Editor's note: In the Nov. 7 issue, newly installed Tire Industry Association President Bob Malerba discussed his intentions to expand TIA membership. In this second of two parts, Mr. Malerba focuses on establishing an industry checkoff program, which he believes will gain support.
Gaining acceptance for the TIRES checkoff program is one way Bob Malerba, the Tire Industry Association's (TIA) new president, hopes to build an identity for TIA among tire dealers.
``Everything will go hand-in-hand as relationships are established,'' Mr. Malerba said. He acknowledged the hard work that others have done on the checkoff effort, particularly Peggy Fisher of Rochester Hills, Mich.-based Fleet Tire Consulting, who eventually will succeed him as TIA president.
Mr. Malerba has a very good relationship with the officials of the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), he said, and respects their position on checkoff, but he noted that a major reason for the group's opposition is no longer valid.
``In a number of court cases, checkoff programs were declared illegal,'' he said. ``Now that checkoff programs have been vindicated on appeal, people are starting to rethink their positions, thinking that maybe it's not too bad to spend money in a controlled fashion for training and consumer education and safety.''
There will never be a total consensus on the TIRES program, Mr. Malerba said, but he hopes to gain enough of a consensus for the industry to go ahead with the plan.
``There's always going to be a negative vote and a positive vote, and we just have to hope the positive outweighs the negative,'' he said.
At the same time, he added, it's important to tread lightly and not pressure manufacturers on the checkoff issue, particularly in light of current world and market conditions.
``The world is going through turmoil and tragedy that has hit the manufacturers particularly hard,'' he said. ``To take another penny from manufacturers right now is to take something they can't do without.''
Mr. Malerba was president of Silver City Tire in Meridian, Conn., until last year, when he sold the commercial dealership to Bob Berlin. That sale, however, included a multi-year deal for Mr. Malerba to stay on as vice president of operations for the newly rechristened Berlin Bandag Inc., with his wife Kitty as office manager.
Mr. Malerba said he is proud of the work he does for Berlin Bandag, which includes training personnel. ``I've always said that the strength of your business is in your assistant managers,'' he said. ``When a manager has to leave the store to attend that Little League game or dance recital, he feels better when he has assistants capable of taking up the slack.''
He also speaks warmly of Mr. Berlin. ``It's because of Bob Berlin that I've been able to do what I've been doing the past few years,'' he said. ``I told him I wanted to continue with TIA business, and he said he didn't see why I couldn't. I told him I also wanted to continue with my duties at the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), and he said he didn't see why I couldn't do that, either.''
Mr. Malerba owned a sport-fishing boat for 22 years, though the time and money involved with it finally made him give it up. He continues as a judge for the IGFA, attending marlin-fishing tournaments six or seven times a year in places such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, St. Thomas and Venezuela.
He values the trips, not only for their own sake but because they help him advance one of his pet causes: expanding the international membership of TIA.
He said the association has been extraordinarily successful in its international outreach, attracting members from 65 countries. There's always room to expand, Mr. Malerba added, and the IGFA trips help him to do just that.
``At a tournament in San Juan, (Puerto Rico), there were three potential TIA members in two boats,'' he said. ``At another one in Caracas, I met the president of the Venezuelan subsidiary of Rema Tip-Top and went home with the work phone and e-mail of the president of Venezuela's new tire association.
``It goes to prove what I always say: It's a small world, and you never know who you might be sitting next to on an airplane.''