By Jerry Griffin // MIRA Vice President of Government Affairs
First, let me state how proud and humbled I am to have been asked to join MIRA as its Vice President for Government Affairs. It is an honor to be asked to represent a large group of business owners in such a broad spectrum of retail industries.
I do share a common experience with a sizable number of you. My family owned a convenience store just outside of Jackson called Stark’s Party Store that my mom’s parents opened in the 1950’s. We had a Class C license (although I think back then it was called a C&D license) with beer, wine and liquor and one of the first lottery machines back in the 70’s. I worked there for four years in the mid 80’s back when you went to state owned stores to get your liquor. The store is still there although my family no longer owns it.
As it relates to my position with MIRA, I have over 20 years’ experience working in state government and public policy which includes 7 years working as the Director of Government Affairs for an association with a similar structure as MIRA, so there is very much a familiarity with that working environment. I also spent the last 6 years working on behalf of business clients seeking to expand retail operations in communities throughout Michigan.
I look forward to meeting and learning from you about your challenges and what is necessary to succeed in running your independent business. That knowledge is key to me succeeding on your behalf. That said, there is something I know from working in government affairs and working at an association that I want to emphasize and remind all of you; This association is as strong as its members make it.
There exists a wide, diverse number of commercial industries under the MIRA umbrella. There can be a number of legislative and regulatory issues that come up that affect certain categories of MIRA membership more than others. While it is easy to get members engaged on an issue that has a broad impact like the bottle bill expansion, it can be difficult to have interest and act on an issue that does not affect your business directly. But, it is those very instances that the influence and impact of being a MIRA member can be its greatest.
In many instances, these disparate issues have an underlying commonality. Proposed changes are being driven by large, national industry representatives who are trying to strengthen their position as it looks to expand in one State or another. They are doing so at the expense of the small independent operator. An association like MIRA is like a family. We can disagree and bicker with our family, but when somebody outside goes after a member of your family, you band together and fight back.
One of the responsibilities MIRA is tasked with is representing its members in the legislature and with state departments and agencies. When an issue reaches a critical point and MIRA members reach out to their state Representative or Senator to urge their support for independent retailers, the power of your association comes to bear. When you reach out for support from your legislators, they are reminded of how you invest and reinvest in their community, the revenue your business generates stays in that community, that you employ residents of their district, that you support the municipalities in their district, and perhaps, you supported them in their efforts to get elected and re-elected.
It is when we speak as a united voice that the bonds of MIRA are strengthened and unbreakable.