Despite the dynamics that affect the convenience store industry today, established business associations still remain constructive partners.
By Mark Radosevich
At the time of this writing the presidential election is only 90 days away and there’s a perceptible mood of foreboding throughout the industry.
After eight frustrating years of an illogical anti-business administration, it’s unfathomable that we are facing the prospect of another four years of the same sort of anti-petroleum, anti-convenience excesses. To many, it’s similar to what the defenders of the Alamo felt after struggling to repulse the first wave of Mexican soldiers, only to find another wave scaling the walls—with even more behind them and the ammunition quickly depleting.
Short of praying that American voters suddenly wake up and make a rational decision for a change or that the businessman running for office sticks to the issues and his teleprompter; proactive measures must be taken to defend our industry from a seemingly inevitable future.
UPHOLDING THE PMAA
The best line of defense against the progressive governmental onslaught rests with our Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA) affiliated state marketer associations. Whether it’s local, state or national issues, these established associations work tirelessly to protect the thin line that separates us from despair and business decline versus an environment of proactive response and protection.
As many of my industry friends know, I have been active with various state groups for many years and currently serve on the membership committees of two state associations. Membership on these committees has provided a close view of the internal challenges that state associations face, while the challenges to our industry have never been greater.
Industry consolidation has reduced the universe of marketers across the country making it a challenge for many state associations to maintain a sufficient level of membership to fund the necessary work. Those that choose not to join offer a myriad of reasons why they don’t get involved, while some that join are basically members in name only and don’t actively participate at an acceptable level.
Another big challenge is to motivate multi-state operators or master limited partnerships (MLPs) to join petroleum associations in states where they have a significant business presence. In my humble opinion, I think that any company that operates over 10 stores or distributes over 10 million gallons annually in any given state is foolish not to join that state’s PMAA affiliated association.
Membership provides multi-state operators inexpensive insurance against unknown attacks and affords them the ability to provide leadership and direction on state-specific legislative and regulatory issues.
DON’T SIT IDLE
After personally soliciting several large multi-state operators, the universal response is that they generally focus on the national level or that they hire private lobbyists when needed. From a 10,000-foot macro view, these arguments may seem valid. But from a pragmatic ground level view, they don’t really hold much water.
The two state associations that I’m involved with each scored recent wins in areas that probably would have flown way under the radar of an uninvolved multi-state operator. One involved the raising of the state mandated minimum mark up on cigarettes to enable store operators to make a fair and reasonable profit, while another involved protecting a state’s underground storage tank fund from being unfairly raided by non-petroleum industries.
These are just two simple wins by two different state associations that yielded tremendous benefits to members and non-members alike. With all the negativity that our industry faces, the potential benefits to be delivered clearly outweigh the cost of membership.
TOO GREAT TO IGNORE
Now is the time to actively support our best line of defense: our existing PMAA-affiliated, state petroleum marketer associations. All marketers have a vested interest to join and become actively involved. MLPs, multi-state fuel wholesalers, and store operators must willingly commit the resources and manpower to become involved wherever they have a significant business presence.
The time for excuses is over. The threats we face are too high not to join the fight and protect the thin line that divides business success from failure.
Possessing 35 years of downstream petroleum experience, Mark Radosevich is the president of PetroActive Real Estate Services LLC, offering confidential mergers & acquisition representation and financing services exclusively to petroleum wholesalers. He can be reached by email at [email protected] and directly by phone at (423) 442-1327, Web address www.petroactive.net.