WASHINGTONIn a year when the national presidential election has been fraught with turmoil, the Tire Industry Association (TIA) can say with confidence that its change at the top has been peaceful and uneventfulas it usually is.
Tom Formanek has taken over the reins of TIA as its incoming president as Glen Nicholson exits after a year at the helm of the Bowie, Md.-based trade group. At TIA's Global Tire Expo in Las Vegas Nov. 1-4, Mr. Nicholson officially stepped down from the association's presidency and now serves for the next year as its past president.
Mr. Formanek was born and raised in Garner, Iowa, and lives there still. He has worked since 1993 for Garner-based Stellar Industries Inc.a manufacturer of service trucks for the tire industryserving currently as regional sales manager. However, he didn't grow up thinking he would work for Stellar.
I was born and raised a farm boy, and I thought I would be a farmer, Mr. Formanek told Tire Business. But I graduated from high school in the early 1980s, just as the farm crisis started.
My father told me to go to college, and there I found out there were other ways of making a living, he said.
After graduating from North Iowa Area Community College, Mr. Formanek spent six years as production manager at Unicover Inc., a manufacturer of toppers for pickup trucks. He then joined Collins, a division of DMC, which was purchased by Stellar in 1993.
This is a great company, Mr. Formanek said of Stellar.
They encourage growth, and encourage doing what it takes to make the customer happy. It's a great family industry, and I have made a lot of personal friends.
Also in 1993, Mr. Formanek began his involvement with TIA and its predecessor organizations with his election to the board of directors of the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association (NTDRA).
As an NTDRA director, Mr. Formanek served on the executive committee and also was chairman of the supplier group in 1997. He continued to serve on the board of directors of the NTDRA's successor organization, the Tire Association of North America, and at the Global Tire Expo in Las Vegas he ascended to the presidency of TIA.
Over more than two decades of involvement with TIA and its predecessors, Mr. Formanek has seen a lot of changes in the organization and emphasis of the associations.
The biggest change is how we have learned what our strengths are and what our members really want, he said.
What TIA members really want, Mr. Formanek said, are stronger training programs and a stronger government relations programthe very two things on which TIA is intensely focused today.
We learned over 10 years that we should not try to be everything for everybody, but to be best at those two things, he said.
Mr. Formanek had particular praise for TIA Executive Vice President Roy Littlefield; Roy Littlefield IV, TIA government affairs manager; and Kevin Rohlwing, TIA senior vice president of training.
We now have more than 8,000 members, and that's the most we've ever had, he said. That's saying something, and that's proof we are providing something people need and want.
As TIA president, Mr. Formanek said he would like to see the association continue to work toward a permanent repeal of the estate tax. His biggest hope, however, is that TIA will strengthen its ties with tire manufacturers, especially in working out an equitable way to improve tire registration.
We need to figure out a tire registration solution that doesn't take us back to the 1970s, he said. We all want the same thing: When there's a recall, we want to get those tires off the road. It's a matter of everyone pulling in the same direction.
For Mr. Nicholson, his proudest moment during his year in office was when he and the newly formed TIA Advisory Committee met with officials of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to discuss tire recall recovery solutions.
This group gave NHTSA some really great suggestions on how the industry could significantly improve tire recall recovery, and I was incredibly proud to be a part of that group, Mr. Nicholson said.
The TIA Advisory Board, according to Mr. Nicholson, is made up of some of the nation's largest and most knowledgeable tire dealers.
I'm sure we'll continue to give NHTSA suggestions for improvements in the coming years, he said.
Mr. Nicholson, who began his career as an auto technician with a National Tire Warehouse franchisee in Orlando, Fla., was managing the store within 18 months. In 2013, he was named senior director, retail training at TBC Corp., the same year he was elected TIA secretary. According to his LinkedIn page, Mr. Nicholson joined the Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based wholesaler in 2002.
Speaking of the duties of a TIA past president, Mr. Nicholson said: This is all about supporting the incoming president's initiatives while trying to ensure that past initiatives don't fade away. There will be plenty of work to do in this area.
Among TIA's ongoing governmental issues, none is more important than improving the tire recall recovery process, according to Mr. Nicholson.
From making tire registration easier and more secure to improving the shops' ability to quickly and easily identify a recalled tire, recall recovery improvement will produce more benefit to the industry and motoring public than anything else I can think of.
Mr. Nicholson said he would like to see TIA and the Rubber Manufacturers Association work together to achieve these goals.
An acknowledged expert on employee training who often addresses industry conferences on that subject, Mr. Nicholson said TIA's training staff is as good as any he has ever worked with.
I agreed with pretty much every plan they proposed, he said. They have a great road map for the future of TIA training, and I have to say that I had little to do with that except to approve and encourage their plans.
Speaking of his general plans after stepping down as TIA president, Mr. Nicholson said, I will continue to support TIA in any way I plan for years to come.
I have a real passion for the great work TIA is doing to continually support and improve the performance of the tire industry, and I suspect I will always want to contribute to those efforts.
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