The APRO Legislative Conference 2023, held in late April in Washington, D.C., was a definitive success as rent-to-own industry members climbed Capitol Hill for the first time in four years. Canceled by COVID since 2020, the event made a strong return, bringing RTO and Congressional officials together for in-person meetings.
Day one began late afternoon in the atrium of the Hilton Capitol Hill, as almost 50 Legislative Conference attendees came to claim their registration packets, and stayed to enjoy a Welcome Reception. Cocktails – including the “APRO Blue,” a signature drink for the event – and hors d’oeuvres were served, along with an expectant buzz as the APRO teams determined their meeting gameplans for the following day.
“A lot has changed here in D.C. since we were last here in 2019,” affirmed CEO of Buddy’s Newco LLC dba Buddy’s Home Furnishings and APRO President Michael Bennett as he welcomed conference attendees. “Many new legislators have come into office, and they might not even know we exist. This is our opportunity to educate them about our business, why it was deemed ‘essential’ during COVID, and how much good we do in our communities around the country.”
Day two began bright and early with an exclusive event for conference participants who had also contributed to the APRO PAC (Political Action Committee). Attendees who gave received some roundtable discussion time with U.S. Representative French Hill (R-AR) prior to his keynote address to the whole group.
In addition to an update on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a freshly passed debt-ceiling bill, Representative Hill welcomed APRO members back to Washington, urging them to tell the rent-to-own story to his Congressional colleagues.
“RTO is a wonderful window on the daily realities of the American economy,” he said. “It’s a great snapshot of what American families are thinking about, are worried by, aspire to, and how they’re doing with their financial health. We all need to have our fingers on that national pulse.”
After a group photo in front of the Capitol Building, APRO members split up and spent the rest of the day walking all over the Hill to meet with U.S. representatives, senators, and their legislative staffers. Nine teams representing 18 states – each led by an experienced Legislative Conference veteran – worked to fulfill 85 scheduled appointments within about six hours.
At day’s end, all Legislative Conference attendees trickled in to a celebratory happy-hour event to eat, drink, put up their hard-walking feet, and swap stories of their day in D.C. The reviews were all extremely positive.
One pair of rental dealers got to visit one of their U.S. representatives in a meeting room adjacent to the House floor, while another discovered one of their representatives was a former – happily satisfied – RTO customer.
Candice Hill – Director of Operations for Rental Concepts West LLC dba RNR Tire Express, and President of the Arkansas Rental Dealers Association – was a first-timer to the conference. She was a tad nervous initially, but ended up thoroughly enjoying her experience, and definitely intends to return next year.
“I believe as businesspeople, we should be interacting with our elected officials,” Hill asserted. “I was anxious because I thought these face-to-face meetings were going to be more formal; I thought the Congress men and women were going to expect us to be highly educated and eloquent, sort of high-tone. But it was really just normal people having good conversations. That was the best part.”