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A New Year: IFDA President's Message

Mark S. Allen, 01/03/2017

As we enter 2017, I wanted to review IFDA’s key accomplishments in 2016 and provide you with an overview of new initiatives for the coming year. IFDA’s effectiveness is a direct result of the leadership that our members provide throughout the year, and I thank you for your engagement and support.
 
We began 2016 with a list of legislative and regulatory priorities that was quite extensive given their potentially negative impact on foodservice distributors. The regulatory environment the past few years has proven to be extremely complicated and difficult for business and IFDA has worked very hard in coalitions and on our own to stop some of the most egregious regulations.
 
Hours of Service: Permanent suspension of the rule’s 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. provision was a top priority. A resolution to fund the government passed in early December and contained language that almost certainly will make permanent the suspension of this burdensome requirement. The provision will be permanently suspended unless a study demonstrates that it results in improvements in safety, driver health and other issues. The study has been completed and all indications are that the provision does not meet that hurdle.
 
Overtime Exemption: Business was able to secure a preliminary injunction to stop the Department of Labor’s overtime rule which would have raised the minimum salary level required to qualify for an overtime exemption to $47,476. The government has appealed, but the briefing schedule ensures that no decision will come until after the Trump Administration takes office.
 
Blacklisting: Business won a preliminary injunction to stop the blacklisting rule, which would have required companies bidding on government contracts to disclose three years of violations of 14 different federal employment statutes and their state equivalents. Agencies would then use that information to determine whether a company was unfit to obtain the contract.
 
Persuader: A final judgement was issued to stop the persuader rule, which would have eliminated the advice exemption of the Labor Management Disclosure and Reporting Act. This would have required disclosure by employers and attorneys of any actions taken with an intent to persuade employees not to join a union.
 
Sanitary Food Transportation Act: The final rule was issued and has proven to be flexible and risk based. The IFDA Food Safety Committee filed extensive comments on the FDA’s proposal and held a conference call directly with FDA to discuss industry concerns. IFDA staff attended a number of listening sessions and meetings with FDA on the proposal. The final rule addressed all of IFDA’s major concerns and included many of our suggestions. In the end, the rule focuses on food safety risks without creating major additional responsibilities for distributors. IFDA will be publishing a compliance manual this month to help you better understand the rule and its impact on your company.
 
IFDA’s government relations grassroots activities continue to evolve as 13 IFDA members hosted 19 Members of Congress for tours of their distribution facilities. IFDA’s Political Action Committee, IFDAPAC, had its single best year ever and raised $103,000 from 39 companies and 75 individuals. In all, IFDAPAC raised $184,000 for the two-year election cycle. IFDAPAC contributions went to Senator’s and Members of Congress who were successful in 82 percent of their races.
 
Given President-elect Trump’s cabinet nominations, we are increasingly confident that the climate for business will begin to improve, especially as it relates to the regulatory environment. In 2017, IFDA will have an opportunity to help get the agenda’s for Labor, Transportation, and EPA on the right track and focused on sensible regulation that encourages investment and allows business to grow via the free market system.
 
In late July, 45 exceptional leaders graduated from the IFDA Executive Development Program conducted with the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. This program continues to be very highly rated by participants and has helped them develop new leadership skills and capabilities. In October, we presented the first ever Mike Roach Leadership Award to outstanding “graduate” Woody Cheatham of Merchants Foodservice.
 
Nearly 150 foodservice distributor employees have completed the IFDA Foodservice Essentials online training program. This program has proven to be a valuable developmental tool for company personnel.  
 
We were honored to present IFDA Board member and Treasurer Jim Crawford of Staunton Foods with the 2016 IFDA Cornerstone Award for exceptional industry leadership. Jim was recognized at a general session at the IFDA Distribution Solutions Conference.
 
IFDA events are performing well and are providing value to IFDA members. The IFDA Distribution Solutions Conference continues to evolve and provides superior education, development and relationship building opportunities for participants. Attendance at the event was up nearly 17 percent year over year.
 
The IFDA Partners Executive Forum continues to be the industry’s premier top-to-top event for foodservice distributors and manufacturers. Over 550 executives will be in Palm Springs this month for the event.
 
The IFDA Truck Driving Championship was a great success with 125 drivers and over 500 participants, including nearly 100 children, joining us in Orlando in September. Congratulations to Neil Young of HFM Foodservice, Phil Trejo of Shamrock Foods Company, and Duane Kaitoku of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits for first place finishes within their respective classes. 
 
IFDA continues to invest in research and insights to help you to better manage your business. Reports include: Back on Top: The Dynamic Independent Operator with Technomic, which provided distributors with actionable intelligence that will help them better understand and serve their independent customers; and IFDA Economic Reports with ITR Economics. The economic reports provide IFDA members with insights into the projected future performance of the U.S. economy.  
 
This year IFDA is focused on implementing a new strategic plan, which will provide many new benefits and value to the IFDA membership. The plan is organized around five strategic priorities:
  1. Government Relations: Increase IFDA’s influence and raise our profile as an industry with lawmakers/regulators and develop a process to identify and engage on select state level issues.
  2. Events: Investment in exceptional thought-provoking content and continue to elevate the customer experience at all IFDA events.
  3. Insights: Invest in timely, actionable industry information and analysis (consumer, customer, distributor and manufacturer) to support member decision making. 
  4. Talent: Position foodservice distribution as an industry of choice for potential hires with a focus on hard-to-fill positions.
  5. Technology: Provide members with insight and guidance on the technology landscape, what technologies exist to help foodservice distributors, and how these technologies can be deployed for maximum ROI.
To support this new strategic plan, in addition to IFDA’s new VP, Industry Relations Brian Lynch, we recently hired Charlynn Driscoll as Director of Education Programs and Engagement. To lead IFDA’s insights efforts, we are in the process of hiring a Director of Research and Industry Insights and hope to have that position filled in the first quarter. As part of IFDA’s ongoing planning, we will continue to evaluate opportunities to add value to your business and make appropriate investments.  
 
Please don’t hesitate to call me if you have any questions about any of IFDA’s initiatives or programs, or any suggestions that would help us better serve you. We will continue to advocate aggressively on your behalf and find new ways to help contribute to your success. On behalf of the IFDA staff, we wish you a happy and prosperous 2017!

Best wishes,
 
Mark S. Allen
President & CEO
International Foodservice Distributors Association
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