BOWIE, Md. — The way Roy Littlefield sees things, the Tire Industry Association (TIA) is not your typical centenarian.
The trade group, celebrating its 100th anniversary, is stronger than ever, having used the last several years to build up the financial strength that is now allowing the association to weather the coronavirus pandemic.
A sharpened focus on core competencies over time has helped, Mr. Littlefield, TIA's CEO since 2003, said. Instead of being all things to all people, the group has blossomed by focusing on a couple of key areas.
"I think the message has been clearer," he said. "It's a mix of government affairs and training."
Over time, TIA has straightened out budgetary problems that had haunted the group and its predecessors since the beginning of time. Well, the group's time, that is.
Staffing levels are leaner and focused on those two key services. Membership, which has been growing significantly in recent years, continues to balloon.
"We're just leaner and meaner," Mr. Littlefield said. "Right now, we are a well-oiled machine going forward."
"We have really worked hard to have a very strong budget given the situation. Everybody has really stepped up," he said.
There was no way to predict COVID-19's impact on the country, but TIA saw the need several years ago to start building a reserve that would help the organization through any tough times that might ensue.
Well, those tough times are now, and thanks to that preparation, TIA continues its work advocating for the tire industry at a time when other trade groups in other industries essentially have closed shop to wait out the storm, Mr. Littlefield said.
TIA, these days, has more than 13,000 members and is on its way to 14,000. The CEO hopes to add 1,000 new members this year alone, a true accomplishment, he said, during a worldwide health crisis. Just five years ago, the group's membership numbered closer to 8,000.
"We're not going to sit on our hands during the pandemic," he said.
It's the focus on government affairs and training that has allowed membership to swell, Mr. Littlefield said he believes. TIA recruits companies to join the trade group, and they pay membership fees based on annual revenues.
While he sees stability in Bowie-based TIA, that has not always been the case. The TIA name has brought a sense of calm to the trade group, but its predecessors did not enjoy the same.