For 20 years, business and civic boosters from St. Joseph and the nearby region have made an annual, whirlwind trip to Washington D.C. to advocate for our interests. This is important on several levels.

The stated purpose of the two-day visit is to involve local people in taking our most pressing concerns to the nation’s capital. The tried-and-true approach works by showing our sincerity and in putting the faces of real people from the heartland on genuine needs that require federal help.

The effort also works by pushing our interests higher on the nation’s agenda; it has been said more than once that if we don’t do this, no one will.

The list of concerns changes over time and routinely is kept short so that we speak clearly with one voice on our highest priorities. In recent years, these are among the topics identified by the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce and the Community Alliance:

Sales tax fairness – Pending federal legislation would ensure sales tax is paid equally on Main Street purchases and online purchases. Adopting the proposed uniformed approach among the states would bring fairness to local retailers who must collect sales tax, putting them at a competitive disadvantage. Also, closing tax loopholes ensures the community gains through additional sales tax revenue that can pay for streets, police and other needs.

Funding for river levees – The U.S. Corps of Engineers has assured local officials full funding of $42 million has been reserved to complete all phases of the Missouri River levee improvements. The message from local officials is in two parts: thanks to all in Washington who have made this possible, and also one of reaffirming how vital that funding remains to the protection of lives and property on both sides of the state line locally.

139th Airlift Wing – One message over the last two decades has remained the same: Military leaders and elected officials in the capital should appreciate the value we see every day in the airlift wing, a part of the Missouri Air National Guard. Fortunately, this message has been heard. The 2018 defense bill includes money for upgrades to the existing fleet of C-130 aircraft, $10 million for a new communications facility and funding assistance for a full-motion training simulator that has been a wing priority.

International trade – The two-state region, centered on St. Joseph’s high-profile agribusinesses, benefits greatly from trade. Our advocates can explain we appreciate the need for trade agreements to be reviewed and recast so both parties feel they are treated fairly. But at the end of the day our region thrives when we have access to global markets that support local jobs.

These issues and others, including support for a national infrastructure program, will bubble up in conversations Tuesday and Wednesday, March 13 and 14, as our delegation meets with members of Congress, U.S. senators, legislative staff and officials with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

This is vital work that has been going on for two decades, and it remains as important today as ever.