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Editor's Notebook

TIA Steps Up With GTE, Now Industry Needs to Get on Board

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There is no "I" in "team." If we’ve heard that golden adage once, we’ve heard it a gazillion times.

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But there is an "I" in "Integrity." And in "Industry." And especially in "Unity."

In late March, after five months of meetings, research, discussions and planning, TIA and SEMA took the wraps off of an all-new, tires-only section at the SEMA Show – the Global Tire Expo Powered by TIA.

And while a few I’s still need to be dotted and T’s crossed, with the GTE the North American tire industry has for the first time in more than a decade a real, true tire industry-focused conference and trade show.

The GTE will occupy the South Hall of the massive Las Vegas Convention Center, with its own entryways and color scheme and a floorplan designed for exhibitor and attendee effectiveness and efficiency.

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Most importantly, the GTE will be open to all segments of the tire industry, from performance to commercial truck, from light truck to OTR, from retreading to consumer tire, from agricultural tire to tire recycling – and all of the affiliated companies that service our industry.

It’s no state secret that the tire industry’s place at the SEMA Show had stymied. After growing sharply for many years, exhibitors and tire dealer attendance fell off starting in 2008. Exhibitors grew frustrated with show management and rising costs (though, in fairness, no one mumbled while they were taking larger floor spaces and booths became more elaborate). The economic downturn – which started in 2008, tightening exhibitor budgets and hurting attendance – only exacerbated an already difficult situation.

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By the close of the 2009 show – with seven past major exhibitors on the sidelines – it became glaringly obvious that something had to be done. And immediately.

TIA itself – and, by extension, the entire industry – has a lot on the line. The show represents a large percentage of TIA’s operating budget each year, and that money is reinvested back to benefit the tire industry through government relations, training and education, a wide range of member benefit programs, and tire dealer support efforts. TIA doesn’t simply pocket the revenue and move on; it’s there 24/7/365.

Reinvigorating this event means continuing – and perhaps expanding – those important services.

To their credit, TIA and SEMA got to the table immediately and on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, publicly vowed to get tire companies “engaged” in the show. They took the high road and took the blame for failing the tire industry, admitting they were complacent and apologizing for their disengagement from what mattered to tire exhibitors and attendees alike.

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A long series of focus group meetings and phone conversations with tire company execs followed, plans were outlined and presented, and, finally, the GTE was born.

Since the days of the NTDRA, we have not had a true industry-wide show that we could call our own. Since the NTDRA passed on, we have either hitched our wagon to other shows, or held segment-specific events.

With the GTE, there is now a unified show, born out of the industry and working for the benefit of all players in our industry. And one that will surely benefit from a tight focus on tire companies, suppliers and, most importantly, tire dealers – while availing itself to others throughout the entire automotive aftermarket.

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The tire industry is no longer being treated as an outsider by SEMA. TIA now has a fixed seat on SEMA’s Show Committee and permanent representation on SEMA’s Tire & Wheel Council. And SEMA and TIA have vowed to work with exhibitors to reduce their costs and help deliver a better return on their show investment. This will certainly mean continuous improvements in the future.

Over the next few months, TIA will be buttoning up details for the much-expanded educational programs that will be offered at the GTE – three seminar tracks daily instead of just one – as well as for other special events.

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While realistically, not every one of the missing majors will return and take space at the 2010 GTE, the platform is there for this year and beyond. And with the expanded coverage the GTE affords, the program becomes more valuable to more dealers.

The door is open wide, and now it’s up to the industry to stand united behind its own program. 2010 represents a fresh start, but in order for the GTE to take root and grow for the long run, it will require exhibitor and attendee attention, engagement and constant feedback.

As TIA President Wayne Croswell said, “We are optimistic that the GTE will become the premiere event in the world for the tire industry.”

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So are we. Still, for the GTE package to improve from year to year, and be the type of show that this industry wants and deserves, we’re all going to have to be vigilant and proactive.

The first step is to get on board and become active participants instead of spectators.

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