On August 31, 2023, TCIA hosted a congressional site visit together with Gilford, New
Hampshire-based member ArborTech at the company’s headquarters. ArborTech is a 10-year TCIA member company with dual TCIA Accreditations for residential and commercial as well as Utility Contractor operations. Taking place during the August congressional recess, the event emphasized the importance legislators assign to direct interactions with their constituents.
Alongside ArborTech staff, representatives from other TCIA member companies attended the event to highlight the industry’s strides in safety, workforce development, technology and professionalism.
The role of congressional site visits
Congressional site visits are valuable tools for policy making and advocacy. They provide members of Congress and their staff firsthand knowledge about specific industries or issues, facilitating informed decision-making. These visits allow businesses to directly engage with policymakers, showcasing their industry’s contributions, challenges and needs.
Members of the tree care industry safeguard homeowners, businesses and communities from hazards that threaten critical infrastructure. Also, they play a pivotal role in preserving the beauty and health of our natural spaces. To assist policymakers in understanding the breadth of our industry, TCIA has embarked on a new strategy: introducing policymakers to our operations.
Audience members included U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH-1), staff from the office of U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH-2), U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH). Joining them were Kenneth Merrifield and deputy commissioner Rudolph Ogden, both from the New Hampshire Department of Labor, as well as representatives from the Small Business Administration. The latter included Amy Bassett, NHDOL’s district director, and Louis Luchini, office of advocacy’s Region 1 advocate.
Safety demos and roundtable discussion
David White, TCIA president and CEO, welcomed attendees and discussed the Association and its mission to advance tree care businesses. Courtney Kelly, ArborTech co-owner, provided a tour of their four-bay shop and walked attendees through two safety demonstrations.
The initial demonstration took place inside the shop on ArborTech’s training tree, and involved a mock aerial rescue performed by ArborTech’s lead climber. The next demonstration was of a crane-assisted removal of a large white pine, highlighting the crane’s important role in ensuring climber safety during tree access.
The demonstrations elicited numerous questions, which were addressed by Courtney Kelly, Peter Gerstenberger, TCIA’s senior vice president of industry support, and other TCIA members.
With the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) planning to propose an arborist-specific safety standard by December 2023, an initiative long supported by TCIA, this event was crucial. It offered policymakers a glimpse into the challenges facing the industry and emphasized the importance of OSHA recognizing industry-accepted safe workplace practices, such as the crane-access method.
Talking about issues
Following the demonstrations, attendees met inside ArborTech’s facility for a roundtable with TCIA members and policymakers. This session allowed company representatives to speak with their state, regional and Congressional leaders. They discussed the tree care industry’s challenges and priorities.
Key topics included safety practices, workforce shortages, company readiness to hire and train new employees and the rewarding career of an arborist. Legislative and regulatory discussions covered invasive species, immigration reforms, workforce development, vegetation management and the current administration’s environmental initiatives.
Erin Demers, TCIA’s manager of workforce recruitment and retention, discussed the Association’s recent approval as an Apprenticeship Ambassador and its initiative to promote career opportunities for underrepresented groups, both nationally and regionally.
Conclusion and gratitude
Thanks are due to ArborTech’s owners, Courtney and Audra Kelly, and their team for organizing the event. TCIA also thanks its members who adjusted their schedules to participate. The event showcased the dedication of our members, many of whom run small businesses, in supporting the industry.
In attendance, advocating for the industry, were Art Batson III, TCIA board member and CEO of Lucas Tree Experts; Peter Powers and David Chapman, both with Asplundh; Vermeer Corporation’s Brandon Nelson, Steven Talsma, Chuck Moninski, Chris Campbell and Cody Labriolam; Mark Smith and the team from Belknap Landscape Company LLC; Chris and Heide Girard with Girard Tree Service; and Seacoast Tree Care LLC’s Dan Mello.
The Association remains committed to fostering connections between its members and policymakers. We will keep our members informed about TCIA’s initiatives and provide opportunities for engagement. For more details about our New Hampshire site visit, view the press release for the event on TCIA’s advocacy site, advocacy.tcia.org.
Josh Leonard is a legislative assistant with Ulman Public Policy, TCIA’s Washington, D.C.-based advocacy and lobbying partner.
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