LOUISVILLE, Ky.-He's only been a retreader for 13 years, but in that short amount of time William Babek has gained the respect of his peers and risen to the top of the industry's professional trade organization. Effective June 1, the co-owner of Babek Commercial Tire Systems, a retread and commercial tire dealership based in Avenel, N.J., will take over as president of the American Retreaders' Association for a three-year term.
And when he does, he will strive to make the group more responsive to the needs of its members, mainly by fortifying the association's committee structure, which he hopes will become the workhorse of the ARA.
``In the past, there's been a degree of frustration with inaction on particular issues,'' Mr. Babek said during an interview at the recent ARA World Tire Conference in Louisville. Committees now will be empowered to study an issue or event, come up with recommendations for it and, if the board of directors approves it, implement an action plan.
These committees will have full use of the ARA's resources, he added, to help them carry out their assignments. Meetings will be open to ARA members.
What will make this effort even more effective is that committees will be staffed by members who are interested in and understand a specific issue, Mr. Babek said.
Committees also will be realigned or created to better reflect members' needs.
Already, the association has replaced its Scrap/Legislative Committee with two others: one for government relations; a second for scrap tire and recycling issues, Mr. Babek said.
The Government Relations Committee will handle legislative issues, gather information, address state issues and be broader based than the previous legislative committee.
The new Tire and Rubber Recycling Advisory Council (TRRAC) will focus on tire and rubber recycling issues and will be made up of individuals from businesses that recycle tires and rubber products.
It will be a standing committee of the ARA and be chaired by Richard Gust, president of Achievor Tire L.P.'s tire manufacturing division.
Mr. Babek co-owns Babek Commercial Tire with his wife Antoinette. They have three sons, one of whom, Chris, works in the business in the areas of production and quality assurance and is involved in special projects.
The company has one retread plant, producing medium and light truck retreads. It also operates four commercial tire dealerships and a customer service center serving the greater New York metropolitan area.
Mr. Babek began thinking about entering the retreading business in the early 1980s, seeing a ``tremendous opportunity'' in retreading medium truck tires as a result of the industry's move away from bias-ply tires to radials.
``The major selling point of radial truck tires was that they were going to cut service to the product by almost 80 percent,'' he said. ``In order to get a return on the product it was necessary to retread it.''
So in 1982, knowing nothing about retreading, he opened a Flexcure retread shop to complement his commercial locations.
``What that brought to us was tremendous control over our company,'' Mr. Babek said. ``Because now what we would do is sell the brand new tire, we would handle the servicing of the tire, when the tire was worn we would send it to our own plant for retreading, get it back and install it back on our own customer's vehicle. We had control of the loop.''
This one-stop approach to medium truck tires also placed the company in good position to take advantage of the growing national account business in the early 1980s, Mr. Babek said.
Then in about 1986, the company put in a production line to address the growing tire needs of the intermodal trucking user.
More recently, after recognizing that radial truck tires were becoming more standardized in sizes, Babek Commercial Tire installed an automated segmented mold-cure line, which Mr. Babek believes produces a superior product while providing material and labor cost savings.
As a commercial tire dealer with little knowledge of retreading, Mr. Babek got involved in the ARA as a way of educating himself about the business.
In 1984, he was asked by Edward Wagner, then managing director of the ARA, to serve on the association's advisory council.
He's been an active ARA member ever since.
For him, the ARA is important in that ``it best reflects my interests as a company'' and provides a chance to learn from others.