Oregon Solar News

The Art of Maintaining Control in a Market Full of Uncertainty: The Value of Advocacy


By Tamara Staton, Thriving Solar - As we continue to ride the solar coaster, many industry professionals naturally wonder what lurks around the corner in this ever-changing solar market. While we can't predict the future, there are things that we can do as business owners, executives, and managers to maintain control under circumstances that are mostly out of our control. This monthly column highlights various strategies that have the capacity to help your solar business thrive in a market where many might find themselves just struggling to survive. This column is of my own opinion and viewpoint.

Clearly, in a market like ours wrought with uncertainty and fluctuation, there are multiple opportunities to communicate with legislators and do our best to influence solar legislation. For many business owners and solar players, this seems like a no-brainer, and the idea of calling legislators and asking others to do the same is akin to brushing their teeth twice a day. But for others, such a task may seem like a bigger undertaking, full of processes that seem foreign, awkward or futile, and wrought with the underlying question of how much to mix politics and business.

The intention of this article is not so much to advocate for the role of business in politics, but rather to highlight the value of advocacy not only for the industry as a whole, but for our individuals businesses and organizations within the space. There are great benefits to communicating clearly and asking for what we want, and with a clearer understanding of the benefits available to us, more of us are more likely to venture into what may otherwise feel fruitless and uncomfortable.

Last Friday, during the well-attended OSEIA member meeting, there was an educational session and policy update provided about HB 4121, or the Home WRAP (Weatherization, Retrofit, and Affordability Program) bill. This was a valuable session with helpful and insightful updates, and was followed by a message to be on the lookout for communication requests to our legislators.

At the end of the meeting, James Reismiller, owner of Abundant Solar, shared his experience of reaching out to some of his customers, asking them to contact their legislators to advocate for solar. He encouraged us to do the same, specifically considering those customers who would be open and communicative about their positive experiences. Jon Miller, Interim Executive Director of OSEIA, similarly encouraged business owners to reach out to employees to do the same -- reminding us that legislators want to hear stories from all industry players, and how highlighting stories about jobs could potentially benefit the passage of this bill.

Does calling really make a difference? How many calls do legislators receive on any one topic per day? According to the office of Tina Kotek, Speaker of the House, this varies quite a bit. They often find that they receive a lot more calls during session, and even more for calls when the Speaker has co-sponsored legislation. They may get up to 50-75 calls per day during session, with a much lower daily call average of 20 outside of session. About one third of the calls are from constituents, she said, which are much more impactful calls to receive, as the Speaker leans much more heavily on the opinions of these callers.

There are about 63,000 constituents per house district in Oregon, yet less than .03% of people are calling on any given day to ask for what they want. This creates a huge opportunity gap for solar businesses. There is room for our voices to be heard.

But let's assume the worst. Let's say that our calls to our legislators don't make a difference. Even if they do listen to our voices, maybe budget shortfalls were just too much for HB 4121, and it wasn't able to pass. Were our efforts in vain? Were our calls a waste of time and energy?

The word 'advocate' is derived from the Latin root, 'advocare', meaning 'to call to one's aid'. We don't do solar alone. Even sole proprietorships function in a network of support. We're in this together, through all the ups and downs. When we make an effort to ask for what we need, whether publicly through political advocacy, or more privately with our employees and managers, we create a workplace that fosters open communication. And it's this type of collaborative culture that will allow us to thrive, to hold strong on the dips, and to celebrate together when our efforts pay off.

If you are interested in supporting HB 4121, please stay tuned for actions and updates. Should you be interested in contacting your legislator for other issues, this link can help you locate your own Representative so that you can be most impactful as a constituent. Should you be interested in learning more about integrating a thriving culture into your own business or team, or how you might attract more customers, ease communication, and align company profits with the overall growth of solar, contact Tamara Staton directly at thrivingsolar.com.


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