Recently, legislation was proposed that could have had an unprecedented effect on local promotional product distributors and their clients across Virginia. In January, Delegate Amanda Batten introduced HB 1913, the Virginia Public Procurement Act. This would have prohibited Virginia state agencies from entering into any contract for the purchase of goods that would be branded with such state agency’s name, logo, insignia, or other designation and would be purchased for the purpose of advertising, marketing, or promotion.
Promotional Products and State Agencies
Todd Mawyer, CEO of TK Promotions and Jeanne Walls, President of JWalls Ink! played an instrumental role in communicating the importance of promotional products for our state agencies. Todd Mawyer and Jeanne Walls have a long history of being competitors and friends, connecting through VAPPA and PPAI projects. Despite a tight timeframe, they made appointments with Virginia delegates, shared impact cases of clients, and conveyed their individual stories of how small promotional product distributors benefit our communities.
As with other businesses, Virginia state agencies have to ask, “How do we tell our story and share our benefits and services?” Promotional merchandise is one of the answers. For example, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources sells calendars and other merchandise, which contributes to over $1 million in revenue each year. This revenue directly helps the management of inland fisheries, wildlife conservation, and promoting safe outdoor experiences between humans and animals.
VDOT also utilizes promotional products to augment recruiting efforts with today’s developing workforce. Promotional products are ideal for engaging with recruiting events and high school trade programs. Promotional products also extend joy through employee appreciation events. Decorated awards help to recognize employees for achieving milestones and many years of dedicated service to our commonwealth. As we’ve seen time and time again, a small gift can make a tremendous impact.
The Impact on Small Businesses
In addition to affecting state agencies, HB 1913 would have also impacted our local, small businesses. In Virginia alone, the promotional products industry is comprised of 594 companies with 4,537 employees.
Executive Order Thirty-Five, which was signed in 2019, also encourages state agencies to source goods from Virginia’s certified small, women, and minority (SWaM) owned businesses. This executive order also puts an emphasis on Micro-SWaM businesses, which include 25 employees and no more than $3 million in average annual revenue over a three-year period.
With Executive Order Thirty-Five, there are assurances that the small businesses in our communities will receive the attention they need to thrive. HB 1913 would directly hinder that progress.
With the help of Mawyer, Walls, and members of VAPPA’s board of directors, Virginia delegates were able to understand the gravity of HB 1913 more fully. On January 31st, 2023, the legislation was unanimously tabled for being overly broad.
A big takeaway from HB 1913 is the lack of education surrounding the promotional products industry and the impact the bill could have. Would it have affected tourism projects or Virginia’s 529, our tax-advantaged education savings programs? Moving forward, members of the promotional products industry plan to schedule more appointments with Virginia’s policymakers and continue to express its importance.