You could say Mike Berra Jr. has the tire business in his blood.
Mr. Berra's grandfather, Michael A. Berra, founded Community Tire Inc. in St. Louis 75 years ago. The company split into two sister operations in 2006: Community Wholesale Tire, run by Mr. Berra's brother Phil, and Community Tire Retreading, which Mr. Berra heads and which supplies truck, light truck and off-the-road retreads to customers in 22 states.
In my mind we'll always be the same company, Mr. Berra told Tire Business. But for various reasons it made sense to split the two.
When you're a tire dealer, Mr. Berra said, you have good years and bad years. From my grandfather, I learned that you celebrate the good times, but you're prudent enough not to spend everything before the bad times hit.
That lesson is something Mr. Berra said he will apply to the presidency of the Tire Industry Association (TIA), which he assumed during the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show Nov. 2-5 in Las Vegas.
At Community Tire, we used to sell seat covers, TVs, passenger retreads, he said. We remained a dynamic company, and we have changed as the markets have changed. And at TIA, we need to be a dynamic association. The programs that worked 10 years ago won't help our members today.
Berra's plans for TIA
Two longtime programs Mr. Berra definitely wants to continue and strengthen are TIA's government relations efforts on Capitol Hill and its burgeoning training programs.
Probably we will expand our training efforts into an online university in 2011, or at least start laying the groundwork for it, he said.
Some of the government issues TIA will continue to support, he said, are: passage of the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act; permanent repeal of the estate tax; and working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the ongoing effort to have TIA designated as the administrator for the consumer education portion of NHTSA's tire fuel efficiency final rule.
I feel very strongly that TIA offers the best opportunity for this program to be delivered comprehensibly to consumers, he said. No one else has our training expertise or our information services to effectively provide tire information to the end-user.
Mr. Berra praised Roy Littlefield, TIA executive vice president, and Paul Fiore, TIA director of government and business relations, for being front and center in leading the association's efforts on Capitol Hill. He also praised their discussions with the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) in an effort to ensure the tire industry willin his wordsspeak with one voice.
It doesn't benefit anybody to have manufacturers on one side and dealers on the other, he said. At this point, however, there are no meetings scheduled with the RMA, he said.
TIA and TRIB
Mr. Berra has been the president of the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau (TRIB) since 2005. He had planned to step down when he became TIA president, but now says he will stay while TRIB's board of directors finds a permanent replacement for longtime Managing Director Harvey Brodsky, who was fired by the board Oct. 5 (see separate story on page 1).
He declined to discuss recent events at TRIB, but did say he would like to see TRIB become more active on Capitol Hill, separate of TIA.
There are no separate agendas between TIA and TRIB, but the TRIB membership feels strongly that as an association TRIB needs to make sure that if we have an issue, we're where we need to be, he said.
TRIB trusts TIA, he added, but two associations might have a louder voice than oneparticularly in the case of anything NHTSA might decide to do to regulate the retreading industry.