Every so often one comes across an individual that makes one take notice. The honorable Mike Kelly (Congressman, (R) 3rdPA) is one of them. Plain spoken, not one to mince words, Mike Kelly is a voice of both reason and passion. One might not agree with everything he says, but if you are an auto maker, dealer, sales associate, parts supplier, mechanic or other affiliated automotive professional, you’ve got a true friend in congress; as he said at the beginning of his remarks, any time I get a chance to talk to a car guy, I’m available.
We had the opportunity to interview Rep. Kelly on Friday, Sept. 21, via phone. The House had just recessed, representatives were eager to get back to their home districts. With elections only weeks away, nonetheless, congressman Kelly took the time to speak to his fellow automotive professionals.
Mike Kelly is a second-generation auto dealer. In 1995 he purchased his father’s Chevy/Cadillac dealership and then subsequently brought Hyundai and Kia under the Kelly Automotive umbrella. Kelly Automotive employs over 100 people in the Butler/Pittsburgh area. A graduate of Butler High School and the University of Notre Dame, his election in 2010 to Congress is not his first foray into public service. He also served on the Butler Area School Board, Butler City Council, the Housing Authority of Butler County and the Redevelopment Authority of Butler County.
When the Federal government assumed control of General Motors, and when he got a letter telling him that GM was revoking his franchise despite that it was a successful ongoing enterprise and had exceeded all standard criteria for probity and soundness Mike Kelly hired a lawyer, challenged the government, and won. He continues to successfully operate his Chevy/Cadillac franchises and saved a number of jobs in the process.
This experience [in true faith to the spirit of his heritage and alma mater] really got his Fighting Irish up. He is oft quoted as saying “If my federal government can try and do this to me, they can try and do this to anyone.” He is determined not to let it happen again.
As mentioned earlier, Mike Kelly is a voice where reason informs his passion. His comprehensive experience and knowledge of auto retail (he started working at his father’s Chevy/Caddy dealership in 1969 after graduating from college) places him in a unique position in Washington where someone on the House floor has first-hand experience in running a retail business. He has spent his entire adult life in the trenches of commerce, and knows the institutional history and has a practical perspective that many of his colleagues do not possess. His entire career has been spent where the rubber literally hits the road.
Last July, Representative Kelly delivered a no-holds-barred speech on the House floor that defied beltway mumbo-jumbo and the artfully crafted wonk-speak that stunned his right honorable colleagues into a standing ovation. Why? Because it was honest, simple, undeniably factual and logical, then came the passion. The passion stems from witnessing the day-to-day burden and hardship that tax policy, covert regulation, and overt market manipulation by the Federal government has had on individuals and businesses serving the automobile industry. In a nutshell, Mike Kelly concludes that most of it hasn’t been good.
Mr. Kelly was asked but one question; and was slightly taken aback by the fact we had only one question You have only one question, oh my goodness “Are you sure you guys are car guys?” They like to talk!
What are the major issues automobile dealers need to know about, given Federal involvement in the auto industry?
Granted, it’s a very open-ended question. His first response was that of great concern. The one thing that I know is that your future is not in your own hands. It really doesn’t depend on how much work you want to put in. He then described the ordeal he and his family went through in saving the family business, a Chevy/Cadillac dealership established by his father in 1953, and how it became his call to action.
Mike Kelly talks about a stable business environment, or lack thereof when he asks the question, How do you move forward in an environment where you are not sure about what’s going to happen next? Other frustrations were expressed, as a businessman and citizen he says, I’m tired of being gamed.
Representative Kelly’s remarks are 11 minutes in length. It is very well worth the time to listen to what he has to say.
Click to hear Representative Mike Kelly’s thoughts and comments about Federal involvement in the auto industry.
See Rep. Kelly deliver a speech on the House floor that received a rare standing ovation by clicking the link below. The video has been viewed more than 800,000 times.