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6 Reasons to Prioritize a Local Government Affairs Strategy

by Mike Dempsey, FiscalNote

Industry pros share their insights on why you can’t afford to miss a beat at the local level with the challenges ahead in 2021.

FiscalNote local government affairs strategy

With gridlock at the federal level more and more likely to continue this year, government and public affairs teams are looking beyond Capitol Hill, or even the states, to drive their public policy agendas.

Here are six reasons why you and your team should invest in modernizing your government affairs strategy at the local level for 2021 and beyond.

1. Issues Blend Together

“There is really a blurring of public policy,” says David Trebing, general manager of state and local relations for Daimler North America Corporation. “Very rarely do we encounter something that is exclusively local, exclusively state, or exclusively federal.” In other words, just focusing on one level of government can set your strategy back immensely. 

Public policy issues often trickle up from the local level, much like the public sentiment from social media trends and topics, and having your finger on the pulse at the local level can make or break your legislative agenda.

2. Everything Moves Faster

While gridlock at the federal level has become a staple for government and public affairs professionals, this is certainly not the case at the local levels of government where issues are moving at a rapid clip to match the speed cities and towns move.

“Things progress faster at the local level and that — in terms of getting ahead of public policy dialogue and public policy issues, which is critically important to us — really underscores the importance of being successful, engaged, active at the local level,” Trebing says.

3. Part of a Bigger Picture

As is evident with the COVID-19 pandemic, one issue that pops up in one part of the country will most assuredly arise across the country before legislation can catch up with it. Troy Flanagan, senior vice president of government affairs and industry relations for the American Hotel and Lodging Association, believes that a local strategy can help bring different stakeholders and collaborators together that would otherwise not be part of a national strategy.

“State legislators and mayors and city council members getting together and sharing all kinds of ideas [to monitor] something that may have popped up on the West Coast and having that coordinated approach is really necessary for any industry group,” says Flanagan.

4. Ground Zero for Bigger Ambitions 

Brandon Ray, senior manager of state and local affairs for Associated Builder and Contractors, sees the local levels of government as the perfect place to build your stakeholder networks and test new initiatives that may or may not be ready for a national campaign or strategy.

“The local level has become kind of an incubator for a lot of policy ideas both good and bad, and also it has become an incubator for a lot of people’s careers in politics as well,” he says. 

Ray maintains that investing at the local level can create advocates for your policy agenda and build good faith across the aisle to advance your legislative portfolio, as well as help the budding careers of politicians who are just starting in the political arena. To put it another way, by the time someone becomes a Senator, they already have a large network of supporters they can turn to. If you can support and invest in a politician who is just starting their career, they are more likely to turn to your expertise and counsel. 

5. Instant Results vs. Long-term Investment

The stakes could not be higher at the local level as opportunities to grow your presence and advance your cause can come and go faster than ever before. Investing at the local level can yield results at a heightened pace more so than at the federal level. If you’re on a deadline for constituents or membership, local levels of government can provide those quick wins and reputational victories.

“On the federal level, you may not see effects of certain policies until a decade down the road, and so the conversation about that policy is still ongoing for years whereas, at the local level, you have to engage immediately, and if you miss an opportunity, or the education isn't pursued there, you are already out,” says Ray. 

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6. Opportunities to Educate the Public

There is too much noise and there are too many partisan channels across the country for people to educate themselves on the importance of what is happening on Capitol Hill. For many, the issues just don’t have as much daily applicability to their lives as local and municipal issues like road and highway safety, or whether or not schools will be open.

At the local level, the issues are more tangible and real for people, and for organizations that are looking to make an impact, there is a chance to inform and teach in ways that are much harder at the federal level.

“There are a lot of opportunities at the local level for that education to take place,” says Flanagan. Grassroots engagement and getting in front of local leaders is easier to accomplish when resources are already spread too thin and budgets are already too tight.

Manage Your Issues Across All Levels of Government in One Place with FiscalNote

In this fast-paced world, you can’t afford to miss a thing. FiscalNote has all the solutions you need to prove the value of your team, whether it’s policy monitoring, stakeholder management, advocacy, or collaboration tools. FiscalNote’s solutions give you the 360-degree approach you need to manage your issues at the federal, state, and local levels to build and report on your government affairs strategy.