AKRON-The ``yeas'' far outweigh the ``nays'' regarding the proposed merger of the Tire Association of North America and the International Tire & Rubber Association. In fact, the naysayers, if there are any, have been a silent bunch.
The support has apparently been so overwhelming for a merger that a pervading feeling of ``what took so long?'' is lingering throughout the industry.
``Change is hard,'' said former TANA president Pam Fitzgerald of Mike Gatto Inc. in Melbourne, Fla. ``We both (associations) represent the same industry. I'm trying to think of one reason why somebody would think it was a bad idea. I can't think of one. The thing we have to make sure...everybody is represented at the table, so if there's any question out there if I'm going to lose my niche, each niche is at the table.''
Ms. Fitzgerald made her comments while in Las Vegas for the Specialty Equipment Market Association/International Tire Expo, where the announcement of the merger was made.
Her point about dealers perhaps losing their niche was a common concern, though not an overwhelmingly strong sentiment.
Retreader Bob Majewski of Sumerel Tire Service in Newport, Ky., shares that opinion. He expressed concerns about members of ITRA's governmental affairs efforts, maintaining their status after the merger, saying TANA has nobody in that area who ``cares about retreading.''
Randy Clark of Dunn Tire Corp. of Buffalo, N.Y., was also on hand in Las Vegas and spoke reassuringly of how he thought the merger actually could benefit individuals' concerns, rather than have them get buried in the suddenly larger association.
``As the associations come together and get bigger, they'll also have the capacity to speak to the needs of the tire dealers,'' he said. ``So what you'll have is segments within the broader association that can address the problems of one particular segment of the industry.''
Having a stronger voice seems to make sense to most tire dealers interviewed. ``The merger will help all those in the tire industry in one way or another,'' said Sherry Clay Marcoe, former president of Jeff Clay & Sons Inc. in Kissimmee, Fla.
Another retreader, John Snider, owner of Snider Tire in Greensboro, N.C., said the merger is a mere reflection of what's going on microcosmically throughout the industry. He pointed to consolidations of dealers and fleets, and their successes, as something the associations could mimic.
``It only makes sense for our associations to do the same thing and be as efficient as they can and not duplicate overheads unnecessarily,'' Mr. Snider said.
A common thread among respondents is that the merger will be especially beneficial to the dwindling number of retreaders, who now will have a stronger voice when issues arise.
The different industry forces have similar agendas more often than not. But for times when a singular need emerges, retreaders will be able to speak with the backing of a strong organization.
``As the number of retreaders has reduced so has the need for a separate association,'' said Brian Hesje, president of Fountain Tire in Edmonton, Alberta.
Mr. Hesje also suggested the merger might make things easier in the future in terms of large gatherings. He cited the difficulty attracting members to ITRA conventions as one negative the merger may reverse.
One industry veteran told Tire Business he's been ``pulling for this for years.'' Joseph Kilcoyne, a past officer with ITRA and member of its Hall of Fame, said the need for a merger is long overdue and ``has been there for a long time. I think some personalities may have kept things from happening.''
He cited the continually shrinking number of retreaders in the U.S. as a reason the merger simply makes sense. Mr. Kilcoyne, who is vice president of sales and marketing for the Mexico-based retreading supplier Hules Banda, said there are about 1,078 retread plants and only 799 retreading companies left. He believes both associations have duplicated a lot of efforts in the past, and that ITRA's commercial tire program, while ``done very well, would have been done even better if endorsed by both'' groups.
Mr. Kilcoyne also sees long-term benefits for dealers and their suppliers in terms of networking-but especially for suppliers that often were torn between which industry trade shows to support.
If anyone has been a strong, supportive voice for retreading over the years, it's Harvey Brodsky, managing director of the Tire Retread Information Bureau. Asked how he felt about TANA and ITRA getting together, he replied in his typical, exuberant style: ``I don't like the merger. I love it, love it, love it!''
Ross Kogel, TANA's executive vice president, perhaps best summed up the feelings of many.
``Of all the people I've spoken to, I haven't received a single negative reaction,'' he said. ``That's good for the industry. It simply makes sense to not compete against each other.''
Reporters Vera Fedchenko and Sigmund J. Mikolajczyk contributed to this report.