That’s how Martin Whitmer Jr., founding partner with Whitmer & Worrall LLC, described the timing (Oct. 19–20, 2021) of GMA fall Lobby Day 2021, the first in-person Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA) Lobby Day since the pandemic began at a time when not a lot of face-to-face meetings were happening on Capitol Hill. With the citywide indoor mask mandate in the District of Columbia and the politics of the time focused on infrastructure, it was apparent to attendees that this would be unlike any GMA Lobby Day of the past.
Eleven industry leaders (John Bolton, Tensar International Corp.; Keith Gardner, Dalco Nonwovens LLC; Bryan Gee, Tensar; Nathan Ivy, AGRU America Inc.; John Lostumbo, TenCate Geosynthetics Americas; Sachin Mandavkar, Maccaferri Inc.; Adam Maskal, Solmax; Keith Misukanis, Berry Global Inc./TYPAR; Flavio Montez, HUESKER Inc.; Noah Nichols, Propex Global; and Aaron Smith, Maccaferri Inc.) participated in the meetings with representatives, senators and their staffs. Also present were Whitmer, Thomas Worrall, Gabe Pellathy, Angela Acampora, Lindsay Bencick and Natasha Epperly of Whitmer & Worrall, as well as Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) employees Fred Chuck of GMA and me. The meetings included direct virtual or in-person conversations with legislators and legislative staff from states across the country, representing both Democrats and Republicans.
GMA Lobby Day focus
Top on the agenda was the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), passed by the Senate and then under consideration in the House. Specifically, GMA attendees expressed support and offered help with two sections of the act: Section 13006, about research and technology development and deployment, and Section 13009, about transportation resilience and adaptation centers of excellence. Both sections provide funding for innovative construction technology, opportunities that attendees stressed were perfect for geosynthetics. In addition, attendees advocated for a $54 billion investment for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in the IIJA. The House passed the act Nov. 5, 2021; President Joe Biden signed it into law on Nov. 15; and all this language was included in the bill.
Top on the agenda was the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), passed by the Senate and then under consideration in the House. Specifically, GMA attendees expressed support and offered help with two sections of the act: Section 13006, about research and technology development and deployment, and Section 13009, about transportation resilience and adaptation centers of excellence.
GMA asked the legislators for help with scheduling meetings in their states to support GMA’s state and local advocacy efforts. To date, GMA has visited 26 states to champion the use of geosynthetics with governors’ offices, departments of transportation and natural resources departments.
GMA’s efforts on the federal level have resulted in geosynthetics language in the Water Resources Development Act (2020), the FAA Reauthorization Act (2018) and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (2015).
Although GMA received a warm welcome from most legislators, some legislators and staffers heard about geosynthetics for the first time. Whereas tangible benefits of the meetings could not be calculated right after Lobby Day, the industry leaders knew they were carefully laying the groundwork for increased federal government interest in the use of geosynthetics.