AKRON (Sept. 12, 2005) — Information about Hurricane Katrina's impact on tire makers, marketers, distributors and dealers remains sketchy at best 11 days after the horrific storm struck the Gulf Coast.
That in and of itself tells a lot about this storm's impact. Even the major tire makers and some large dealer chains still don't know the fate of all their stores in the region or the whereabouts of every employee—this in an era of instant communication.
What we do know is that arguably the worst natural disaster in U.S. history has wreaked havoc on the region, impacting along with it the tire business. Some stores reportedly were destroyed. Some are under water, others damaged. Countless workers have been displaced—wondering if they will have jobs to go back to—and many of their homes lie in ruins.
In New Orleans, at the risk of stating the obvious, the tire business is effectively out of commission, at least until the city pumps out all of the water, begins to rebuild and its citizens return—a process likely to take months, if not years.
While no tire plants operate in the region, tire making and distribution could be impacted. New Orleans is a major shipping hub for natural rubber and the Gulf Coast region is a center of oil refineries and drilling as well as home to many petrochemical feedstock producers.
With shortages a possibility and more upward pressure on the prices of raw materials used in tire manufacturing, tire prices likely will continue to rise.
Tire distribution also could be delayed due to damage to the transportation infrastructure.
Many wholesalers and tire marketers that use New Orleans as a port of entry have had to shift shipments to other ports, which are likely to be jammed with cargo. Trucking resources also will be affected as delivery of relief supplies take priority.
Despite all the destruction and chaos, there's positive news as well. The tire industry is rallying around those who've been affected, with many companies offering donations of money and pitching in by providing much-needed clothes, water and other essentials.
Some outlets are reopening and many dealers are helping with the cleanup by providing tires and tire repairs to keep recovery, emergency, police and construction vehicles running.
Every year for the past 12 years, Tire Business has recognized an independent tire dealer or retreader for his or her humanitarian work on behalf others. It's a trait many dealers share.
Right now, your fellow tire dealers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama need your help, along with the hundreds of thousands of others left devastated by the storm.
The overall economic impact of the storm on business is yet uncounted. But as communications slowly normalize, we'll learn more about the damage Katrina has wrought—and what we all can do to help those in need in our tire dealer community.