East and West River joined forces as one common voice for business during our Washington, D.C. Fly-in, held September 5-8.
This year's fly-in marks the second time South Dakota's largest cities have united in advocacy on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon. By joining together, we strengthened our message as we share many advocacy commonalities: large health care systems, an active focus on tourism, diverse economies and both communities have military bases vitally important to our state.
Because the influence of federal laws and regulations impact our members, the Chamber recognizes how important it is to have a well-developed advocacy program that includes the federal level. In the last few years, the Chamber has made strides with our federal advocacy efforts as we regularly communicate with our delegation and the U.S. Chamber on important issues. Strengthening our presence and our relationships in Washington, D.C. has been the next logical step, which has incurred beneficial results: both immediate and long-term.
...our combined voices strengthened our message
Below is a summary of our visit:
Wednesday, Sept. 5 – This was a travel day for the delegation. That evening, we had an informal dinner where we became acquainted and conducted a full briefing of the trip itinerary.
Thursday, Sept. 6 – The day began with a shortened tour of the Capitol. Then we began our Hill visits which included U.S. Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds and U.S. Representative Kristi Noem. Our discussions included an array of important issues including: immigration/workforce; H-2B visas; health care; summer sales of E15; Ellsworth Air Force Base; Sioux Falls 114th Air National Guard and trade and the impact of tariffs. Conversations with our congressional delegation were robust and productive. We also heard how important these visits are to our advocacy efforts.
A briefing from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce experts filled our afternoon and covered the topics of trade, transportation, infrastructure and immigration policy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce serves as an excellent research and advocacy resource.
Friday, Sept. 7 – The day began with a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. We toured the graves of our fallen heroes and watched the ceremony of the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was a moving experience as we were reminded of the sacrifice and valor of those who gave their last full measure for our freedom.
Then we traveled to the Pentagon via the metro. After eating lunch in the Pentagon, we were given a tour of the building from a dynamic gentleman who has worked there for more than 30 years. Our afternoon culminated with two very significant meetings. We first met the 24th Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson, and later with the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, John W. Henderson. These conversations provided an additional level of insight to better position both cities in our efforts to continue our strong relationships with both Ellsworth and the Sioux Falls Air Guard.
Saturday, Sept. 8 – For most attendees, this was a day to travel home, but a few stayed behind to tour and enjoy the sights and history surrounding the D.C. area.
Federal advocacy is critically important to the success of our members because they are operating in an integrated global economy. It is imperative that we communicate with our congressional delegation and military leaders face-to-face to share our members' needs and concerns.
On behalf of the Sioux Falls Area Chamber, I want to publicly thank the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce for their partnership on this trip. It strengthened our voice and created new relationships that we can build on moving forward. A special thank you to Rapid City Chamber Vice President, Lynn Kendall, the staff of our Congressional delegation and Sen. Thune, Sen. Rounds and Rep. Noem. A personal thank you to Teresa Schreier, Public Affairs and Communications Assistant for the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, for her work in organizing this trip – it was invaluable.