2012 Power 50: No. 48 Peter Larkin

As president and chief executive officer of the National Grocers Association, Peter Larkin strives to be a voice for independent food retailers in Washington and a helping hand at home.

His leadership — this month marks his second anniversary at the helm — has helped grow and energize the membership at NGA.

“When Peter came in there was an excellent opportunity for him to rebuild the team and re-energize the team, and boy, he really did that from day one,” Rich Niemann Jr., CEO of Quincy, Ill.-based Niemann Foods and a member of NGA’s executive board, told SN. “I am very impressed with what he has done.

“The top priority is to be relevant and stay relevant with the membership, that’s really critical for NGA, and there’s a lot of momentum there now,” Niemann added. “The show is really growing, it’s hugely successful and selling out.”

According to Larkin, the momentum at NGA is a result of responding to the needs of independent food retailers. The organization today is built around eight initiatives Larkin and the NGA staff introduced in response to member surveys and research known around the organization as the Member Value Proposition Project.

Central to the new initiatives is providing a stronger voice in Washington, Larkin said.

“One thing we heard very loudly from members was the most important service we provide is being the voice of the independent grocer when it comes to speaking to the federal government on the myriad of issues we have to deal with as an industry,” he said. “What they were saying was, ‘As good as you are, we need to do more.’

“So we have added two members of staff dedicated to government relations and public affairs. We added an outside lobbyist and expanded our relationship with our health care and labor law firm, providing NGA and members access and guidance, and assist with our regulatory lobbying program. Very importantly, we created a political action committee for the first time that allows us to support the candidates that support us.”

Larkin is prepared to put this greater muscle to work in coming months as NGA fights for issues such as tax reform, credit card fees, health care and labor.

“This election and what happens in Congress as a result of those elections is going to be extremely important for our industry, so you can count on us to be using this expanded government relations program to be very active in all of the issues,” Larkin said.