PORTLAND, Ore.-He has just turned 79 and is about to transfer the gavel to his successor, but National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association President Art Lutz has no plans to retire yet. ``My health is excellent. I'm a happy son of a gun,'' the owner of Portland-based Lutz Tire Co. Inc. said during an interview with TIRE BUSINESS.
When he turns over the presidency to James Faught during the NTDRA's annual convention, Sept. 8-11 in Dallas, Mr. Lutz will return to a fuller work schedule at the wholesale business he opened in 1969.
He admitted he had considered retiring at age 50-that was 29 years ago.
``I'm happiest doing just what I'm doing,'' he explained.
His job as NTDRA president during the past year has taken some time away from his wholesale business, ``but it's well worth it, worth every minute,'' he said. ``The year was very rewarding. The regrets are very few.''
The association continues to have harmony and goodwill, he said. For his part, he tried to instill a sense of trust and understanding among the tire dealer members.
Mr. Lutz said the presidency allowed him to make close contacts with dealers around the country. He addressed six state dealers association conventions this year and worked on several projects with the NTDRA staff and board.
Mr. Lutz stressed that he cannot claim any individual credit for the NTDRA's accomplishments during the past year, but commends the work of the association's executive committee, the officers, directors and staff.
During his term, the NTDRA expanded several of its services, including introducing a new line of credit for dealer members and a check guarantee program.
But one project he is very proud of is the upcoming meeting between the NTDRA and its industry counterpart, the American Retreaders' Association. Mr. Lutz had met with ARA President Michael Berra to discuss the meeting, slated for October, to examine areas in which the two trade associations could collaborate. ``It is the first step in something that could be beneficial to both (groups),'' Mr. Lutz said.
The impetus for the NTDRA/ARA talks arose out of two meetings earlier this year of the NTDRA's strategic planning committee. Mr. Lutz appointed the committee to study the future direction of the association and what additional services the NTDRA needs to provide to its members. The committee's mission ``is very complicated'' and the study will take three to five years to complete.
As the NTDRA president was out talking to dealers and to their state associations, ``I never failed to remind them that the independent businessmen, as a group, should be very proud of their entrepreneurship they brought to this country.
``I feel so strongly that the independent businessman, which includes the independent tire dealer, plays an important part in the economic well-being of this country,'' he said. ``They pay a large percentage of the taxes. The independent businessman provides 80 percent of the new jobs in the country.''
But independent small businesses get little attention from the federal government. ``I hesitate to say `forgotten,' but they are often overlooked by those who represent them.''
As for the tire industry, Mr. Lutz predicts there are more changes to come.
``During the last several years, the industry as a whole has changed. Some (companies) have joined together; some choose to be independent.''
One of the changes that, ironically, has benefitted tire dealers was the birth of the warehouse clubs, he said, because it forced dealers to beef up their services in order to compete.
``Maybe it was a wakeup call. I say that with respect to independent dealers, for people in my industry-wholesalers-we, too, had to look at what we were doing and increase service to our customers.''