The History of the Pacific Coast Council
Fondly known as the “PCC”
The Pacific Coast Council is a dynamic, changing, growing organization. It is led and run by the freight forwarders and customs brokers who are members of the five local Pacific Coast associations:
San Diego Customs Brokers Association
Los Angeles Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association
Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of Northern California
Columbia River Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association
Customs Brokers and International Freight Forwarders Association of Washington State
Volunteer work is the key to the PCC's success. Whether in administration, policy, engagement with the ports, carriers, truckers, or lobbying Congress or engaging with the executive branch agencies, PCC brokers and forwarders take time from their busy and challenging work days. This has translated into real gains for brokers and forwarders – at the seaports, on the border, and the daily interface with government. And it has created, over the years, a real community; at times it almost feels as family.
Like all else that the PCC does, the involvement of brokers and forwarders in recording our history is encouraged. Let’s make this History of the PCC like Wikipedia. If you see something that should be added, or changed, send it to OurManInDC@FederalRelations.com, we’ll do it! Just like the PCC itself, this is yours!
Here is the History of the Pacific Coast Council.
Finding Their Voice - Early Days of West Coast Forwarders and Brokers
The Pacific Coast Council of Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders had its origins in 1976 when independent businessmen (yes, only men), owners of locally owned freight forwarding and customs brokerage firms on the West Coast, decided they needed to band together to further the interests of the international trade community, and advance the role of the broker and forwarder.
They felt their interests and those of the Pacific Coast trade community in general were not understood by the larger and older companies headquartered “Back East.” The national organization of brokers and forwarders was based in New York City, which comprised the leadership of the national broker and forwarder community. These local West Coast small businessmen were a feisty group wanting a voice of their own. This was a group unafraid of tackling challenges, of fending for themselves. This spirit was to characterize the PCC, even today.
A review of the very earliest gatherings of individuals who were to create what eventually became the Pacific Coast Council of Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders, reveals many familiar names. These individuals and their companies are still producing leaders. For example Ted L. Rausch (now TLR), Michael Dugan of Western Overseas, Ben Ellis of George S. Bush & Company, Lew Coppersmith. Those names and companies live on today with a new generation of leaders of the West Coast broker/forwarder community.
It is worth remembering these early organizers of West Coast brokers and forwarders:
Chuck Klingsforth, Frank P. Dow Co., Seattle; Bill Boucher, Seaport Shipping, Seattle; John Sundfelt, Frank P. Dow Co., San Francisco; Joe Hansford Geo. S. Bush & Co., Seattle; Dick Vander Yacht, Border Brokerage Co. Inc., Blaine; Howard Forbes, Frank P. Dow Co., Seattle; Dave Buffam, Ted L. Rausch Co. of Oregon; Fred Higdon, A.J. Fritz Companies, Portland; Michael Dugan, Western Overseas, Los Angeles; Gene Cameron, Geo. S. Bush & Co., Seattle; Ben Ellis, Geo. S. Bush & Co., Portland; John Molsberry, Robert E. Landweer & Co., Seattle; Dennis Holmstrom, Arthur J. Humphreys Inc., Blaine; Ted Rausch, Ted L. Rausch Co., San Francisco; and Don Snow, C.F. Liebert Inc., Blaine.
Creating the Pacific Coast Council
Little did they know it at the time, but these men were establishing an organization that was to become a major industry force. The first meetings in the late 1970s, came about simply as the means by which West Coast brokers and forwarders could engage in a dialogue with the US Customs Service. This early gathering was called the “Semi-Annual Interregional Industry Customs Service Workshop”. The first was held in the fall 1976. The program was a day long, aimed at minimizing “variations in Customs’ interpretation of regulations and the application both District and the two Pacific Coast Customs regions.”
It was decided that the Pacific Coast Council should be formally established.
At that time each of the five local associations – San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Columbia River and Puget Sound, as they were called at the time – decided to organize; legally. Bylaws were drafted; article of incorporation filed; elections held. Each of the local associations was to send a representative to the newly formed Pacific Coast Council of Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association Inc. Those five representatives were to meet and elect officers. Those representatives constituted the Board of Directors of the PCC, and still do. They elect, from the general broker/forwarder community, the officers of the PCC. The qualification then, and still today, is that the broker or forwarder must be independent (not an employee of the importer or exporter), licensed, and a member of one of the five local associations along the Pacific Coast. [Being selected to lead the Pacific Coast Council is an important responsibility.]
In the early 70’s the West Coast was more focused on exports. Thus freight forwarders played a larger role in the West Coast forwarder and broker organizations than did the import-oriented customs brokers which dominated New York and national industry organizations. Over time, manufacturing has left the United States to be replaced by Chinese, Korean and other foreign products imported to US consumers through the Pacific Coast ports. The PCC’s orientation has also shifted. Freight forwarding remains a major piece of any broker/forwarder business on the West Coast, but it is now the exclusive focus of only a handful of companies. Most brokers serve as customs brokers, freight forwarders and NVOCC’s. The West Coast broker and forwarder now is often the branch of a national company, or is the headquarters of the national company.
Over time, the membership and leadership of the national organizations of forwarders and brokers have changed, reflecting changes in the industry itself. No longer are those few small businesses on the West Coast fending for themselves, rather they are very much part of the national broker and forwarder community. Some of the leaders of the Pacific Coast Council have become leaders of the national organizations, and there is a good working relationship among the Pacific Coast Council and the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Associations of America.
By the turn of the century (2000) the names of the local associations had changed to relect changes in the transportation industry. For example, ocean shipping moved across the bay from San Francisco to Oakland leading to the San Francisco Association becoming the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of Northern California. Another development has been the dramatic increase of cross-border trade, both from Canada and Mexico. In fact, in the early days, the San Diego Association was primarily oriented to the San Diego Seaport. Today, the San Diego Association’s orientation is almost exclusively to the burgeoning cross-border commercial traffic at Otay Mesa, Tecate, and elsewhere along the US-Mexico border.
Those who have served as President of the PCC deserve the gratitude of the brokers and forwarders.
Steve Newman, Portland, Newman Wilson
Jeff Coppersmith, Los Angeles, Coppersmith (1991-1994)
John Leitner, San Francisco, W.J. Byrnes
Mike Dugan, Los Angeles, Western Overseas
Gerald Murphy, Seattle
Bob Coleman, Portland, TLR
Dave Enberg, San Francisco, J.E. Lowden
Maggie Smith Ranney, Los Angeles, Coppersmith (2004-2007)
Jack Hubbard, San Francisco, TLR (2008-2011)
Victoria Lane, Portland, Coppersmith (2011-2015)
Vincent Iacopella, Los Angeles, Alba Wheels Up
Eduardo 'Lalo' Acosta, San Diego, R.L. Jones Customhouse Brokers, Inc.
The Origins of WESCCON
In the 1980s, with the new decade, came the notion that the semi-annual gathering should become a longer, more in-depth annual gathering for the brokers and forwarders along the West Coast.
Planning got underway for the Annual Meeting, a multiple day, off-site event where the participating brokers and forwarders could focus on education, relations with federal agencies, in improving the professionalism of the broker and forwarder industry, and networking. The first Western Cargo Conference took place in Seattle. The following year, perhaps motivated to find a warmer environment, it convened in Palm Springs, under the new acronym – WESCCON.
At that time, ocean carriers, then with perhaps larger advertising and marketing budgets, courted the freight forwarders and were eager to sponsor major events at WESCCON. Maersk, typically sponsored the gala dinner dance. Reflecting the attitudes of the early 80s, this was a fairly formal occasion, with a dance band, seated dinner, men dressed in suits, and women in gowns.
Over time, the attendance at WESCCON has increased dramatically, and the array of educational programs, panels, speakers has grown considerably. It is fair to say that WESCCON soon became the leading annual educational conference for the customs broker and freight forwarder community not only on the West Coast but nationally, with dozens of panels, industry and government leaders as keynoters, and the best networking events. All federal agencies who touch the brokers and forwarders business participate in WESCCON. The Federal Maritime Commission, Customs and Border Protection, Food and Drug Administration, US Census Bureau, Department of Commerce, US Department of Agriculture and more.
WESCCON was always designed to be affordable, to allow participation not only by the owners, but by the “worker bees”. These are the people who flocked to WESCCON to gain education and to network. Over time, attendees from other regions of the country discovered the great productivity and learning that can result from three days at WESCCON. Today it attracts brokers and forwarders, as well as service providers and vendors, from virtually every part of the United States. The focus however remains on international trade via the Pacific Coast gateways.
PCC Makes Its Mark - Hires Eager Young Hill Staffer.
In 1984, the Ocean Shipping Act was enacted, with provision reflecting the lobbying by a delegation of freight forwarders from the West Coast, including Lou Coppersmith, Ted Rausch, Steve Newman and Gerry Murphy, among others, who actively pursued favorable treatment for freight forwarders. Two years later, it was apparent that ocean carriers were collectively agreeing to withhold freight forwarder compensation. The Pacific Coast Council took on this crisis, which was driving some freight forwarder operations to the brink of leaving the business. The PCC retained Peter Friedmann, who had recently left Capitol Hill after serving as Chief Counsel, Maritime and Oceans Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. There he had drafted the Ocean Shipping Act of 1984 (including provisions defining Federal Maritime Commission regulation of freight forwarders), Jones Act amendments, and other maritime legislation.
It was not long after the PCC determined to protect freight forwarders from ocean carrier abuse, by hiring Mr. Friedmann, that there appeared a small provision among the hundreds of pages of Tax Reform Act of 1986. It simply stated that if the ocean carriers decided to agree, collectively, on the level of freight forwarder compensation, that it could not be less than 1.25% of the total freight charges. There was no requirement that any individual carrier pay this or any other amount; the 1.25% minimum only applied if the ocean carriers all agreed jointly to restrict the forwarder compensation. In one fell swoop, according to Frank Dausz, a partner at George S. Bush & Co. of Portland, this amendment engineered by Mr. Friedmann for the PCC, ‘moved our forwarder business from being in the red, to being in the black”. The American Shipper, reflecting the shock of the ocean carrier industry (which then constituted their primary advertising revenue) devoted the cover of its November 1986 to “Friedmann’s Big Surprise”.
While freight forwarders all around the country celebrated, the ocean carrier lobbyists mounted a frontal assault on this little provision. With tens of thousands of dollars of carriers campaign contributions in the pockets of many Members of Congress, it appeared it would be repealed. But two things happened: first, Lew Coppersmith and the Los Angeles Brokers and Forwarders Association hosted Chairman Packwood, on the Queen Mary ocean liner in Long Beach Harbor, for a discussion as to how the small independent freight forwarders are critical components of international trade on the West Coast, the value they provide and the need of protection from the price-fixing by international ocean carrier cartels. A few weeks later Sen. Packwood’s Democratic counterpart, Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina was invited to an NCBFAA luncheon in Washington DC. As he walked in, he mentioned the need to repeal this forwarder compensation provision. At lunch he was seated next to a charming woman, the owner of a freight forwarding company in his hometown of Charleston. Apparently the conversation was delightful, for when the Senator got up to the dais to speak, the first words out of his mouth were that this forwarder provision would be repealed “over my dead body!” It survived!
In many ways, this was a David versus Goliath. The little PCC, a band of quite small independent businesses all the way out on the West Coast, depending on its fledgling young lobbyist Peter Friedmann, took on the world’s largest international steamship companies, with all their seasoned lobbyists and massive campaign war chest. And won!
This episode has in many ways reflected the spirit of the Pacific Coast Council, the willingness to take on big battles when needed at the Federal Maritime Commission, at the Customs Service, and on Capitol Hill. The objective is always to protect and enhance the position of the independent customs broker and freight forwarder. Mr. Friedmann continues to open doors for the PCC, create relationships and influence legislation and regulation to the benefit of Pacific Coast brokers and forwarders, on Capitol Hill and the Executive Branch.
PCC Gets Political
In 2007, the President of the PCC, Jack Hubbard (TLR, San Francisco) proposed the creation of a Political Action Committee. It was soon established and registered with the Federal Elections Commission, as the Pacific Coast Council of Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Assn Trade Expansion Political Action Committee, known today as the PCC PAC. The objective was to provide a means by which the PCC can support Candidates for Congress who understand the importance of trade, the role of the independent licensed customs broker and freight forwarder, who supports trade treaties and legislation which expands international trade, and/or assists brokers and forwarders in their relationship with the federal agencies, when necessary. Jack Hubbard remains the chief officeras Treasurer of the PCC PAC; Peter Friedmann is the Assistant Treasurer.
In its first year, the PCC PAC raised $12,000, from contributions by freight forwarders and customs brokers as well as supporters, vendors and others who benefit from international trade growth. The funds were used for a gathering with Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over the Customs and Border Protection, and thus in a position of some influence over our industry. Since then, the Senator has weighed in on behalf of the Pacific Coast Council, including ensuring that Commissioners of Customs and Border Protection meet with the PCC both in Oregon as well as in our Annual Mission to Washington DC. He has also, during the confirmation process of Customs Commissioners, conveyed the specific concerns and aspirations of PCC brokers. And when necessary, he has gone to bat with federal agencies to assure adequate staffing, and addressed the uniformity issues which regularly arise between Customs Districts. Other recipients of PCC PAC contributions include Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Congressman Greg Walden, Speaker Paul Ryan of the House of Representatives, House Candidate Gary DeLong, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti,
The PCC Goes to Washington
In 1988, PCC President Mike Dugan charged Peter with organizing a PCC ‘fly-in’ to Capital Hill and Federal agencies. Seven brokers and forwarders assembled our issues, took them to the Customs Headquarters and to Capitol Hill. So began an annual highlight of the PCC calendar.
Come each March, the Nation’s Capital gets to work in earnest. Peter and his team organize the intensive 3 day PCC mission; 30 to 40 informed and enthusiastic brokers and forwarders to lobby for our industry’s needs. The PCC Mission is the means by which the customs brokers and freight forwarders on the Pacific Coast can interact directly with government officials, at the agencies and on Capitol Hill. The Mission is our best opportunity to hear, first hand, what is really going on in DC, without the filter of those talking heads and cable news shows. Many brokers and forwarders say that the PCC Mission are three of the most worthwhile and memorable days of the year.
The new Congress convenes, and our input is vital to assure that new legislation supports trade expansion generally and the role of the independent broker/forwarder. Meanwhile, Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Maritime Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and other Federal agencies need our input as they push ahead on programs directly impacting brokers and forwarders.
The program is jammed:
Saturday Night Gathering at Peter and Debbie Friedmann's Condo overlooking the Capitol and Pennsylvania Avenue
Sunday morning PCC Board Meeting, to which all PCC Missionaries are welcome
Intensive subject matter briefing covering all issues to be addressed during the agency and Hill visits
Annual Mission Opening Dinner
Briefing with CBP - all CBP issues, processes and programs impacting brokers and forwarders.
Federal Maritime Commission, FDA, leaders of major DC trade associations
Dinner with a senior government official -- always a special event.
Tuesday breakfast at Capitol Hill Club. Chief Trade Counsel for the House of Representatives.
PCC Missionaries fan out over Capitol Hill to take our messages to the staff and Members of the California, Oregon and Washington Congressional Delegations.
Mission Wrap Up, with cocktails in hand, we review the accomplishments and challenges
PCC Marches On
The PCC is a lively, feisty organization, adapting to changing environments and demands of importer and exporter clients. There will be many skirmishes and some battles as we face the regulatory or commercial threats, but the PCC isn't afraid to aggressively pursue the interests of brokers and forwarders.
The History of the PCC will continue to be written. Any PCC broker or forwarder is invited to contribute to this effort.