BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — Keith Jarman has a simple goal for his tenure as president of the Tire Industry Association (TIA) — "Don't screw it up."
"Just keep things running smooth," he joked in a recent interview with Tire Business.
Jarman, president of AME International in Brooksville, took the reins as the trade group's president on Oct. 30 at TIA's annual membership meeting in Las Vegas.
More seriously, Jarman said his priorities for the next year are a "continued and/or renewed focus on safety," noting that his experience in the earthmover and OTR tire sector has shown him the importance of proper training.
"There's still far too many injuries and fatalities," he said.
TIA has done an amazing job with training, Jarman said, adding that a few decades ago, a national training program didn't exist and new employees often just shadowed others and picked up bad habits.
Now, hundreds of thousands of tire technicians have gone through TIA's state-of-the-art training, he said.
"That's a huge accomplishment, I don't want to take anything away from that, but there's still too many fatalities."
Jarman also wants to continue to re-engage with the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and find ways to lure even more tire dealers to the annual SEMA Show.
"I think it's a must-attend event for the automotive aftermarket. I'd like for it to be a must-attend event for tire dealers as well," he said.
Jarman's journey to the tire industry is a familiar one: "I knew a guy, right?"
Well, more accurately, he met a guy who recommended him for a warehouse position in the industry. It was the early 1990s, Jarman was a full-time college student and it was his first job outside of teenage employment at a grocery store.
At 19, he attended his first trade show — the American Retreaders' Association show in Louisville, Ky. — and was hooked. He changed his major to marketing and business and worked his way up in that tire company.
In 2007, he started his own venture, AME International, which specializes in tools and equipment for changing tires, with a focus on large construction and mining tires.
"Anywhere you're digging up minerals or precious metals, our products are in use," Jarman said, adding his products are also used by commercial dealers and retail tire shops.
Jarman was at another trade show, trying to immerse himself in the tire industry, when he was invited to join TIA.
A year later, in 2009, he was elected to the board of directors. He served a year and wasn't re-elected, but stayed involved and active and rejoined the board a few years later.
In 2021, Jarman was elected secretary, which put him in line to now become president.
He succeeds Jim Pangle, business development specialist at Fountain Tire Corp. Debra Hamlin, director of operations, Bridgestone commercial dealer network, at Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BATO), is next in line.
The tire industry, like every business, is facing challenges with labor and workforce development, Jarman said.
The upcoming generation of workers have grown up with technology, he said.
"The perception is from a lot of people that the tire industry is low tech. And that's maybe a fair assessment in a lot of cases, but it's exciting some of the technology ... being developed. The tire industry is not exempt from technological advances."
TIA recently launched a NEXGEN Advisory Council with a mission to "attract, celebrate, develop, and engage emerging and industry professionals," the association said.
The council — which currently has seven members and plans to add more — had its first meeting Aug. 9 where it discussed goals and action items. Among those: a need to attract, develop, and retain younger workers in the industry and boost awareness of opportunities and mentorships; explore emerging trends and stay at the forefront of technology; and do a better job telling "our" story about careers, opportunities and upward mobility opportunities in the tire industry, TIA said.
With 30 years in the industry, Jarman is "not quite a dinosaur," but might not have the same perspective as someone in their 20s, he said.
"I think that's important, as this evolves, to know and understand the mindset of workers today," Jarman said.
"A lot of people, I think, when they talk about millennials and the workplace, it's almost like they're saying a four-letter word. But the fact of the matter is that we've got a lot of passionate and dedicated employees in the millenial group.
"It's dangerous to write off an entire generation, but the worker of today is looking for something different than 25 or 30 years ago."
TIA also is focused on passing federal Right-to-Repair (R2R) legislation, fighting against the vehicle makers and importers that are trying to keep the repair business inside their own house and limit consumer choice, Jarman said.
"That's a threat, longer-term, on being able to perform work on cars," he said.
TIA is among a number of industry associations lobbying for passage of the REPAIR (Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair) Act (H.R. 906).
It's also looking at laws on the state and local level. One of the benefits of an association like TIA, outside of training, is its vast membership of more than 12,000 individuals, Jarman said.
When a state or local legislature is considering a law that could unfairly burden the tire industry or repair shops, TIA can rally constituents in that area to reach out and try to educate lawmakers, he said.
Passing R2R legislation in Maine or Maryland doesn't help shops in Nevada or California, for example, "but it can create a ripple effect," leading to nationwide change, Jarman said.