NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The International Tire and Rubber Association ended its World Tire Expo in Nashville May 3 with a new president and soon may get a new strategy for coping with the future, as well. The ITRA's newly elected president is Robert W. "Bob" Sherwood of Tristani Retreading Corp. & Rubber Industries Inc. in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
During the association's three-day gathering, Mr. Sherwood took over the organization's top elective office from Randy Drake of Cullman, Ala.-based McGriff Treading Co. Mr. Drake, ITRA's president since 1998, will continue to serve on the group's board of directors.
Immediately following the Expo's close, ITRA's 12-member board of directors, including Messrs. Sherwood and Drake, stayed on in "Music City" for a two-day "strategic planning session"—the first such gathering in more than five years.
Among the topics on the agenda:
When, where and how to hold the ITRA's future conferences;
What new services the association should offer;
Ways to further increase the association's membership at a time of retreading industry consolidation; and
The possibility of cooperative undertakings with other industry groups, including the rival Tire Association of North America.
ITRA Executive Director Marvin Bozarth said that, among other things, the board planned to review a list of positive and negative comments received in connection with the Nashville conference.
During recent months, the Louisville, Ky.-based trade group has been conducting telephone interviews with show exhibitors and potential attendees to determine their likes and dislikes and to collect other comments regarding the ITRA's annual gathering.
Attendees at the recent Nashville Expo also could register their preferences by means of a computerized survey conducted on the trade show floor. The results of both samplings were to be ready for review during the board's deliberations, association officials said.
In recent years, some trade show exhibitors and dealer attendees alike have lobbied the ITRA to consider other options, such as folding its Tire Expo into the TANA portion of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week shows, held annually in Las Vegas during November.
Some complained about the timing of this year's event, saying it took place at one of the commercial tire dealer's most hectic periods and ought to be held earlier in the year when business usually is slower.
As matters now stand—and barring the possibility of last-minute changes arising from the board's post-Expo gathering—next year's ITRA Tire Expo is scheduled in Nashville for April 19-21, with a golf tourney to be held the day before the show's opening.
As the ITRA's new president, Mr. Sherwood acknowledges he is taking office at a time of transition for the association and the tire industry in general.
An increasingly larger percentage of North America's retreads are being produced each year by fewer but larger retreading operations.
Meanwhile, a smaller and smaller minority of retreaders—perhaps as few as 400—remain truly independent in the sense of not having to adhere to the equipment and practices required by one of the major retreading franchisers, such as Bandag Inc., Goodyear or Michelin Retread Technologies Inc.
Tristani Retreading and Rubber Industries, Mr. Sherwood's company, is one of those small independent retreading operations—producing about 140 truck tire units a day using its own proprietary mold and precure retreading systems.
Mr. Sherwood owns the company in partnership with his brother, John Sherwood. The Sherwoods launched the business as a commercial producer of tread rubber in 1971 in partnership with International Rubber Industries Inc., partly owned by George R. Edwards, who 14 years earlier had co-founded the Louisville Retreaders Conference, the precursor of the ITRA's annual conference.
About five years later, after Mr. Edwards' company turned away from compounding tread rubber to undertake a short-lived effort at new-tire production, the Sherwood brothers purchased the remaining interest in Tristani.
For a short time, Tristani confined its operations to producing camelback tread rubber for passenger tire retreaders in Puerto Rico.There were then 23 small passenger tire retread plants operating in Puerto Rico. "Today, there is one," Mr. Sherwood said.
"At that time, all the camelback was being imported from the U.S., and it was a long boat ride to Puerto Rico. By the time it got there, a lot of the rubber already had started to set up," Mr. Sherwood said. "It also was difficult for shops to inventory all the sizes needed, so we enjoyed quite a bit of business from the start."
As Tristani's customers began acquiring Orbitread building machines, the company started producing strip stock. Not long after that, Tristani entered the retreading side of the business. Mr. Sherwood became a member of the ITRA, then called the American Retreaders' Association, and began attending the Louisville Retreaders Conference.
Once, while en route to Louisville for the conference, Mr. Sherwood happened to be seated on an airplane next to a retreader from Potosi, Mo., who had an old two-matrix pneumatic retreading press for sale at a reasonable price. Mr. Sherwood ended up buying it.
The man in the next seat was Marvin Bozarth, at that time in charge of retreading operations for Purcell Tire & Rubber Co. Today, he's the ITRA's top staff official.
On a similar equipment-buying trip to Ohio, Mr. Sherwood recalled, his brother John was accompanied by retreading consultant Edward J. Wagner, who was then negotiating to purchase George Edwards' Retreading Consultant Services business and take over management of the American Retreaders' Association and its Louisville Conference. Soon thereafter the deal closed, and E.J. Wagner went on to serve some 20 years as managing director of the ARA.
Despite the fact that his company's history seems so closely woven with that of the association, Mr. Sherwood said he never expected to wind up as the ITRA's president—"never in my life," he told Tire Business.
"Eight or nine years ago, Marvin (Bozarth) asked me how I'd like to serve on the association's advisory council, and I was very honored to do so," Mr. Sherwood said.
"I've really enjoyed working with the people in this association. They're a wonderful group, and it's an opportunity to meet the cream of the crop in the tire industry."