HFA Insights: Problem leads to role on Government Relations Action Team

Jeff Smith is general manager of Walker Furniture in Gainesville, Fla.

It began with a call for help. It led to helping fellow members of the Home Furnishings Association.

Jeff Smith, general manager of Walker Furniture in Gainesville, Fla., last year received a “demand letter” from an attorney claiming to represent a visually impaired client. Walker Furniture’s website wasn’t accessible, according to the complaint. This was an alleged violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawyer wanted a payment – thousands of dollars.

This took Smith by surprise, so he contacted the HFA. Soon, he was on the phone with a corporate counsel for the W S Badcock Corp., another Florida-based HFA member that had experience with this issue. One thing led to another, and now Smith is a member of the association’s Government Relations Action Team, or GRAT.

Smith wanted to tell his story, which ended in a satisfactory resolution, to help other HFA members. He has shared it for HFA publications and individually with other HFA members. He spoke about it at a congressional roundtable.

GRAT gives retailers a stronger voice

He joined the GRAT for the same reason. The team, composed of HFA members, works with the association’s Washington representative, Dutko GR, and an HFA staff liaison to address legislative and regulatory matters that impact furniture retailers.

“It was important for me to join the GRAT to increase my knowledge of today’s industry issues, and then to combine the strength of our HFA members and try to get Washington to listen to Main Street,” Smith said.

Because of Smith, HFA’s GRAT has engaged with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who chairs the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, on a solution to the website accessibility problem. But that’s just one example of how the association helps its members understand and influence government agencies at the state and national levels.

More participation will contribute to a stronger GRAT. Owners and managers of small and large retailers are needed. They stay informed about public policy matters, form strategies and, if possible, attend the HFA’s annual Washington Fly-In (May 12-14, 2020), where they meet with members of Congress and leaders of regulatory agencies.

To join Jeff Smith and others on the GRAT, call HFA government relations liaison Doug Clark at 916-757-1167 or email him at dclark@myhfa.org. Be the voice of your association.

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