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Originally published by Business Insider | Author Emma Cosgrove



Nearly three months after FedEx quashed an effort by one of its largest delivery contractors to push for better pay and conditions — firing and suing him in the process — a new group has risen to improve the fate of struggling FedEx contractors.


This time, FedEx is on board.


FedEx Ground, the division that handles the majority of the giant's e-commerce business, contracts with 6,000 small businesses for doorstep deliveries. FedEx contractors have had a tough year navigating fuel costs and operational changes. Spencer Patton, the former contractor, wanted the company to cut costly Sunday service, among other changes.


In August, Patton founded a trade group to work on these issues and held an election for officers at his company's Las Vegas conference. Later that month, FedEx severed his contracts and sued him, accusing him of creating a "fictionalized crisis." In October, Patton resigned from the trade group. This week, the remaining officers announced that they'd resigned as well, effectively dissolving the organization.


After Patton's rebellion fizzled, ThinkISP, a think tank founded by eight large contractors (also called integrated service partners, or ISPs) and one former FedEx communications executive, launched at the end of October.


Seeking a fix for the network

Steven Johnson, a ThinkISP founder who runs about 120 FedEx routes in Mississippi and Louisiana, said that apart from Patton's conference and private Facebook groups, contractors largely don't know where to take their issues. Facebook groups and smaller networks of regional contractors have been abuzz all year — but none of that talk had turned into meaningful action, in the eyes of ThinkISP's leadership.


"There were several contractors that were really concerned about the model," Johnson told Insider. "We decided to band together to begin to talk about best practices and things that we can actually do to make the model better."

ThinkISP is recruiting members to join with the benefit of periodic events and biweekly member calls at an annual fee of $95. The organization declined to say how many members have joined.


Where many saw Patton's approach as combative, ThinkISP is collaborating with FedEx. On October 31, the group announced an "information-sharing project" with the company. A FedEx Ground representative likened the arrangement to working with an outside consultant. (Asked if any money is changing hands, both parties said the terms of the deal are confidential.)


Matthew Pickett, another founder, said information ranging from financial health and costs to challenges with staffing and vehicles, for example, would be anonymized and shared with FedEx and contractors.


Moreover, Johnson said the think tank chose its top issues "collaboratively" with FedEx Ground. Among those issues are making Sunday service profitable and further developing a program in which FedEx employees deliver packages in their own vehicles.


ThinkISP's founders said that cooperation is key to getting contractors to sign up as members. The people running these businesses can see that FedEx is working with — and not against — the effort, Johnson said. "That has never happened before."


Lobbying for a better deal

In addition to providing a FedEx-approved avenue for communication and information sharing, the group hired the Washington, DC, lobbying firm Envision Strategy to push for regulatory changes to benefit contractors. A ThinkISP representative said the lobbying efforts have so far been funded by the founders and existing members.


The first goal of the lobbying work is to speed up the payout process for the employee-retention tax credit, which many delivery contractors have taken advantage of.


After the early goals of lobbying and level-setting, Johnson and Pickett said, working on securing discounts for essentials like insurance is on the table in the long term, along with at least 30 other initiatives.


The nation’s leading think tank for the parcel delivery industry, today announced its partnership with consultancy firm, Envision Strategy, to streamline solutions for ThinkISP members and advocate on behalf of independent service providers, nationwide.


Washington, D.C. – November 10, 2022 – ThinkISP, the nation’s leading independent think tank for the parcel delivery industry, announced its partnership with Envision Strategy, LLC (Envision). Envision is a state and federal government relations firm with offices in Albany, NY, and Washington, D.C., and includes a consulting team of former members of Congress, chiefs of staff from both sides of the aisle, local and state government officials, and leaders from the private and public sectors.


In their first project together, ThinkISP and the Envision team will work with federal lawmakers to address the lag in Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) payments to Independent Service Providers (ISPs).


“The ERTC is a refundable payroll tax credit for wages paid by an employer whose business is either fully or partially suspended due to a COVID-19 related order or is experiencing at least a 10 percent decline in gross receipts compared to the same calendar quarter of the previous year,” according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).


Independent service providers around the country have seen delays in their ERTC payments due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and backlog of cases yet to be reviewed by the IRS. The long delays are causing headaches for small to medium sized businesses amid rising costs and growing demand for services. ThinkISP and Envision are linking ISPs with their federal lawmakers to assist with the ERTC process and follow up with the IRS on the status of ERTC payments.


Most recently, the ThinkISP team and Envision met with staff from the offices of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles “Chuck” Schumer, Representative Elise Stefanik, and Representative Paul Tonko. The group has several other federal meetings in the queue following the recent elections.


“This partnership is critical to the mission of ThinkISP and last mile industry,” said Steven Johnson, ThinkISP Founding Member, and spokesperson for the think tank. “The industry needs positive affiliations as businesses continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and relief efforts. Envision will bring their government and business development expertise to the table, and we will bring our knowledge of the last mile industry to protect ISPs’ bottom lines.”


“ThinkISP has a unique opportunity to enhance the parcel delivery industry,” said Jim Thompson, a consultant with Envision. “As a team, we’re grateful for the opportunity to be part of the organization, its mission, and the industry, which has such a profound effect on the lives of millions of Americans. We look forward to bringing solutions to the table, so the ISPs can focus on expanding their businesses and providing quality delivery services.”


Through its partnership, ThinkISP and Envision will use data and research established by the think tank and its members to seek legislative and regulatory solutions and enhance the independent service provider model that powers the last mile.


About ThinkISP

ThinkISP is an independent think tank organization for the parcel delivery industry. ThinkISP's mission is to enhance the independent service provider model that powers last mile delivery by bringing data, intelligence, and solution-seeking to the forefront. The eight founding members of ThinkISP own businesses that collectively deliver hundreds of thousands of FedEx Ground packages each week.


ThinkISP, an independent think tank for the parcel delivery industry, today announced an information-sharing project with FedEx Ground focused on providing data-driven research and analysis into current business conditions in the industry. The initial project will concentrate on several discrete business issues specified by FedEx Ground, with the potential for further engagement.

About ThinkISP ThinkISP is an independent think tank organization for the parcel delivery industry. ThinkISP's mission is to enhance the independent service provider model that powers last mile delivery by bringing data, intelligence, and solution-seeking to the forefront. The eight founding members of ThinkISP own businesses that collectively deliver hundreds of thousands of FedEx Ground packages each week.

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