LAS VEGAS—Doing together what can't be done alone.
While that sentiment may cover a lot of future ground, it also symbolizes past accomplishments of the 80-year-old industry group that today is called the Tire Association of North America. And while TANA marked its eight-decade anniversary during the recent Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA)/International Tire Expo in Las Vegas, it became apparent the group wasn't planning to dwell for long on its past laurels.
When Steve Disney stepped to the podium at the TANA “Breakfast with the President” to mark his first official address as TANA's new president, he figuratively bowed in deference to its founding roots in 1921 in Chicago. Then he quickly tackled the question likely on the minds of many in light of the blockbuster news that, pending membership approval, TANA will merge with the International Tire & Rubber Association.
“Why merge?” he asked.
Following the lead of his predecessor Nick Hodel, who spoke about the importance of a strong trade association, Mr. Disney provided the short answer to the event he acknowledged will be the biggest change in the history of both ITRA and TANA. “We should merge because if you do not think about the future, you cannot have one.”
Aside from the standard benefits of belonging to a trade group—trade shows, training, legislative clout and a prevent defense against potentially industry-damaging laws—Mr. Disney said a merger simply “will make us a stronger association.” It's time, he added, “that the national media step to the side as the spokespeople for our industry.
“We invest our lives in this industry,” he said, vowing: “We will improve the image of this industry.”
Noting he is a “stickler for specifics and detail,” Mr. Disney's first order of business for the combined groups is “consistency.”
He outlined three immediate goals—all focusing on consistency—for the new organization that will come into existence in July 2002 if members vote to accept the merger.
Members will notice an increase in the level of customer service they receive, despite any changes made, he promised, and “services that members value now will be maintained and even improved.”
The public will witness a consistent message, Mr. Disney said, assuring dealers and suppliers that the group's board, leaders, volunteers and staff support the merger. That united front is a necessity because the “industry views us—all associations in the tire industry, large or small—as a community of associations,” and “people tend to judge us as a whole.”
Still, the new association “will tout the benefits of belonging to any association, not just ours,” said Mr. Disney, who will become the merged group's first president.
Because it's “important to maintain a consistent mission for the new organization,” he said each effort by the new group will incorporate the missions of both former organizations. After all, it would be hard to ask members who've invested time and effort into their respective group's agendas to support a new one that ignores former objectives.
From TANA's perspective, “in the past five years we turned TANA around through change,” Mr. Disney said. “By changing yet again to fit the market, this is an opportunity to help the industry and our members.”
After encouraging the members of TANA and ITRA to vote a hearty aye to accepting the merger—under non-profit law, affirmation by a two-thirds majority is needed for the merger to proceed—he reiterated that it is a “plan for the future. It will help our businesses, and it is good for our industry. With consistency and hard work, this new organization can help all of us.”
Mr. Disney's counterpart, current ITRA President Thomas Raben, was introduced to TANA members to familiarize them with the Louisville, Ky.-based trade group. ITRA represents the segments of the transportation industry that manufacture, repair, recycle, sell, service or use new or retreaded tires, and suppliers or individuals who furnish equipment, material or services to this industry, he said.
Founded in 1957 as the Central States Retreaders Association, the group established its trade show, called the Louisville Retreaders Conference, a year later. It grew to become the tire industry's largest commercial tire trade show and exposition, he said. In 1964 the group changed its name to the American Retreaders Association, and adopted the ITRA moniker in 1996.
Mr. Raben said he has, for more than a year, been a part of a joint ITRA-TANA team that laid the plans for merger. “I have researched the documents, bylaws and finances of both organizations, I know the memberships of both associations, and I have seen the history of our two groups play out over many years. After all of this, I have found many reasons to merge, but one reason is more compelling than any other.”
Without a doubt, he said, the best reason for a merger is that both associations “share the same values and goals. The two groups are nearly identical in mission: helping tire businesses succeed.”
He asked first that members of both groups approve the merger, then renew their memberships in the new entity. One of the “dirty little secrets” of merging two non-profits, Mr. Raben pointed out, “is that it is completely unlike a for-profit merger.” The new non-profit has less revenue than the two old groups combined, thus, “one plus one does not equal two.”
Some members who belong to both groups pay dues to each but with the merger, will only pay once, he added, as will some of the associations' sponsor companies. As a result, the new group will have less revenue, which can become a critical issue to its success.
The merger will make a difference, he concluded, because now, instead of working for the betterment of the industry as separate groups, “we can help everyone by working together.”