Host a Local Business Site Visit

Members of Congress and their staff spend a great deal of time in the districts they represent. Visits to local businesses are the single best way to help federal legislators and their staff understand the impact of marketplace fairness legislation on the businesses in their district. If you've never hosted a site visit before, it doesn't have to be an arduous undertaking.

Here are five easy steps to putting together a successful event:

  1. E-mail NLC at advocacy@nlc.org to let NLC know you are willing to conduct a city visit.
  2. Develop a plan. What would you like to show the member(s) of Congress and your local media? Who should attend? What issues would you like to highlight during the event?
  3. Issue the invitation. Provide the details of your proposed visit in a short letter of invitation which you can fax or e-mail to the member's district office. Follow-up with a phone call and get the planning process underway.
  4. Conduct the visit. Once everything's arranged, conducting the visit is almost the easiest part. You'll need to remain somewhat flexible, however, in case of unforeseen scheduling conflicts or other problems. You can use this sample itinerary to help plan the day.
  5. Follow-Up. Let NLC know how the visit went and whether the Member of Congress and/or staff person raised any questions that need a response. We can also assist with additional follow-up ideas to help build a lasting relationship with the office.

Site visits can be a very effective way to make the needs of your community heard. Your participation in this effort could make all the difference in our campaign for marketplace fairness legislation.

Checklist for Setting up a Site Visit

  • Step One: Pre-Planning
    • Contact NLC's staff to let them know of your willingness to conduct a visit, and get assistance.
  • Step Two: Planning the Visit
    • Who will you invite to the visit? Consider these options:
      • Member of Congress
      • Member's DC staff
      • District staff
      • Local members of the media
    • What will you show them? How does what you're showing them relate to marketplace fairness legislation? The best examples are local retailers that contribute measurable value to your community's economy and quality of life, and compete with online sellers.
    • Who else will you have at the event? Members of Congress and their staff like to meet "real people" - i.e., employees, residents, and the like.
    • Invite the media (but only in coordination with the Member of Congress's office).
    • Put the plan in writing.
    • Schedule a meeting / phone call with internal personnel who will be involved with the visit to ensure the plan - and any related advocacy messages - are clear.
  • Step Three: Invitation
    • Identify Members of Congress who represent your city (this may include more than one person in the House of Representatives).
    • Develop an invitation letter for your Member of Congress or a staff person.
    • Through House.gov or Senate.gov, find the district office phone number for your Members of Congress. For those with multiple offices, choose the closest one to where you plan to hold the city visit.
    • Call the office to ensure that your invitation is directed correctly:
      • For invitations for MEMBERS OF CONGRESS ONLY: Call the office and ask for the district scheduler. Tell him/her you would like to send an invitation and ask the best way to send it (some offices prefer fax, others e-mail)
      • For invitations for DISTRICT STAFF: Call the district office and ask for the staff person who handles your issue. Speak with them directly and follow-up with an e-mailed invitation, if necessary.
      • For invitations for DC STAFF (who often visit the Congressional district or state during the district work periods): Call the DC office and ask for the staff person who handles your issue. Speak with them directly and follow-up with an e- mailed invitation, if necessary.
    • Follow-up on all invitations sent with additional phone calls / e-mails until the visit is scheduled.
  • Step Four: Conduct the Visit
    • Coordinate with your staff the day before the visit.
    • Prepare a one page document telling your city's story. Be sure to include basic facts about your small business community, such as the economic activity in your city from local business and other information you may have available.
    • Review your own talking points or those provided by NLC to prepare you to discuss important city issues with your Members of Congress.
    • Review the plan to ensure all timeframes are reasonable and to develop contingency plans (if necessary).
    • Have back-up plans in case of bad weather, transportation breakdowns or other snafus.
    • Assign one of your staff the task of taking pictures during the visit as well as to take notes about the issues in which the Member of Congress or staff person expressed the most interest.
  • Step Five: Follow-Up
    • Send a "Thank You" letter to the Member of Congress's office.
    • Send pictures from the visit to the Member of Congress's office (or better yet, post through social media).
    • Follow-up on any questions raised with additional information.
    • Follow-up on any potential media inquiries (after working with the Member of Congress's office).
    • Consider asking the Member of Congress to submit a statement for the Congressional Record about the visit.
    • Report back to NLC about how the visit went.
    • Schedule follow-up with the member and their staff.

Sample Invitation Letter

[DATE]
The Honorable [FULL NAME OF MEMBER OF CONGRESS]
[ADDRESS]
Washington, DC [ZIP]
Dear Representative/Senator [NAME]:

As a local leader in your district, I write today to invite you to visit [SITE], which is located in [CITY]. Specifically, our city hopes that you might be available [DATE] for a brief tour of our local businesses and a meeting with city officials. By way of background, these businesses contribute [INFORMATION ON ECONOMIC AND OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS TO YOUR COMMUNITY].

We are eager to show you the important role of local business in our community, and how these businesses can benefit from passage of marketplace fairness legislation.

Last year, the Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would allow our local retailers to compete fairly with online sellers. However, the House has still not taken action on the bill, and in the intervening year, our community stores continue to compete on an uneven playing field that hurts the businesses, their employees, and our neighborhoods. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss the impact of this legislation further, and provide more background and resources to your office on the impact of local business to our community.

Thank you in advance for your consideration. To set up a visit, or if you have any questions, please contact [CONTACT INFORMATION].

Sincerely,

[NAME AND CITY TITLE]

Sample Visit Agenda

Local Business Tour Plan
1.5 hour visit

  • 10:00 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. - Greet Member of Congress and/or staff at office location. Provide briefing.
  • 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. - Tour of local retailer(s) that highlights the importance of marketplace fairness legislation.
  • 11:15 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. - Wrap-up/final questions and comments from Member of Congress