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In digital age, are state associations necessary?

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MATAWAN, N.J.—With technological advances slowly edging out parts of business and creating more streamlined communication between business sectors, what place in today's tire business does a state association still hold for business owners?

“Quite a lot,” according to Al Breese, of Jack Williams Tire Co. and president of the New Jersey State Tire Dealers Association (NJSTDA).

“My advice, because of being in it for a long time, is simply...if you join an association, you'll absolutely receive benefits from that association,” Mr. Breese told Tire Business.

“And, when you attend the meetings, if you take one thing away from the meeting—that you spoke with somebody at the dinner table or the guest speaker—and put it into effect in your business, it's going to benefit your business.

“We don't have any features, we just have benefits and value. And the vast majority of our members attend every single meeting, but they're the people that have been in the business for a long time and see the value of an association.”

The New Jersey association suffered a decline in membership about three years ago, Mr. Breese said, dropping from about 85 to 90 members to 75. It has stayed steady the past couple of years.

“But we know of easily 15, 20, 30 independent tire dealers that should join our association and would benefit by being a member,” he continued.

Although the association has 75 members, he said this includes larger dealerships that have multiple locations. For instance, Somerset Tire Service has 140 locations but pays only one fee.

“So you know, in reference to locations, its going to be at least a couple of hundred, but in reference to paid membership, it's 75,” Mr. Breese said.

Mr. Breese explained one of the problems that has arisen is that the smaller retailers—the ones that he feels the meetings would absolutely benefit because of the content—are not able to make it to the group's events. He said this is “understandable because, you know, they work long days, etc.,,,but the meetings absolutely are for their benefit. So, that's who we're trying to entice—the smaller retailers around.”

The association is also looking to attract the younger generation—those second- and third-generation owners—to get involved with the association. Mr. Breese explained that differing interests can lead to the lack of response to joining in the NJSTDA, but there is a benefit to joining, especially because the organization is not looking to make money off entrance dues.

“We only charge $100 to join our association—and that's whether you have one location or 144 locations,” he said. “We can't get anybody interested. You know, the second- or third-generation people are too busy to participate in the association, which is a mistake on their part.

“They're no busier than their fathers or grandfathers were, it's simply, they put less interest into the association because they are more into the Internet, the high-tech end of the business, and they don't truly see the value of the association or the meetings, but they do have a value.

“...At the last meeting we just had, had great participation...the interest was great, the questions were many and people stayed late to speak with the speaker.”

With an aging board, the association is looking for some younger blood to take the reigns, Mr. Breese said. The NJSTDA is making steps to show its evolving nature, such as creating a new website—www.njstda.org.

“We're building the website, it's up and running but we're adding to it,” Mr. Breese stated. “We're trying to add the things, like the proper way to repair flat tires, reasons why people should buy from independent dealers compared to the Internet and mail-order houses—that's the type of thing we are adding to the website.”

And, because of those efforts, he said, “we hope to have some of the younger people come onto the board and get more involved.... We run three meetings a year. One is always tire-related, meaning people from the tire industry.... The other two are pretty much motivational meetings—retail success meetings. We're looking to put a meeting together for late March, early April.”

Mr. Breese also explained the association is also available to those dealers in the Greater New Jersey area, expanding into Pennsylvania and New York City.

“We meet right in the middle of Philadelphia and New York City, right in the center of New Jersey. And that's where we hold our meetings so it is convenient for everyone,” he added.



To reach this reporter: jkarpus@crain.com; 330-865-6143. (For a directory of trade associations, see page 18.)
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