Larkin Leverages Legislative Expertise at NGA

Before joining the National Grocers Association in 2010 as only the second president and chief executive officer in the association’s history, Peter Larkin had a wealth of experience in government and industry relations spanning  — literally — from coast to coast.

However, he’s been operating in the shadow of longtime NGA leader Thomas K. Zaucha, whose influence on the industry is reflected by the fact that an award for “entrepreneurial excellence” has been named after him. (See a profile of this year’s winner, Archie McGregor.)

Now, a year and half into his tenure at the helm, Larkin has emerged as a leader who is slowly making his own mark on the industry at the national level, as detailed in 2012 NGA Convention Evolves, Expands: Larkin.

His influence is seen in everything from changes at NGA and its annual trade show, which is scheduled to take place this week in Las Vegas, to the more critical issues involved in government relations.

It is on Capitol Hill where Larkin’s expertise will be most needed in 2012. A government veteran himself — he once worked on the staff for former N.Y. Rep. Donald J. Mitchell — who also battled a challenging legislative climate for years as head of the California Grocers Association, Larkin will be charged by NGA members with keeping Washington at bay in a pivotal election year.

He’s taking a step in the right direction with the formation of a new Political Action Committee (PAC) to help influence this year’s balloting.

“It’s important for independent grocers to have a voice in the political process,” Larkin told SN’s Elliot Zwiebach.

NGA has also expanded its relationship with Washington law firm Epstein Becker Green to help retailers navigate legislative and regulatory issues around labor and health care.

Tax reform is perhaps the highest priority for independent grocers, however, who often lack the lobbying resources of their massive counterparts that operate at the regional or national levels. For the many independents that file taxes as sub-Chapter S corporations or limited-liability companies (LLCs), the expiration of the so-called Bush tax cuts at the end of this year loom especially large.

If Larkin can leverage his vast experience and the resources of NGA to influence the extension of those cuts, it probably won’t be long before independents clamor to name an award after him as well.

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