LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The International Tire and Rubber Association's next World ITRA Expo will take place as scheduled on April 19-21, 2001, in Nashville, the group's board of directors has decided. The board, which stayed on in the Music City for a two-day strategic planning session following the close of this year's Expo, saw fit not to change the previously announced date or location of next year's conference and trade show despite speculation to the contrary.
Some potential show attendees and exhibitors had been critical of this year's April 30-May 3 schedule, contending the show comes at a time when many retreaders and commercial tire dealers are too busy to attend and therefore should take place earlier in the year—perhaps in March or early April.
A few also complained that this year's Sunday-Wednesday format prevented them from attending Friday and Saturday performances of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry or taking full advantage of the area's other weekend tourist attractions. This won't be a problem in the case of next year's Expo, show officials pointed out. The 2001 show will run Wednesday through Saturday.
Meanwhile, the ITRA's chief governing body still must determine where and when to hold the association's annual membership gathering in years 2002 and beyond.
ITRA Executive Director Marvin Bozarth told Tire Business he expects the board to reconvene for at least two more strategic planning sessions before deciding on these and other key association issues. Mr. Bozarth said the board's next such planning session likely will take place in June.
Other issues under discussion by the board include what membership services the Louisville-based trade association should and should not offer, what can be done to increase the group's membership in an era of industry consolidation and the possibility of undertaking cooperative projects with other industry groups, such as the Tire Association of North America (TANA), based in Reston, Va.
Attendance at the ITRA's annual gathering has been on the decline for several years, and the association has been under pressure to consider other options, such as holding the event in different cities each year or folding it into the TANA portion of the giant Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week shows held in Las Vegas each November.
Some persons, in fact, have called for a merger between the two national associations, noting that both groups are made up mostly of independent tire dealers.
While a merger is unlikely to result from the ITRA board's current deliberations, several board members said privately in Nashville that they think tensions are lessening between the two rival national associations, thereby making cooperation between the two groups more likely than in years past.
Meanwhile, the ITRA will continue questioning its members and potential trade show exhibitors as to when, where and how its future tire expos should be held.
Attendees at the recent Nashville event were asked to register their preferences by means of a computer-based survey conducted on the trade show floor. A similar survey—this time aimed at ITRA members and potential trade show exhibitors who didn't attend this year's event—went into the mail May 12, Mr. Bozarth said.
Among other things, the questionnaire asks why survey recipients failed to attend this year's Nashville gathering and what might persuade them to attend future shows, said newly elected ITRA President Robert Sherwood of Tristani Retreading Corp. & Rubber Industries Inc. in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Mr. Sherwood said the board will meet jointly with ITRA's Advisory Council in August to make final determinations concerning any changes to the schedule and content of future shows.
He said the ITRA will continue its emphasis on providing training and education for tire service and retreading technicians.
To date, more than 2,000 tire service technicians and 500 field instructors have been certified under the ITRA's Commercial Tire Service Training and Certification Program, launched 18 months ago. The association has produced a video cassette intended to help dealers market the services of their certified personnel.
A similar program for training and certifying technicians in passenger and light truck tire service and undercar analysis now is in the testing stage at the College of Du Page in Glen Ellyn, Ill. Once officials are satisfied that the program is ready, it will be offered to colleges and high schools on a national basis.
That program is designed to allow young people to receive such training while continuing to work or attend school. It should make it easier for dealers to recruit entry-level employees, ITRA officials told attendees at the recent Nashville show.
Meanwhile, a new ITRA program also is in the works by which dealers can provide employees with tire and wheel service training in compliance with federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements. It will include two video cassettes and a training booklet and become available to dealers within about two months, Mr. Bozarth said.