Fronduto, COO of Jacobson Floral Supply in Braintree, Massachusetts, attended a dinner in downtown Boston, hosted by Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas-34), a member of the House Agriculture Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee.
“It was a great opportunity, I think, for both of us,” Fronduto said. “[Vela] got to see how issues in Washington affect business people on a day-to-day business and to ask follow up questions, while I got to voice my concerns. I also got to learn more about how the political process works.”
The two spoke for more than half an hour. In particular, Fronduto addressed how urban development and gentrification has drastically increased the cost of living in the area surrounding his facility, shrinking the potential labor pool. “I told him, it’s really tough to find workers now,” he said. “Our typical job candidates can’t afford to live nearby, and it’s a tough sell to ask someone to fight traffic on a lengthy commute from the suburbs every day.”
The two also discussed elements of the Farm Bill, which Vela helped push through. “Because Jacobson deals only with hard goods, I’m not as close to the agricultural issues as some of my SAF peers, but I thanked him for his work on the bill because it benefits the industry,” Fronduto said.
A veteran attendee of SAF’s annual Congressional Action Days (CAD), Fronduto has learned to succinctly summarize issues and to use personal anecdotes to make them more meaningful and memorable. “CAD provides great training,” he said. “It’s really helped me hone my elevator pitch.”
Representatives Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey-6), Gene Green (D-Texas-29) and Vicente Gonzales (D-TX-15) also attended the dinner. “Altogether, there were about 30 or 40 of us there,” Fronduto said, adding that it was “the perfect, casual atmosphere” for constructive conversation. “Any bigger and I surely wouldn’t have had a member of Congress’s ear for so much time.”
Katie Hendrick Vincent is the senior contributing editor for the Society of American Florists.