Regulations

NLA President Reviews 2014, Looks Ahead To New Year

Tom Halligan
Posted on December 12, 2014
NLA President Gary Buffo, seen here opening the 2014 LCT-NLA Show East in Atlantic City, N.J., is leading the trade group into one of the boldest periods in its 29-year history, as it tackles the TNC challenge.
NLA President Gary Buffo, seen here opening the 2014 LCT-NLA Show East in Atlantic City, N.J., is leading the trade group into one of the boldest periods in its 29-year history, as it tackles the TNC challenge.

NLA President Gary Buffo, seen here opening the 2014 LCT-NLA Show East in Atlantic City, N.J., is leading the trade group into one of the boldest periods in its 29-year history, as it tackles the TNC challenge.

NLA President Gary Buffo, seen here opening the 2014 LCT-NLA Show East in Atlantic City, N.J., is leading the trade group into one of the boldest periods in its 29-year history, as it tackles the TNC challenge.
NLA President Gary Buffo, seen here opening the 2014 LCT-NLA Show East in Atlantic City, N.J., is leading the trade group into one of the boldest periods in its 29-year history, as it tackles the TNC challenge.

Where did the year go? As we head into 2015, I thought it would be a good exercise to sit down with National Limousine Association President Gary Buffo at LCT-NLA Show East and recap the NLA 2014 initiatives and accomplishments. And what a year it was, especially the association bringing out its big bat to clip the knees of the TNCs that have shown nothing but disrespect to the law-abiding limousine industry (Hey, I’m from Jersey — breaking a knee cap is considered a polite way to settle differences).

As you know, the NLA Board of Directors came out swinging this year against the TNCs by releasing a position paper critical of how TNCs operate, skirt transportation laws and rules, and jeopardize public safety by flouting proper insurance, background checks, fair treatment of drivers, and legal and safety requirements. TNCs also advertise false and misleading information to the public, which is mostly unaware of how TNCs operate.

In late October, the board decided to take its anti-TNC message national when it retained Evins, a public relations and marketing firm, to the mainstream media and alert the public of the avoidance of safety, insurance and local and state regulatory issues.

“We have invested $400,000 in the PR campaign, the largest sum the association has ever spent,” Buffo said. “The bottom line is that this money is being used to protect our member operators who play by the rules, and the public needs to know the difference between our law-abiding industry and the TNCs that skirt the law and pose a danger to the public.”

Buffo noted that for the past two years, the board did its homework working on a strategic and comprehensive response to the emerging TNCs. That resulted in issuing the Position Paper and vetting potential PR firms to handle the NLA’s public response. Buffo said that after reviewing multiple PR firms, he recommended Evins believing the firm had the experience and expertise to work with the NLA.

NLA Stronger
On the home front, Buffo noted the NLA has hired new staff and upgraded infrastructure to make the association more viable, responsive and forward-moving. The two new staff members are Kyle Hammerschmidt, deputy executive director, and John Torrence, the new membership coordinator. Hammerschmidt has extensive association experience while Torrence brings membership building, communications and publishing skills.   

For infrastructure, the NLA invested in new software that will improve efficiencies, communications and member services. “The additions of two key staff members and the investment in back-office technology were significant this year to elevate the NLA and better serve its membership,” Buffo said.

Upbeat Outlook
Looking ahead, Buffo discussed a go-to list of 2015 NLA priorities and pursuits, including:

  • Ensure the public relations program has a “huge impact in delivering the NLA’s message to protect chauffeured car consumers.”
  • Update the NLA back-end technologies to ensure better service and deliverables.
  • Increase membership by 100%, in order to help fund the contract with the PR firm and keep the NLA on the forefront of the national TNC issue.
  • Increase member attendance at NLA shows and events, and elevate the educational sessions and panels to better educate the industry.
  • Maintain a viable lobbying presence in Washington and support member associations nationwide in their respective legislative fights and initiatives.

“As I look ahead, 2015 will be one of the most critical years in the history of the NLA as we take on the TNCs and become more proactive in taking our message to consumers and the media that elevates our industry, supports our membership, and ultimately, helps spur new business and prosperity,” Buffo said.

Tom Halligan is LCT East Coast editor, based in Marlton, N.J. He travels regularly to industry association meetings in the eastern U.S. Tom can be reached at tom@lctmag.com.

Related Topics: Gary Buffo, limo associations, National Limousine Association, NLA board of directors, public relations, TNCs

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