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Anniversary Blog Series: Reporter Jennifer Karpus starts in 2012

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AKRON— In honor of Tire Business' 30th anniversary, staffers sound off in this anniversary blog series about their own experiences in the tire and automotive industry. As the newest member of the editorial staff, Jennifer Karpus sums up starting at the publication.

My favorite birthday present last year, was being able to accept my new position at Tire Business.

I remember getting my birthday pedicure and telling Crain Communications Inc.'s HR department that I would gladly take on the role of reporting about tires!

Then I realized I knew next to nothing about tires. All the research in the world could not have prepared me for the enlightening, eye-opening year that was ahead of me. There are so many facets to the industry and I can honestly say I still learn something new every day.

My entrance into the tire industry came with the International Tire Exhibition & Conference (ITEC) show sponsored by Tire Business and its Akron-based sister publication Rubber & Plastics News. At the show I learned to truly appreciate my voice recorder as I sat through various presentations where terms like "TPMS" and "siping" flew right over my head.

It was also at the ITEC show that I took my first stab at professional blogging, which has become one of my favorite parts of the job. In that first blog I talked about how terrified I was to hit one of the cones in a ride-and-drive event held outside the ITEC show—something I have now taken in stride. After all, if you never hit a cone, how will you know how the tires will perform?

There is so much still to learn, but when I think back over the past year, one of the biggest issues facing the industry was the lifting of the tariffs on Chinese-made tires. Throughout the past year, I have been going through the Tire Business archives and have been reading up on just how much the tariffs affected tire dealers throughout the past few years.

I also learned how vast the industry is and how much our readers can have on their plate at any given time.

That includes the technology of run-flat tires, or having a low-rolling-resistance eco-friendly tire. It's about learning about consumer trends and high-performance tires or whether a customer wants all-season tires or quality summer and winter tires. These are all terms that did not mean much to me just a year ago, but are now flooding my email inbox.

I slowly learned that the tire industry, with all its different components, is an important and intricate business. When people think about motorsports events, they look at the cars but may not think about the extensive research that goes into the only part of the vehicle that touches the ground.

With the push for environmentally-friendly industries, the tire industry probably is not the one that comes to mind right away—but why not? Significant research is being done every day across the board in this industry to make tires and other products more eco-friendly. Buildings are being constructed to meet Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) criteria with sustainable concepts and resources.

People in the industry all face common issues—healthcare plans, how small businesses are competing against big box stores, how to stay relevant in this fast-paced world of online and social media, and how to incorporate different generations in the workplace. I now realize it is so much more than just reporting on tires.

However, there also is more engineering than I imagined that goes into making tires.

I remember being at a motorsports event and hearing a race driver say that although everyone speaks about the different cars they drive, but no matter what, they all need to be able to trust what is underneath them. At the end of the day, tires are an extremely important part of racing—and everyday driving, as well.

Tires have a huge impact everyday on people, but most consumers don't give them much thought by until there's a need to replace them every few years or when they get a flat.

I started out last year as one of those people. I didn't know about using a penny to check tread depth. I didn't know you should regularly check tire pressure before getting in the car and not after a long drive because they're heated up and that can affect pressure.

I have learned so much and it has only been one year.

Here's to looking at what I can learn as I continue on in the industry!

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