On Dec. 20, 2003, Rudolph Tire Inc. opened its second warehouse, in Dallas, to take care of its burgeoning business in Texas, Oklahoma and the Southwest.
That was a big day for Robbie Rudolph, president of Rudolph Tire. But, oddly enough, it wasn't the biggest day he had that month. Five days before the Dallas opening, new Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher appointed him as the state's secretary of finance and administration.
As Mr. Rudolph explained it, he threw his hat in the ring in Kentucky's Republican primary for lieutenant governor. While he didn't win, he became acquainted with then-Rep. Fletcher and was so impressed with him that he worked on Mr. Fletcher's gubernatorial campaign. That November, Rep. Fletcher became Kentucky's first Republican governor in 32 years.
The invitation to join the governor's cabinet came out of the blue, according to Mr. Rudolph. ``I was at SEMA (the Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show in Las Vegas), and I was coming back when Gov. Fletcher asked me to come to Frankfort,'' he said. ``I worked on his transition team, and when that was finished, he asked me to be the secretary of finance and administration.''
Mr. Rudolph's new responsibilities are enormous, even for a man who opened a 6,000-sq.-ft. tire warehouse in Murray 23 years ago and built it into a business that, in his own words, ``serves 95 percent of the states in the continental United States.'' He oversees not only the state's finances and revenues, but also the construction and maintenance of state buildings and the Governor's Office of Technology, which covers the state government's computer, Internet and telecommunications needs. He is in charge of 2,000 state employees and a $20 billion annual budget.
``I hope to have eight years in the job, and I'll be finishing my first very soon,'' Mr. Rudolph said. ``It's a big job, but it's been very rewarding.''
Meanwhile, back in Murray, business couldn't be better for his wholesale company. While Rudolph Tire never reveals its sales volume, either in units or in dollars, the company ships export tires to Europe, the Caribbean and the Far East as well as serving domestic customers across the continental U.S., Mr. Rudolph said.
The brands it carries include Goodyear, Bridgestone, Firestone, Michelin, General, Uniroyal, BFGoodrich, Continental, Kumho, Pirelli, Towmaster and Greenball. The new warehouse in Dallas doesn't represent an expansion of business so much as an effort ``just to speed up business, to make things more just-in-time,'' Mr. Rudolph said. He did not know offhand how big the Dallas warehouse is, but the warehouse space in Murray totals about 180,000 square feet.
Mr. Rudolph deferred questions about fill rate to Operations Manager Stacy Darnell, though he added, ``We pride ourselves on having everything we advertise.''
Fill rates at Rudolph Tire are ``not too bad,'' Mr. Darnell told Tire Business, adding, ``You always have that problem.'' Getting some brands of light truck tires, he said, has been particularly tough this year. ``It's that season, and you expect it, but it's a little tighter than usual.''
The manufacturers' price increases this year, meanwhile, look like they're here to stay, according to Mr. Darnell. ``In previous years, they'd double back a little, but this year they're stuck,'' he said. ``With the way costs are going up, that's understandable.''